On Writing

Back to writing, and problems with concentration

That excruciating moment with writing:

You have sat down, arranged your coffee, snacks and water within easy reaching distance, adjusted your chair so that your back is supported, switched off wi-fi as well as your phone, and stared intently at the screen- only to feel a million and one distracting thoughts rise through your mind, inexorably carrying away your determination and concentration; capturing your focus so that a moment later you are checking Facebook, and considering taking an interestingly choreographed picture of your coffee cup to post on Instagram.

Then you check out some other stuff; figuring you’ll take five minutes and then start writing. In fact, it is 6pm in thirteen minutes so you will definitely, absolutely, start writing at 6pm. 6pm passes- you stare back at the empty page for a couple of minutes, and then realise you never decided on how a certain character arc was going to finish.

You do a bit of research on character development, which is interesting. At half six you finish what you are reading on reddit and wonder about making some food, and the sofa looks inviting…

Procrastination, and lack of focus and concentration are real and present dangers. There is usually so much other stuff going on in your head, that reaching the seemingly ‘zen like state’ from which you can block it all out is arduous.

When I try to write I start to realise how many different things I have going on in my mind at any given moment: the desires and fears, the multitude of thought processes over a multitude of different interests and areas.

Focusing over all of that, having the discipline or the strength of will to block it all out and concentrate purely on making words come out, can be a herculean undertaking in itself.

Because, ultimately, it does come down to self -discipline. You have to force yourself, however brain- bendingly hard it seems, to keep the page open, and keep putting down words.

You have to embrace the mind numbing sense of inertia, the skin crawling sensation of such, slow, process, and so little out-put for such strong desire and feeling. You have to keep doing this, again and again and again, however much it chills your blood.

Eventually it becomes slightly easier; eventually it feels less like pulling teeth or sticking pins beneath your finger nails, and you actually start to crave that ‘zen like state.’

I think it’s a process of taking all of the ideas, the passion, the nerve, the desperate hopes and dreams, as well as the uncertainty, the distractions and the insecurities- and cramming them all together- into one ball of focus, one point of view from which to write.

It is troublesome though! Holding all of those conflicting thoughts and various niggling voices together under a state of concentration is difficult.

One of those elements will invariably wriggle stronger than my ability to hold it back, and then whatever it is will pop into my mind, and send me off on a thought process completely unrelated to what I am trying to write about. My attention and focus become divided, and I become distracted.

I will either start daydreaming about something, worrying about something, become super desirous to check the internet for something; or have a sudden urge to hoover my carpet or pluck my eye-brows.

I think that what often happens is the drive and urge to write gets caught up in easier facets of translation, easier ways to express that urge. My urge to pluck my eye-brows is really only my urge to write, misdirected.

My mind knows that plucking my eyebrows has less of a reward/risk factor than writing, that it’s ultimately easier and less stressful than what I’m trying to do. So the moment my mind drifts or looses it’s focus on writing, all of my desire to write is channelled into this different, less taxing pursuit: and I suddenly have a burning desire to search for my tweezers.

Holding all of those distracting urges together, over a prolonged period of time, and functioning above all of them is hard.

It is only when I stop following the thought processes that are triggered, stop responding to each urge and desire, and instead try to quieten it all down; focusing less on the different voices and distractions, and instead functioning over all of that background noise, that I finally learn concentration and self discipline.

Harder still, it sometimes seems, is actually using all of those urges as fuel for the driving force behind what my fingers are typing.

Because I think that all of those things forced together create the spark; the real overriding urge or desire to write. The passion and the nerve, as well as the uncertainty and self doubt; they will all come together, and form different nuances in your writing and your conceptualisation.

The thoughts which rattle around your mind when you are trying to write are the source of that, they are expressions of different sides of you, and symptoms of the different forces which affect you- some positive, some negative.

Instead of acting as distractions, they will eventually come together to fuel your desire to write and create, and bolster your ability to explore ideas with depth and detail.



2 thoughts on “Back to writing, and problems with concentration

  1. You answered your question in your post – that is to say, what is the positive side of distraction? Your last paragraph shows that you understand it fully. Because Zen isn’t to overcome, it is to allow it to become part of yourself, but not to overwhelm you. That is what you said in your last paragraph.

    I’d like to explore something you say, “I will either start daydreaming about something, worrying about something, become super desirous to check the internet for something; or have a sudden urge to hoover my carpet or pluck my eye-brows.? I can tell you that this doesn’t stop. These earthly worries do assume a proportion that is not truly theirs – yet we accede to these because they might just be that important. Somehow we must find the balance between our inner and outer lives, where these distractions can be – not harnessed, but engaged in a way that allows them expression but not to the point of worrying about them.

    But that’s the problem with worry, I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I can’t counter these distractions!

    Back to square one…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yes I know that feeling- your expectation that something will come into your head to distract you, means that it inevitably does!! Is a hard cycle to leave alone.. “Somehow we must find the balance between our inner and outer lives”- this is what it’s all about, I think. I try and write from that balance, use stimuli from both inside and outside to fuel my writing! Though not much today as I have been obsessive about wordpress! I must get back to editing now or I will have done none of the things I was supposed to do today! Chat soon!


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