Monday, August 21, 2006

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What distracts you the most?

Our question of the week is: What distracts you the most? Answers to be given throughout the week so keep checking back (and feel free to comment).

When I read Linda's I thought––"Yes, same thing!" Then I read Grace's and Alvina's and Anna's and Libby's and I felt the same way about theirs, too. I have ADD as well. I was diagnosed with it in the 4th grade because I was little miss daydream. I had a very hard time reading, etc--still do! I'll never forget going to the doctor and being tested for ADD but not knowing that's what I was being tested for and thinking it was an intelligence test--what a nightmare! Explain what's going on to your kids! (yes, I'm getting off track already) I was also hyperactive. The key to ADD is harnessing it and using it to your advantage. One symptom is the ability to SUPER concentrate on some things. That's what happens with me. I can focus on one thing and not get up for hours and hours--that's how the books get done! However, if I'm in distraction mode EVERYTHING distracts me. I'll be painting and the next minute I'm hoping up to turn on music and then I'm deciding I want to start a novel and then I find myself in the kitchen getting a drink... then I forget about the drink and find myself on the computer writing an email... only I don't finish it because I'm back at my painting...then I'm back at the email because I wouldn’t want to forget about that!... then I'm getting out the house paint because I've decided the walls would be better blue... but not for long. That's my behavior a lot of the time. When I'm like that it's almost impossible to get anything done. Go to my website for a good display of ADD at its best. When ADD is GOOD you start what you finish!

Often, everything. A breeze through an open window. A good song. The sudden remembering of a missed appointment. An aching forearm. My dog barking. A scrap of paper on the floor with an interesting word I must at that moment look up in the dictionary. A strange smell.

Other times, nothing. When I'm on a roll, and I'm either not able to get something right in a painting, or, everything is going right in a painting, I can sit for 8 hours straight without knowing it, and suddenly realize I'm dying of thirst and have had to pee for 4 hours.

my husband, reading blogs and blogging (ahem...okay, gotta go!).

Same as Grace, except for the husband part.

And life, in general. Not wanting to miss out on anything. Then again, I like to think that work distracts me from life, rather than vice versa.

Oh there are so many things! Email mainly. Playing with my new computer. Thinking about how to organize my day and how long each task will take, making lists and charts about what I want to do instead of just doing it!!

I have ADHD, something I never realized until I volunteered in a school for kids who had been kicked out of regular public school. The class I visited every week was all boys, aged about 9 to 11, and I felt completely at home with all of them. I went once a week for 3 years and at some point realized that most of them had ADHD and I did, too.

So almost everything distracts me. I get distracted (and this is not an exaggeration) walking into the kitchen to get a cup of tea. The only way I can NOT get distracted is to get REALLY INTO what I'm writing -- and one of the good (or bad!) things about ADHD -- which I may blog about sometime soon! -- is that once you get really into something, almost notning can get you out of it. In this state, I go into the kitchen to get a cup of tea (or something) and forget why I'm there--I'm thinking about what I'm writing. So I go back to my desk. Then I remember what I went in for. I go back, forget, etc. -- sometimes it takes 3 or 4 trips to get it right. Unfortunately this is not an exaggeration.

But the question was: what distracts you MOST? Probably -- email and being online (any kind of screen time is really fatal!). A close second might be the amount of time wasted trying to decide about big things (stay at my job or leave it, stay here or move etc.) and little ones, like the most efficient way to organize my time and obsessively listing, planning, trying to figure things out. Fortunately, once I get really into a book, I fall into a routine and then there is nothing to decide about -- all I do is write and when I'm not writing, I think about it. But if I have other reponsibities (like a job) this is hard to do. ANd things that BREAK the routine (trips, houseguests etc.) are distracting. I am trying to find better ways to deal with all this than having life be a constant choice between writing novels or not going anywhere! (NOTE: I don't need all this space and time to write nonfiction or do my ghostwriting work, only to write novels. I say "novels" in the plural because even though I've only published one, I've written several.)

Since I always feel like other people's reactions are more interesting than my own, AND maybe to make myself feel better about needing so much time and freedom to really write, I'm going to close with a quote from Jane Austen. Usually, her sister Cassandra did the housekeeping -- which meant not cooking and cleaning but ordering the meals etc. -- but when Cassandra was away, she, Jane, had to do it. On one of Cassandra's absences Jane Austen a letter about the distraction of housekeeping:
"I can not write when my head is full of mutton and orange wine."
She meant ordering the making of it, not that she was befuddled from drinking it!

You asked.


Agyw said...

artyfarty13This is a loaded question (and for someone with kids, especially BORED kids, this summer has been an exceptional challenge). Libby I'm no longer hyper, but have ADD as well. Sometimes it's a real curse, especially with the children/pet/husband thang. I mean they are SUPPOSED to distract me, and I can't just let them on autopilot, or have an "accident" to clean up (in all senses of that word).

Some of my coping mechanisms: I try to INVOLVE, if I can't distract the kids. Thank goodness my kids have some similar interests, so the little one can draw, and the teenager can be caught downstairs practicing riffs and recording songs for friends. When she's not sleeping.

I set up little rewards or releases (I can sit up for hours and hours, but more than likely I do it in itty bitty bites. Sometimes segmenting it and acknowledging ANY progress is a great help). The book I'm working on right now, I'm trying to tell a specific story in syncopated rhyme (more than one pattern). I literally had to break it into a syllabic effort, to get the sound and count "right". If it sells, I'll have to go back to the same method-- something that had taken months and months,became weeks and days when I cleaned up the method. Same with the illustrations. Once I found the method I wanted to portray the words, the imagery just fell into place. Prior to that it was a real struggle.

I get distracted by beauty and by sadness. So much is beautiful and so much makes me sad now. The state of affairs and the treatment so many are receiving. But SOMETHINGS, I think we SHOULD be distracted by. It informs our work. Sometimes the negative can be a great positive.

Much of the flow and my direction in my work, comes from an argument, er, discussion heartfelt with Rukhsana Khan on the nature of advantage and privilege. I'm most necessarily one of those that believes in order to imprison people, the jailer is also a prisoner, a "monkey's paw" kind of philosopher. So distraction isn't always a bad thing, especially if it deepens what you already do.

Nancy said...

Thanks for answering this question BRGs! I fall into the "distracted by everything" category as well. And the internet and blogging, well, that's the biggest distraction ever!

Rita said...

Thanks for this post!! I related to everything! The 3-4, (failed) consecutive trips to the kitchen to make tea, the sudden sitting at my computer for hours forgetting to eat or pee, followed by bouts of trying to do everything at once (by doing two seconds worth of each thing) . . .

I had serious daydreaming/hyperdrive issues in kindergarten, for which I was almost held back. These days, that'd make me a candidate for Ritalin. But I never thought about the way I am now as being continued manifestations of those symptoms. In fact, I had no idea the ability to intensely focus was the flip side of ADD!

You guys have really given me something to think about.



Meghan McCarthy said...

Yeah, hyper focusing for ADD folks can be a big PLUS to some (I think it is!) but can get you in trouble. People with A.D.D need to drown out all other things in the enviornment in order to concentrate (usually can super concentrate on things of interest) which means someone could be talking to you for 5 min and cannot get your attention! (bad in school). For ex--I remember once my mother (this is while I was in high school) asked me if I wanted a sandwich. I said "yes" apparently but when she brought me the sandwich I didn't understand. I can actually have conversations with people and not let their words sink in. My friends know when I'm spacing out, though, and usually give me a good whack on the side.

I’m completely anti-medication, by the way.

Everyone has an inability to concentrate on things sometimes. It's all a matter of degree. Just because someone has a hard time reading a boring text book for school doesn't mean they have A.D.D

Hmm, i have a feeling all of this ADD talk is boring to most people. Sorry!


Rita said...

Hello, again! I’m completely anti-medication, too. The Ritalin story, when I first heard of it in college, shocked me. (But even as I type this, I can feel the disclaimers starting. I’m anti-meds for myself; I have friends who have sworn by them; I’m sure it depends on the individual . . . )

I told my husband about this post. I was like, “Hey! I have ADD! That’s why X and Y and Z! And W! V! Did you know intensely focusing to the exclusion of all else is one of the symptoms?”

I was expecting him to relate. Instead, he got nervous, like, “Oh. So what are we supposed to do?”

Which got my dander up. “Nothing!” I said. “It’s fine! I’m not saying I want to change.”

I’ve always felt the intense focusing was kind of positive, but also a sign of near senility. And I never knew “going to the theater” (my husband’s term for it) was so visible—until he started busting on me. In fact, just yesterday he did an impression (at my request) to show me what it looks like.

I laughed so hard . . .

Rita (who couldn’t help but come back to this discussion! :P )