It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I won’t make excuses. I will only say that I allowed things to have more importance than writing a post for my blog, which does happen. That’s my subject this time: distractions.
It’s easy to give in to distractions. Something suddenly seems more important than what you started to do. You have a list of things to do today. You have a schedule. You have priorities. Suddenly, all of that goes out the window because your attention went to something else. Then you get that guilt reaction about it, which happens to everyone, and you make excuses – sometimes really, really lame excuses – and try to get back to what was supposed to be important.
Maybe the distraction was something as innocuous as a baseball or basketball score. Your team should be winning, but they’re behind by two runs or three baskets, or somebody fouled out. While you were in the middle of doing something important like sweeping the floor or working on a paper that has a deadline, you stopped to check what was going on with your team and find they’re behind. You drop everything to turn on the TV or find the online stream so that you can follow them and root for them. You lose an hour or more that could have been put on housecleaning or finishing that paper. Maybe your team wins, maybe they don’t, but you stick with them to the end of the game.
Why? Because that’s human nature, that’s why. Yes, it is that simple. And yes, you do feel a bit guilty about dropping the more important thing in favor of watching the rest of the game, but you do it anyway.
It may seem somewhat facetious to say this, but I think being distracted is as old as the human species. If our hunter-gatherer ancestors weren’t able to respond to some distraction that alerted them to danger, we might not be here today. I think it does go back that far. Let’s say we go back to the last Ice Age.
You and your tribe are out hunting the Irish deer, which was a very large version of modern antlered deer like the whitetail. You’re all concentrating on taking down one of those four-leggers, which will feed the entire clan for several days and provide all sorts of resources for things like deerskin for footgear and clothing, tallow for softening tanned hides, sinews for bowstrings and spearpoint bindings, antlers for flaking arrow points and spear points, and even bone for carving into fishhooks and needles and tracking the phases of the moon. But something is distracting you, and it isn’t mosquitoes. It’s too cold for them now. Summer in the taiga is going fast.
No, there’s some movement in the bush, some odd, musky smell that you think you recognize and you let your buddy know that you’re going to have a look. He nods, you sneak away from the deer hunting group and find yourself not too far from a very large tan cat with big teeth – Smilodon, who is also stalking the deer herd. But you’re downwind and he can’t smell you, and those saber-shaped fangs of his sure would look nice on your current girlfriend. She did, after all, really dig that cave bear claw necklace you gave her. Then your buddy joins you, you tell him what you want to do and he thinks it’s a good idea. Get the cat first, then get the deer. Double win. Besides, if you don’t get Smilodon first, he might come after you.
Thus, the distraction, which took your attention off the Irish deer and sends you after Smilodon, keeps you and your clan safe one more time. It’s also called situational awareness, which is being aware of what is going on around you.
OK, I know it’s a silly story, but that’s the fun of writing. You can come up with something like that, even if it didn’t happen. You get the idea.
So back to my original thesis, which was that distractions take our attention off of what we were supposed to be doing. And we sometimes feel guilty about letting that happen, when we should not.
Well, I don’t feel that way. The distraction came in the form of one person who demanded a lot of attention for no reason other than he existed. He was a bully, a thoroughly obnoxious individual who went to a great deal of trouble to let me and my friends know just how despicable he could be. We fended him off as a group, and at times as individuals, and roundly succeeded in deflating his ability to do harm. He exposed his brutish personality online for everyone to see, looking more and more foolish as time went by. At the end of it, he was quite bummed out that he couldn’t scare us into submission.
This took time away from what I thought was more important, which was writing. Working on a book or a story should take precedence over something like that, but didn’t for me, and this is where I will say “Don’t SHOULD on yourself”. Whereas I should have set him aside and worked on whatever my writing projects were, I didn’t and something good came out of it.
My friends and I formed a deeper bond as a group. We supported each other and formed a wall of resistance to the bully’s tactics. It was a lesson in teamwork that most people don’t get unless they’re put into a team with a good team leader. In this case, everyone took the position as team leader at least once. It was a good experience, and despite the distraction, gave me a better appreciation for all the people in that group.
While the ‘battle’ raged on, I was seriously impressed with the creative cussing and out-of-the ordinary obscenities that my friends were able produce without so much as dropping the F-bomb or actually using prurient vocabulary. It’s plausible that having a military history may have played some part in it. The responses to harassment and bullying were both literate and creatively vitriolic without actually resorting to more commonly-used obscenities. It was an impressive display.
I was happy to have a chance to make use of what could have otherwise been a complete waste of time and effort. I did a final edit on a new book, which I put on Kindle when I was sure the bully had been sent packing. I also took that time to review manuscripts underway and found ways to make stories work which had come to a halt because I wasn’t sure where they were going, or if they would work at all.
As someone else said “All’s well that ends well.” It certainly did.