You know what I love about the world of clichés? Everything’s so easy out there.
In that world I would be an introvert just like a decent writer should be. I would spend my days reflecting away, developing my storylines while taking lonely walks. In the unlikely event of me venturing to a party, I would exchange deep thoughts with a carefully picked interlocutor that I make sure I have talked to already. After 90 minutes I would withdraw myself from the sensory overload and incessant blabbing of the extraverted crowd to return back into the safe company of my spiral notebook.
In the real world, I am a classic extravert. Guilty of maintaining an outrageous number of facebook contacts with people I hardly know, talking your head off (beware the second glass of wine!) and tend to hop from one giant mental leap to the next. Why I am also a writer? I blame a freak accident of nature.
And so my internal receiver is always on – for creative inspiration, yes, but also for an epic list of potential distractions. Care for a little excerpt? I find it impossible to write next to: TV, radio, music in general, people talking or moving next to me, my open facebook account, my open gmail account, a switched on computer, a switched on internet router, unidentified noise, a telephone call, a soon-to-be-expected telephone call, the sight of an unread book or magazine, a fly in my room … uum, guess you get the idea.
Yeah yeah, I hear you say, sure we do all know good old procrastination from our dissertations, presentations or decision processes. And I utterly agree with you on that one! But then again … procrastinating something that is your passionate obsession since you were twelve? Your calling, just something you put off like a nuisance? I don’t think so. For me that’s got to do, amongst other things, with the outward-oriented personality.
Strategies for the Chronically Distracted
So the list above sounds familiar to you? Then I’ve got news for you. Although the easily distractable rarely can be cured they can still quite easily disrupt their internal receiver. Here are a couple of strategies that worked for me and should be applicable to any given (creative) project work:
Morning Glory. Between 9 and 12 am is the time of day when my general concentration level is the highest. As far possible I reserve these hours for writing creatively. I also block it in the calendar to treat this appointment with due respect. The rest of the day I fill up with tasks that need less concentration, like editing, organizational stuff, household and honing my extraversion (e-mail, facebook, google+, you name it). Adapt this to your own bio rhythm and check it out – ideally in connection with the tips below.
Lists. Few things feel more rewarding than checking off a to-do list. But beware falling prey to the temptations of starting with all the small easy-to-do things just to get ahead. You will end up neglecting the chunky but really important stuff. That’s why you should make sure writing always is the number one item on your list, even if you only have 30 mins to attend to it. If you love the specifics, you can also add a word count.
Sensory Minimalism. Whatever it takes to get you down to business – just do it! So remember: computer off – wireless router off – ear plugs in – notebook and pen out – go!
I am aware that all this sounds like a piece of cake. Well it isn’t, but I swear it works wonders if you go for it. And as soon as you are done you will learn to appreciate your extraversion again. That’s the time when you can finally tell your whole network of your new book/project/movie/achievement. All 1836 of them …
The original German version of this article was published on www.geistundgegenwart.de, a blog about coaching and the important questions in life, kept by the formidable philosopher, coach, IT-manager and introvert Gilbert Dietrich. If you speak German, I can only recommend you to check it out.