I’m finding it hard to keep all my plates spinning – maybe that’s why my eye was drawn to author David Mitchell’s piece in The Atlantic. It’s called How to Write: Neglect Everything Else. Great click-bait (the title really got on my nerves) but it’s a thoughtful, wide-ranging essay and the part that resonated most with me was this:
Maintaining focus is critical […] in the presence of endless distraction. You’ve only got time to be a halfway decent parent, plus one other thing.
Is your life that simple? Thought not, and that’s the point. Something has to give.
My focus at the moment, other than trying to be a ‘halfway decent parent’ (you only get one crack at that) is to finish the first draft of my new book by Christmas. In theory I have far more time to write than many people but keeping to a tough deadline like this against a constant barrage of distractions and other commitments is not easy. I’m making myself do it without asking myself if I’m in the mood (usual answer, no, but once I begin that changes). And yes, other things are sliding. My never fastidious attitude to housework has further declined to ‘(very) little and (not very) often,’ but since I am the only resident of this house who’s remotely bothered by this, that’s OK.
I’m about two-thirds through the draft and at this point if I could escape to total solitude on an island and stay with it every waking moment, I reckon I could get to the end in two weeks. This is a tormenting thought compared to how it will actually get done. Like most novels, mine will be written as real life permits, not in splendid, self-indulgent isolation.
And speaking of real life, David Mitchell said something else that made a lot of sense to me:
I do think there’s some relationship between maintaining focus, looking closely, and the act of writing itself. The more you practice really looking, the more convincingly you can build a set for a scene. You become used to looking at the relationships between objects and people and light and time and mood and air. […] it’s what you need to do to bring a scene into being.
If you’d like to see what’s going round in my head when I’m sitting in the car park at Power League, here’s a Pinterest board I recently made for the new book. The board’s called Set in Paris, the novel is as yet untitled.
There’s likely to be more ad-libbing over the next few weeks so I hope you’ll bear with me. Now if you’ll excuse me, j’ai 36 choses à faire. (For those who don’t speak French, that’s the approximate number of things on my To Do list.)
How do you deal with life’s endless distractions?
Related post: Piece on Place for Jane Rusbridge’s blog.