(sigh) …

In a tribute to the late poet, Mary Oliver, Maria Popova re-posted in last Sunday’s BrainPickings, an essay Oliver wrote — “Of Power and Time.” In it, she writes about how “creative work needs solitude … concentration without interruptions.” It really resonated with me, because I’m so easily distracted these days. It wasn’t always thus, but it’s been a problem for a while now.

Thankfully, my “paid” work isn’t affected. I have no problem hunkering down and getting client projects and articles written — getting right to them, staying focused and meeting the deadlines. But my personal writing — my blog, my book, essays etc., the writing that keeps my spirit happy, well that’s another story.

No matter how hard I try not to let anything interrupt me, I get distracted. I’m distracted by Facebook. I’m distracted by emails. I’m distracted by an endless barrage of News updates. I’m distracted by a fridge or a pantry that need re-stocking. I’m distracted by discovering I’m out of tissues, or paper towels, or Charmin, or printer paper, or ink cartridges. I’m distracted by the pile of books I haven’t yet managed to finish reading, or the need to get to the tailor or dry cleaner. I’m distracted by life.

You get the picture.

I can’t concentrate.

Popova quoted Jane Hirshfield in the preamble to the Mary Oliver essay: “Concentration,” Hirshfield said, “is indeed a difficult art, art’s art, and its difficulty lies in the constant conciliation of the dissonance between self and the world.”

It seems this is nothing new. Two hundred years before social media, the French artist Eugène Delacroix complained about “the necessary torment of avoiding social distractions in creative work” and a century and a half later the abstract painter, Agnes Martin, directed aspiring artists “to exercise discernment in the interruptions they allow.”

Well, I am here to tell you that it’s easier said than done. And while I may be in good company, I am none the less frustrated with myself. Why is it so damn hard to shut out the world, even for a few hours a day?


16 thoughts on “(sigh) …

    • When it comes to client projects and other paid writing assignments I always meet the deadlines. I am disciplined about that work. I haven’t given myself deadlines for my own writing, but I have set goals which is sort of the same thing. But they don’t seem to be working. This is new for me, I haven’t always had this problem. Maybe it’s time to move to a deserted island 😊

  1. I could really relate to this, Fransi. While my obligations are always met, I’m not as disciplined with my personal work—even though I recognize it as an equally important obligation. I’m trying to set boundaries on the things I allow to intrude (social media, emails, newsfeeds). I know that boundary-setting and holding is the answer (for me), and I just need to get better at it. I have a very productive friend who only checks his email and social media once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening. He’s informed clients and friends that if they need to reach him urgently, they should pick up the phone. Otherwise he’ll catch them in the next window. I know this strategy would work well for me—I just haven’t committed to it. Do we need a 12-step program?

  2. As usual. feeling less alone and less guilty in the company of your words. One has to be a titan of isolation or move into the middle of a very deep forest to avoid all interruptions. Never before were there more ways to distract the mind! Still what you write is relevant and inspiring and to me so comforting. Always worth taking me away from whatever else. Big loss Mary Oliver, so much richer she left us!

    • Thanks so much Daisy. I love hearing from you. And yes, Mary Oliver is a big loss and we are so lucky to have had her among us ❤️

  3. Shucks Fransi, no point beating yourself up, I closed down my facebook 12 months ago, have a bolthole with no tv, radio, leave mobile phone in another room concentrate the mind do my bit of scribbling then head out into the big bad world and play catch up. Retirement, the only way to live!!!

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