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What Distractions Allow Us to Do: Part 1

Aren’t distractions terrible?  Sometimes I think distractions are the bane of modern existence. All those distractions and invitations to:

  • Talk to people in other parts of the world and
  • Read thought provoking material for free and
  • Get support and motivation at the touch of a button and
  • Keep in touch with what’s happening in the world and
  • Find words and pictures and poems and stories that remind us to wonder and
  • Make serendipitious discoveries and
  • Learn something new every day

Perhaps some distractions aren’t distractions at all.

Perhaps they’re part of being alive in the 21st century.

Perhaps they’re blessings.

Perhaps they’re something to be grateful for.

Perhaps they feed our minds.

Perhaps they help us connect with other people.

Perhaps they stop us from focusing too hard on our stuff, and open our eyes to other people’s stuff.

Perhaps they stop us from working too hard and leave some time for play.

Perhaps not all distractions are bad.

Perhaps we need to learn more about the difference between distractions that expand our world and those which limit it.

Perhaps we need to find different ways to talk about what we mean by distractions.

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  1. Tweets that mention What Distractions Allow Us to Do: Part 1 | Confident Writing -- Topsy.com says:

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  2. Fred H Schlegel says:

    Right on Joanna. In the right environment distractions can be where connections form that allow us to do what we wanted to do in the first place.

    Of course it can get out of hand. For example I’ve been so distracted as of late I’ve had to start calendarizing my favorite distractions to avoid being distracted from the more brain building off ramps I’ve found. A process which I’m also easily distracted from. Oh dear.
    .-= Fred H Schlegel´s last blog ..The 2400 Year Old Problem =-.

  3. Davina says:

    Perhaps they’re like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get and the possibilities are intriguing. We’re curiosity junkies. I think if a person wasn’t curious about things around them, they might as well crawl under a rock.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..The Muse Will Play in May =-.

  4. Jeanne Dininni says:

    Rather than being inherently bad, I believe distractions can be either positive or negative depending on their relative importance, value, and helpfulness in comparison to the original thought or activity from which they’re distracting us.

    I love your reference to differentiating between distractions that expand our world and those that limit it. In the deepest, most internal sense, I believe that therein lies the key.

    A paradox is definitely at work here, though. While something like information overload-which comes as a result of having unlimited access to anything and everything that’s available online-may appear to expand our world, after a certain point that unbridled access can actually begin to limit it, as it gobbles up our time and steals our freedom. Yet, much of what we access online can be freeing and expansive to our hearts, minds, and spirits. Perhaps it’s a matter of degree … or selectivity … or intentionality … or serendipity … or a combination of the above.

    Each of us must answer the question of how we can best recognize a positive distraction when we see it and what-or how much-it takes to create a negative distraction for us. Each of us will undoubtedly answer that question in our own way. Yet, your post has opened the door to pondering the question, and that’s a wonderful beginning…

  5. Diana says:

    Good point! I, myself, am addicted to the constant flow. I don’t know how I managed pre-internet. I look back at my youthful summer days, lazy boredom and the pounds of books I took home from the library, the newspaper I scoured for interest, and all the cereal boxes I read, and I think I was always an info hound. It’s easier now, but when, oh when, will I get any actual work done? I prefer learning something new to implementing something I already know by, ugh, working at it!

    I could try Fred’s idea but I have trouble prioritizing my calendar items now! Eat breakfast, read Salon, oh! forgot to pay bills, go to billpay, stop along the way to check mail on Yahoo, wait… what’s coming out on Redbox next? Run out to the store for mailing pouch because I sold something, bills are still unpaid, hmm, what did I have to pay? Now it’s lunch and I know about Sandra Bullock, South Park/muslim controversy, Glee, Obama’s improved ratings, weather across the country, and how to make a pork roast juicy. Oh, and I saw Robert Downey, Jr looking pretty dashing this morning on GMA (make note to go see Iron man II in an actual theater). But it’s 1:30 p.m. and I still haven’t paid my bills.

    It’s clear to me that I would shine in a position that allows me to SWIM in a sea of information about people things places and ideas. Can someone please tell me how to find a job like that?

  6. Tyrean Martinson says:

    Distractions are often opportunities, detours that give us a chance to find fullness of life differently than we originally planned.
    .-= Tyrean Martinson´s last blog ..Bloggerversary! =-.

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Fred it’s a challenge trying to get to that optimal state, isn’t it, where we can feed our curiosity but stop before it gets out of hand… I can see why you’re tempted into the calendar approach… but also understand why the pesky distractions still keep knocking on the door ;-)

    Davina indeed. Sometimes I think we’ve (collectively) got a bit hooked on complaining about the things that are actually deeply wonderful, the chance to discover and learn so much, for free, at our fingertips. If that means a challenge in terms of how to manage our time and attention (or not gorge on chocolates… ;-) ) then thank heavens for that.

    Jeanne I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, and it’s the conclusion I’ve reached too… there’s no intrinsically good / bad distractions or level of distraction, just what works for us. And the answer will be different for each and every one of us.

    Diana oh believe me, I do recognise the pattern of your sweetly distracted day! I wonder what the job might be… heart driven mosaic artist maybe? :-) (Could the distractions be tiles…?)

    Tyrean absolutely, and wouldn’t life be dull if we just went along in straight lines?

  8. Lori Hoeck says:

    Distractions are my flow because I’m the caregiver for my mom who has Alzheimer’s and dementia. Lessons being learned? How to focus down fast for research or writing or how to relax and let it all go for awhile. At work, my husband has learned distractions are God’s way of saying to him, “Breathe and take a second look.”
    .-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..Think Like a Black Belt in newsletter form =-.

  9. Crafty Green Poet says:

    it’s an interesting topic, I can ignore all distractions and get on with writing my next poetry collection or I can allow myself to be distracted which will give me more ideas for better poems and will open up opportunities to work with other creative people in making films of my poems and settign other poems to music.

    At some point though I do need to write the new poems, so although many of the distractions are interesting byways for me to go down, i need to be able to make some sort of judgement about which are good distractions and which are bad…
    .-= Crafty Green Poet´s last blog ..Water of Leith =-.

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Lori thanks for those illustrations of ways that distractions can help us to breathe, and help us to keep connected, creative and flowing, especially when times are hard.

    Crafty Green Poet yes, that’s what I was meaning… I think we sometimes get confused by applying blanket labels for things that work in different ways or serve different purposes… the trick is to get better at knowing ourselves, and recognising when we’re doing things as part of the creative act… and other times when we’re actually procrastinating for other reasons.

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