I’m Just a Distractible Girl

“The more willing we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing we will get on the page.” -Ann Patchett

#truth: Writing is boring.

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My assistants waiting for me to write something

It’s very easy to find a suitable distraction to alleviate that boredom—a Facebook notification, text, Instagram rabbit hole, twitter mention. And once you take your mind off the page, your heart will follow and then your thoughts are left to wither and die partially formed in one of the unsaved documents on your computer.

The company where my husband works is forever restructuring and renovating and relocating. I tease him that they waste as much money as they make on these constant changes. But I’m not a person who redecorates her house, so maybe I don’t appreciate the effect of novelty. Our kitchen remains the same color I painted it over fifteen years ago, the furniture stays in the same place so long the carpets are permanently indented, and our powder room walls are still the same sponge-painted shades of green that I copied from the endcap at Home Depot in 2005.

The latest change at Nick’s office is to put everyone in a big room in a vast sea of cubes with low walls so that everyone can see what everyone else is doing. Considering that my husband has had his own office for over a decade and spends a good portion of his day on the phone, he wasn’t thrilled with the change, but he’s adapted. The annoyance of listening to a neighbor argue with his wife is only trumped by constant interruptions of people ‘stopping by.’

I’ve wondered out loud to him if this change was made to address employees who spend company time surfing the internet or playing computer games. He acknowledges that he is much more hesitant to check Politico when he’s taking a break but thinks this new design is to encourage more collaboration and to get millennials to communicate face-to-face rather than via email and text. If the guy you need to talk to is sitting a row away, you’re more likely to get up and go talk to him than ping him with a text.

lets eat grandmaThere’s validity to that thought. After all, meaning is often misinterpreted when you put it into words, especially texting shorthand.

I understand the frustration of constant interruptions. Here in my office, I find plenty of interruptions. It’s not only my officemates needing a potty break in the yard or my supervisor stretching out on the keyboard to get my attention, it’s also the temptation of Facebook and Instagram notifications or the siren call email. I have a chrome extension called, “Make America Kittens Again” that replaces every picture and mention of Trump with kitten pictures, so whenever my Yahoo homepage is littered with kittens, no matter how hard I try not to, I feel compelled to look at the news.

IMG_7305With the new year, I’ve decided I will do a little restructuring of my own office atmosphere. I’ve moved one particularly excitable officemate to the kitchen. She’s really a temp anyway and she disrupts the other workers which requires me to leave my work to referee.

The other change I’ve made is to turn off Facebook notifications and close my homepages and force myself to write before I even open my email when I sit down to work. I need to lean into that big yawning open space of boredom for an hour or so until it’s quiet enough for my real thoughts to be heard. If I open email first, odds are I’ll spend thirty minutes addressing other people’s needs before my own.

Starring at that blank page can sometimes be torture, but more times than not, eventually something spills out. There are days I have to write, days that I am drawn to the page and can’t do anything until I pour my thoughts out, but plenty of days I don’t feel that pull. In fact, the idea of writing exhausts me before I write my first word. Those are the days it’s even more important to write. Ann Patchett also wrote:

“Why is it we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?”

Writing is my job. If I spend my days surfing social media and reading blogs, I should be fired. Or at least put in cube land with a hundred noisy breathers and frustrated spouses.

I read somewhere recently that allowing yourself to be distracted by Facebook notifications, texts, and emails are like having an obnoxious person interrupting you all day long. If all these people who are tweeting and posting and texting, instead showed up at your door wanting to share their latest book review, meme, cute dog picture, or pressing revelation with you, you’d never stand for it. You’d lock your door or hide in the bathroom or tell them you’re busy.

I’m curious to see how the new layout at my husband’s work affects the productivity and happiness level of employees. Already I’ve noticed he seems more stressed and comes home with stories of his coworkers that I never heard before. Is that a recipe for getting more done? I don’t know.

Me? I’m finding that moving the noisy officemate to the kitchen and turning off the notifications has helped me focus. I’m getting more words on the page.

Now, if I could just get my boss to stop lounging on my keyboard and the guy with the standing desk to stop staring at me and farting so much, 2020 could be a very productive year.

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Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you’re inclined to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this county, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

Another Good Dog coverReleased Aug 2018 from Pegasus books

Find out more about the book and everything you wanted to know about fostering dogs: AnotherGoodDog.org

 

 

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA but my heart is in the mountains of Virginia. Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

5 thoughts on “I’m Just a Distractible Girl”

  1. I have a book project in which I have no confidence. I decided a couple months ago to stop writing a blog post every morning and sit down to that. That discipline worked to reveal (partly subconsciously) who the protagonist actually is (it was up in the air for a while). Sometimes just getting down to it seems boring but it does seem to discipline the mind to begin to think in the direction of resolving puzzles in a story. Still, writing isn’t my job. It’s something I do and don’t even know why sometimes. It’s so unnecessary to life on this planet except, maybe, mine and my little fan base here in the back-of-beyond. And, mostly, I like it. I like the imaginative work, the research and improving as a writer. It’s all good. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d contend that it is your ‘job’ because you take it seriously and labor at it with your heart and soul. Even if it doesn’t earn you lots of money, it does earn you respect and affection and give you purpose.

      so often, for me too, it does come down to just ‘getting down to it.’ You have to sit your butt in the chair, as they say, and write. It’s much easier to talk about writing, and it’s much more fun to blog than to ‘write.’

      Write on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When my superiors were contemplating the office format with which your husband is now dealing, another coworker and I did some research. My coworker is an introvert and I’m an extrovert. This is what we discovered. The open-space configuration is supposed to encourage collaboration. But, the bottom line is that work is basically a solitary endeavor. It is good to plan, brainstorm, discuss, and all other forms of working with others. But, once the project has been discussed and tasks have been divvied out, workers need to go off by themselves to reflect, process, and complete their portion of the work. This requires, for most people, quiet. People in open-space offices (in another part of our building) bought themselves noise cancelling headphones or found other ways to block distractions. Some workers got permission to work from home. Also, absenteeism increased because germs were more efficiently spread through the space. Introverts couldn’t deal with the noise and extroverts were continuously distracted and, often, socializing. ( And let’s not talk about the harsh fluorescent lighting giving some people headaches.) So, who benefits from this office set-up? The company who saves on lighting and HVAC. This set-up didn’t work in open-space schools in the 1970s and I would imagine you’d be hard pressed to find one in 2020. Good luck to your husband! I would imagine you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the near future as he works from home or comes home with the flu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m going to share this with him – although maybe I shouldn’t! He’s trying to be a ‘good sport’ and go along with these changes but already I see the increased stress. I hadn’t thought about the bad lighting and the germs aspect, but he did get sick with a cold that wouldn’t quit right after he moved to the cubicle.

      The one thing I’m sure of, though, is this, like all the other changes, likely won’t last. At least I hope it won’t– for his sake (and mine since sharing an office at home hinders my work!).

      Like

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