This is going to sound strange because I have been posting more the past few weeks, trying to rebuild my habit of a daily post, but I just can’t seem to write anything…good lately. Not “good” as in something everyone wants to read or changes the world, but “good” as in significant to me. There have been a few fits and starts, but I feel distracted and a little bit lost and I’m starting to think part of my problem is “noise.”
If you saw how I live, you’d instantly raise your hand and ask, “What noise are you talking about, woman? The wind? An occasional truck? A loud scrub jay?”
No, not that kind of noise. The mental noise level. Thoughts and distractions. This might sound nuts, completely out of character, but I instantly bought a book called “Chatter – The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” by Ethan Kross. That podcast interview I heard with the author last week, I couldn’t help but yell to the car, “THAT’S IT!” Charlie Brown style. It’s sitting here on my TBR shelf, on top, next up, right after I finish Joseph Conrad.
The other distraction is my phone. It sits next to me while I drink my coffee and read in the morning. I’ll admit that I have a phone problem. It’s always in my hand. Always. I don’t have social media on my phone, and I get no notifications other than direct texts. What if one of the kids needs me? What if my mom calls? What if ANYONE texts me? All great, right? But…it’s distracting at the worst moments, like right in the stream of consciousness moment. No bueno. I turn off the ringer, but then I find myself glancing over to see if the light is flashing.
Why is it that I am so hyper-focused on not missing a message? I can’t imagine a text that couldn’t wait an hour or so. If it were truly and emergency, they would call. Right?
Something similar happens when I have my laptop out to write. The blank page stares waiting for me, but it’s just too easy to open up Facebook, or check my email, or even open up WordPress and read another blog. And then my own thoughts are gone, buried way back in my mind at the very least.
This morning I wrote the first draft of this in my journal thinking this way I would have no way of being distracted. If the words slowed down, all I would be able to do is stare at the wall or out the window for a moment. It worked nicely, until my phone beeped a message to me.
I know! It’s crazy! Right?
After breakfast, I opened up Instagram for a look around and found this post from @cbmeditates and it started the wheels turning.
I sat with my journal a bit longer, thinking about what three things I could focus on this month that might lower my mental noise level. Here’s what I came up with.
Focus #1 – Uninterrupted Morning Hours
From now on, I keep my phone on my desk back in my office until 9am. I’ll go get it to use my yoga app and then put it right back afterwards. Out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing going on in the world that can’t wait an hour or two.
Focus #2 – Write by Hand
My morning writing time can be done by hand in my journal. That way there are no distractions. No, “I’ll just get that link.” Or “What was that quote exactly?” When that happens, I chase rabbit-holes and end up being bombarded with other people’s thinking. An hour of sitting with a pen and a journal will help me get my own thoughts on paper first. Then later I’ll transcribe what I wrote into my laptop, adding in details and links, and looking up references as I go.
Focus #3 – Less Daily Sugar
This one isn’t a writing focus. I need less sugar in my daily diet, and that includes alcohol. I’m not a heavy drinker and I’m not a dessert fiend, but throughout the day I feel like I’m always grabbing a piece of chocolate, a coke, or a handful of something sweet. I’ve done well this week, so I want to keep going. It makes my joints less achy, and I sleep better if I stay on the low sugar side of life. I’m sweet enough, right? And I don’t need alcohol to lower my inhibitions. I do that just fine right here on paper.
Keeping my mornings low tech and free from message interruptions is going to be the hard part. There’s something weird going on there. I get the feeling I’m letting everyone down if I don’t answer my text messages almost immediately, but you know, no one else I know does that. The best my circle can do is within the hour, and that’s great. I swear it’s like a security blanket for me, but it’s not helping me right now, so it’s time to change!
I’ve put my focus goals on my calendar and at the end of the month, I’ll check in and see if I’ve had any success lowering my mental noise level.
In her book, “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron recommends a daily practice of writing BY HAND three pages in an 8-1/2 by 11″ notebook.It’s a fabulous practice—and, disjointed thoughts and distractions can be included in whatever is written to be taken care of later, if necessary. I would be wise to follow your lead and do likewise. It’s a great healer for the distraction-minded—of which I am one.Good luck!