Productive Distractions

By David E. Sharp

Great ideas rarely come to me when I’m staring at a word document. That would be a convenient time for them to show up, but inspiration is fickle. Maybe it’s because I can’t get my inner monologue to stop repeating, “Come up with a great idea. Come up with a great idea. Come up with a great idea.”

I recently invested in a solution. Well, TWO solutions.
But ideas do come!

They hit me when I’m in the shower. Or when I’m taking a walk. Or engaged in a meaningful conversation. I should be paying attention to the person with whom I’m speaking. That human is getting more and more irate for some reason, and my distracted expression is not helping.

Somehow, too much conscious focus cannot accomplish the kind of brilliance that a distracted half-focus can do without trying.

So, I do the things writers do. I take the walks. I shower regularly – which has the added bonus being hygienic. I perform mundane chores and then quit them midstride the moment an idea germinates. But these things are all so far from my computer. I want something to siphon off half my focus while I’m there tapping away at the keyboard.

Dogs are great. Bad dogs, if you can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest of them all.

John Grogan

They couldn’t be more distracting. They sense when I am planning to be productive, and they get right to work. Untying my shoes with their teeth, wrestling with each other right next to my chair, explaining to me with remarkable patience that their food bowl is due for refilling, or just staring at me with puppy eyes.

How could I not have Eureka moments when they each grab a cuff of my jeans and attempt to pull me from my chair? All the while growling their tiny ferocious growls.

It’s perfect! My focus could not be more divided.

And the ideas! Such ideas I’ve had. Although it has been more difficult remembering how I started a sentence by the time I get to the end of it. And there are times when their desire for belly rubs overrides my desire to keep a word count momentum going. But if it weren’t for welcome distractions, what am I even writing about? The whole point of my stringing words together is to create a narrative that other people will consider a welcome distraction from their own day-to-day cares.

So revel in productivity the next time your cat walks across your keyboard while your typing. Absorb the creativity from the following story told by a small child said in a single run-on sentence. Thank your irate customers for allowing you to visit your happy place. Masters in the art of distraction, these two perform admirably: practicing the ancient techniques of drawing attention where none was offered, of making hours melt away like minutes, and of saying, “Stop what you’re doing, and look at this thing I did.”

Hopefully, it isn’t chewing the bottom out of the couch or unrolling an entire tube of toilet paper.

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