Donna Everhart

Getting Past The Clutter

The average human has approximately 30,000 thoughts a day.  A lot of clutter.  Like food processing, where produce is assorted on a mass conveyor belt, the good pieces are kept, while the damaged, useless, or non-standard pieces get shoved off into a disposal bin.  Similarly, our brains constantly collect and discard thoughts and images. Out there, on that gray matter horizon, invaders to disciplined thought are constantly hovering and pushing their way through, seemingly bent on interrupting.

I came up with a random list of stuff that floated through my head just this morning while I was trying to write that had nothing to do with writing.  I only came up with 12, not 30,000, so you can thank me for that:

  1. Leather couches need dusting, how strange.
  2. Even showing her a picture didn’t help with this haircut
  3. I should empty the water out of the humidifier
  4. Is he hungry?
  5. I’m hungry
  6. Where’s my pen?
  7. There’s the mailman
  8. My back hurts
  9. That was a pretty good show last night
  10. Did I start that load of laundry?
  11. What should I fix for dinner?
  12. Oh my gosh, my blog is due – now!

And on and on…and on.

How in the world do we ever get any thing done what with all that brain noise?  I’ve read articles where writers say they need complete silence in order to work, but there’s no way to ever get that, not really – unless one is dead.  It  is possible to tune a lot of it out, and afford yourself a better opportunity at controlling your distractions.  If we shut down outside factors that tend to break concentration, that can really help.

For me, I keep the TV turned off.  I also turn the volume of the phone down so I can just barely hear it.  I have a bottle of water close by so I don’t have to get up.  I log off of all other apps, email, internet, wifi, so it’s just me, the laptop and my WIP.   What I have discovered is this; the longer I concentrate on the WIP, the deeper I get into the manuscript, the  more involved and engaged on the words in front of me.  In this area (the zone?) it’s possible to ignore those pesky intruders that have nothing to do with my current focused activity – i.e. getting the daily word count in.

When I finally take a break, it’s like walking out of a dark movie theater, where you’ve sat mesmerized and entertained for a couple of hours, and into the bright, hot sun.  Sometimes I’m totally surprised that I’ve surpassed my word count for the day.  If I don’t purposefully set myself up to focus,there is no getting past the clutter.   The actual steps, although minimalistic work for me.  No TV.  No phone.  No internet.  Applied attention to WIP.

It’s as simple as that for me.

What works for you?





5 thoughts on “Getting Past The Clutter”

  1. Same thing. I also find it really difficult to concentrate if I know there’s something important waiting at the end of my writing time. Appointments are especially hard because I find myself checking the clock every ten minutes when I’m supposed to be writing. (Neurotic much, Averil?)

    1. Ha! The clock checking -yes. Day before and yesterday, I had to leave the house for a couple of scheduled activities and that seemed to be all I did.

  2. Since I started writing when my kids were – one was an infant and one was a toddler – I learned to write in ten minute spurts, noise, no noise, dog barking, lawn tractors…you get the picture. In fact it is so easy to tune out the external, which seeks to distract me, that when it’s quiet, I mean really, really quiet, I get the heebie-jeebies.

    It’s the internal clutter, like your list, which causes me to lose focus and yanks my thoughts around like my brain at a taffy-pull.

    “When I finally take a break, it’s like walking out of a dark movie theater, where you’ve sat mesmerized and entertained for a couple of hours, and into the bright, hot sun.”
    Love that and so true.

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