The cycle of distractions

First comes the great idea. Whoosh! “This idea is my ticket!” screams the voice inside your head.

Better write down the bones, you think.

You grab a piece of paper. Too much is already written on it. You grab a stale candy wrapper, the back of an envelope from the power company, a piece of a pizza box. You scrawl your brilliant idea. [A month later you scour the far corners of your room in search of that bill from the power company. Where did you put that?]

Next time you sit to write, you look at the cryptic scratches on the side of a pizza box. You try to decipher the words among grease stains. What was that? You wonder.

Distraction #1: bad in-the-moment record keeping.

Assuming this idea was so great that you are able to retain most of it in the next writing session, there is still the finding of the time to write. Am I the only person who pledges a week without television, only to find myself booting up the desktop for an evening of computer games? How many times can one person NetHack his way through dungeons, or save the universe from alien empires before the thrill of a strategy game is dwarfed by a single page of fleshy dialogue?

Whenever I read others, I want it. When I sit in church and listen to a good sermon, I want to write one of my own. And yet in the still moments of my home, alone with my thoughts, many of them turn to games, to television, to eating, and to a nap. Thus follows the cycle of distractions for every writer:

#1 Can’t think of a good story/scene/dialogue/sermon. Okay, grab a snack.

#2 Mmmm. Full. I’m sleepy. Better take a nap. Surely something will come to me in a dream.

#3 Wake up three hours later, still groggy. Hmm… I’m too tired to read or write. But that was a great dream. Maybe if I doodle a little it will come to me.

#4 Power up the computer. Instead your computer speaks. “Want to play a game?” it asks. Sure!

#5 Oops. Now its time to cook dinner. Time to eat again.

#6 What a feast! Sleepy again.

Another cycle of distractions I find myself looping through is this: Eat, TV, sleep.

#1 Get home, turn on NPR.  Eat.

#2 Watch TV. Eat.

#3 TV and NPR fill your head with all sorts of ideas. They don’t disappear quickly enough for you to imagine the world that isn’t real. You get sleepy trying.

#4 Sleep. Wake up and watch TV or eat again.

Finally, work, exercise, and cooking take up a lot of my time, leaving me with very little for writing and reading. If I want to spend anytime with my girlfriend at all, then I can’t write until well past 9pm.

Any ideas on how to stay on target as a writer without slipping into a cycle of distractions or losing your job?

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