I’ve been feeling very scatterbrained lately. Even when I’m procrastinating on the things I should be doing, like writing, I can’t seem to pick just one method of procrastination. I watch Netflix, but I must also simultaneously rearrange my neighborhoods on my Disney Enchanted Tales game on my phone. I brainstorm a blog post, but I must also toggle between tabs checking that the color coding on my Google calendar is right.
I blamed some of this on my
relatively new Netflix habit. I realized part of my mental restlessness comes from not having anyone to talk to during meals, having grown up with dinner table conversations about such diverse topics as early waves of feminism and ways to annoy people in elevators. So I started turning on a half-hour episode of something while I ate, because it was easier than holding a book open with one elbow and trying not to spill something on the page. And then that pesky Auto Play kicked in, and I found myself watching a few hours of TV when I had only meant to occupy my brain while my body refueled. A few months of this seems to have trained me to multitask no matter what. Even when I journal at night, I keep flipping back and forth midsentence to reread old entries, rather than writing continuously or even pausing to collect my current thoughts.
Just about the only activity I can focus on is reading.
Books have long been a central point for me, like a magnet to my attention. I might bring a book to the breakfast table, but I always end up focused on the book, letting my food go cold beside me or scarfing down a few bites at a time when I reach the end of a chapter. When I pick up a book for just one chapter before bed, it usually ends with me only putting it down because the words are swimming before my eyes at 1 a.m. Phone calls go unheard, emails go unnoticed, the sun could rise in the west and set in the east, and I would not look up from my book.
So I’m trying to figure out what allows books to act as a conduit for me to direct my attention and thoughts. I’ve also tried some (admittedly sporadic) meditation to retrain my mind to more easily focus on Just One Thing at a time. I downloaded a Pomodoro timer app on my phone to use when I’m writing, whether for this blog or for my own personal projects, and I made a list of little rewards for myself for when I reach a word count goal.
These steps are annoying. My brain prefers constant entertainment (insert accusation about kids these days spending too much time on their smart phones and internet). But then I remind myself (or I’m lucky enough to actually experience it again) how good it feels when I’m in a Writing Mood, when the words just come and there’s nothing between me and the page. That’s the kind of focus I’m striving for, even if it means slogging through a lot of distractions.