Bright Shiny Things Syndrome

I had a multitude of questions last week when I posted about writing THE END on my latest manuscript. Most often, people asked how long it took (just under 3 months). They said they were in awe.

And they asked how I did it.

This applies to any creative – I AVOID THE BRIGHT SHINY THINGS. Magpies collect them, and apparently, creatives are very similar.

I am just like everyone else. I can become easily distracted. As I type this, it’s (not surprisingly) raining outside my office window, overlooking my wonderful evolving garden outside Portland, Oregon. The rain slants and patters against the window. Wind gust things around occasionally and –

What is that bird? I don’t recognize it. There’s another one. Where is the bird book? I want to know what they are…

Bright shiny things.

Creative avoidance doesn’t have to be conscious. In fact, many times it is a byproduct of our free-flowing art. I stare into the middle distance or beyond when I’m listening to the characters tell me where things go next. My photographer friend shoots rapid pictures that were not in his plan for the day, but seem interesting. Another friend who paints gets all caught up in mixing oils and distracted by what other projects might be great for that particular shade of blue.

Bright shiny things.025

Distractions happen. If we’ve built in enough time to devote to our project for that day, we can let them take us away for a little while, but we need to return to the creative work at hand. Think of it as a little mind break, no coffee involved.

I have found that for me, if I let myself go upstairs, find the bird book, and identify the newcomer, I am lost. I have to stay with the task at hand. This only applies to two things in my life – writing, and exercise. Anything else is negotiable, and I’m allowed to pick up the bright shiny thing during those other times and examine it as long as I want. If I did that during my dedicated writing period, it is a hundred times harder for me to go back.

Your experience as a creative might be very different from mine, and if so, WOOHOO for you! I wish I had that skill, and maybe I will develop it someday (though let’s be honest, old dog and new tricks and all that). I’m not saying any particular way of dealing with this is the best.

My advice: Know what distracts you, and how best to keep yourself on track for whatever amount of time you devote to your craft in a day. Guard your creative time like a magpie with a bright shiny thing. Better yet, put bright shiny things time on your calendar and enjoy! You never know what ideas will come to you as a result!

How do you deal with distractions? Please share your techniques to get back on track when they happen – we can all learn from them!

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