The Main Reason You Aren’t Writing? Probably Distraction

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It’s impossible to write well if you are distracted (says I, who is currently writing this while watching the subpar episode of The Office where Jim buys Pam a house).

Resisting distractions is hard and it saps our willpower. (That obviously explains why I ate three salted nut bars while writing this: no willpower left.)

So how do you get rid of the distractions, sit down to write (or read or whatever), and do it well?

(That last part about doing it well is key,  by the way. I’ve produced all kinds of garbage while watching TV. I’m not bragging; I’m confessing.)

I suggest we try creating environments where multitasking isn’t the default. We have to build space and time where distraction simply doesn’t enter the equation.

Easier said than done, of course, but I do have some strategies for doing that. You can read about what I’m trying to do in my article “Distraction Is Keeping You From Writing: Three Ways to Foster Deep Thinking and Improve Your Writing.”

Should you trust me? Probably not. I just paused to watch this video of babies talking to each other.

How do you build distraction-proof areas in your life?

 

After Dinner Conversation: A Fascinating Publication

Survival Kit: After Dinner Conversation Short Story Series by [Seifert, Christine]

After Dinner Conversation publishes short stories about ethical or philosophical questions. It’s been fun to dive into fictional worlds that explore questions about what it means to be human. If you like short fiction, you should definitely check them out. They include discussion questions along with each story.

My story, “Survival Kit,” just hit #1 on Amazon downloads. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it or any of the other stories. Better yet, write your own and share it!

 

Is Doing Nothing the Same as Doing Something?

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Sometimes I write short stories. Did I tell you that?

Well, here’s my latest:

A wife in an unhappy marriage gets caught in a freak snowstorm with her husband and sees the opportunity to end her “suffering.”

You can read it at After Dinner Conversations, a great new collection of short fiction and podcast episodes. Each story deals with an ethical or philosophical idea.

My story is about whether or not doing nothing to save someone from calamity is the same as contributing directly to that calamity. Let me know what you think.

Click here to read “Survival Kit.”

Kids These Days: Some Advice from the Little People

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In my zeal to be old, I often forget how instructive it can be to listen to kids. Sure, they are generally little sociopaths with broken moral compasses–and they smell like hamsters– but they often have excellent ideas about how to live.

Here are some things children have recently taught me:

Don’t Waste Your Time with Dumb Stuff

My niece patiently explained to me that showering is optional. If she can sleep for an extra half hour, she isn’t stepping into a waterflow of any kind. “It just seems pointless,” she told me. She’s not wrong. Personal hygiene is totally the thief of joy. Greasy hair isn’t a crime. “It just likes like gel,” she insisted. She’ll bathe when she “gets to it.” Here’s a kid with priorities.

She also doesn’t muddy her memory with useless details. When I asked her what time she goes to school, she had no idea. It could be eight a.m., it could be seven a.m.,  it could be hamburger. She simply doesn’t know! “I just go in when the bell rings,” she explained (with a fair amount disdain, as if she just had to inform me that rain comes from the sky).

Her ingenious approach to life ensures she doesn’t have a head full of useless knowledge. She uses all that free brain space, she explained, to think about more important things, like whether or not she wants pizza.

Do Take a Reasonable Approach to Problem-Solving

My nephew is only twelve, but he has the common sense of an eighty-year-old. He goes to bed early, does his homework as soon as he gets home from school, disapproves of Tik Tok, and gets to class early to “center” himself.  He’s also a keen pragmatist.

“Would you be willing to eat people?” he recently asked me.

“Why are you asking me that?” I asked. I was suspicious because he was handing me a taco at the same time.

“Just curious. I myself wouldn’t do it.”

“No,” I answered, “I’ll definitely pass on eating people.”

“What if they wanted to be eaten?”

“How would we know that?”

He thought for a moment. “They could tell people. Like sign something that says it’s okay to eat them.” He went to craft a complicated system that was sort of a cross between organ donation and The Hunger Games. Then he left to watch YouTube, satisfied that he’d  essentially solved global hunger and cemetery overcrowding in about twenty minutes.

The whole conversation left me wondering I can’t easily come up with reasonable solutions to even the smallest recurring problems. Yet he has enough reason to create a plan for responsible cannibalism.

Don’t Lie, Even If the Truth Hurts

My ten-year-old niece is pathologically honest. If you give her a gift she doesn’t like, she’ll give you a sour expression, utter a perfunctory thank you, and then give the gift back. I once handed her a picnic basket to hold. She mistakenly thought it was a gift. “No thank you,” she told me. “I prefer not to picnic.” She’s basically a tween Bartleby.

Once you become an adult, you start to rely on little lies to lubricate social situations. It doesn’t take long before you’ve told your coworker that you love his singing, reassured your neighbors that you don’t mind in the least if their cat eats everything in your garden, and donated to your brother-in-law’s multi-level marketing business that sells leggings for goldfish.

Not my niece. She puts it out there. And as a result, you are never in doubt where you stand with her, and she never feels compelled to be someone other than herself. Not long ago, she met her old brother’s new girlfriend. She took one look at the girlfriend, turned to her brother and said, “This will never last. She’s going to dump you.” That’s radical honesty.

Be Better, But Still Be You

I was once asked to give a speech about how to change the world. I agreed to do it, but the truth was that I don’t have a clue how to change the world. I only recently learned how to change the furnace filter. (That’s a lie. I have no idea how to do that either.)

So I asked my friends with kids to advise me. How do you change the world? The kids’ answers were delightful. They advised more love, more smiles, more puppies, more kindness, less bullying, less greed, and less jealously.

They also gave me some bonkers answers that I still think about:

  • “I go under the tables.”
  • “After lunch I take a nap.
  • “If I play in the front room.”
  • “I like lollipops.”
  • “More lions.”
  • “Farting”

What I took from their answers is that we can all agree that kindness and generosity are never bad ways to approach life. At the same time, it’s okay to be you. Get under the table and fart! Take a nap after lunch! Have a lollipop!

Life is hard.  Find joy.

Above all, listen to the kids. They know what’s up.

 

 

 

Screens in the Bedroom: Good, Bad, Indifferent, or the End of Humanity as We Know It?

 

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Let’s talk about your bedroom for a minute. Do you use phones or other screens in yours? If you do, does using technology in your bedroom affect your sleep? Your focus? Do you know for sure?

I have a Kindle, but I leave my phone in another room. I know if I have a screen nearby, and I’m trying to sleep, I’ll end up thinking about work. For me, the mere presence of a screen puts in me in work mode.

Recently, I read some research about what happens when kids/tweens have screens in their rooms. It turns out that using screens in the bedroom is far worse (in terms of cognitive effects) than using screens elsewhere. So I wrote an article about that research for Your Teen Magazine, a leading source of trusted advice for parents raising tweens and teens.

There’s no paywall, and you can read it here if you like.

Let me know what your household practices are for digital devices. In a world of digital distraction, we’re all trying to find ways to balance the addictive pull of technology and the need for silence. What’s your last refuge for silence?

Digital Distractions Will Keep You from Writing

If you want to publish in magazines and/or with mainstream publishers, you have to do one thing first: write

But finding time and energy to write is really hard when there are just so many easy and accessible distractions.

Exhibit A: I sat down to write this post and proceeded to first do the following things:

  • Scrolled through news headlines on my phone;
  • Chatted with my excellent friend Anita on Slack;
  • Checked my email;
  • Responded to a text from my excellent friend Danielle;
  • Saw that a story about a unicorn puppy was trending on Google and immediately clicked on it;
  • Checked out an ebook from the library; and
  • Slacked my husband (who is literally across the hall) a Parks and Rec gif…for no reason.

So how long has it taken me to write this post? I honestly don’t know because I keep interrupting myself.

My digital distractions are out of control. So I did some research on just how bad those digital distractions are on writing output. It’s pretty bad, you guys.

I have some tips for managing digital distractions in an article here. A lot of getting published is just putting in the time. You have to write to write!

How do you manage digital distractions and actually get writing done? Taking all advice!

Do You Feel Guilty for “Wasting Time” Reading?

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Reading for pleasure seems indulgence, but it’s honestly the best workout we can give our brains. Reading a book is like a gym for your noodle.

I can give you five reasons for reading fiction–totally guilt-free. Check out my article at The Startup.

Do you feel guilty when you read for fun? If you don’t, how did you set yourself free?

 

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