How It Begins – An Odyssey of Distraction (thank you, Sloane Crosley)

My Workspace

{The true story of one writer’s desperate attempt to stay on task and get one, just one, 30 minute block of writing done without succumbing to the magnetic pull of YouTube videos, HuffPo articles, emails from friends, and other assorted Internet butterflies known as distraction.}

So.

You show up to the page to do your 30 minutes of daily creative writing, coffee in hand.

You’re feeling proud of yourself for making the commitment to write for yourself, outside of the copywriting projects you do for clients and the weekly blog posts and email newsletters you write to market your business.

For many weeks you’ve let your own writing practice slip by the wayside, crowded out by “work writing” and other priorities, so this feels good, it feels right, it feels “meant to be.”

Because you want to feel inspired to write for yourself every day, you’ve decided to take up the practice you read about in Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life – reading from a favorite author’s work for 10 minutes each morning to get yourself primed to write, to feel eager to get to the page. 

This is working pretty well, except sometimes the 10 minutes turns into an hour, or, like the recent Sunday when you spent practically all morning lounging in bed with half a dozen books, close to 4 solid hours.

But this day you stick to the 10 minutes. You dip into the work of a much-loved writer, get your 10 minute inspiration fix, then go directly to the page and write. Good for you!

Your 30 minutes of writing done, you’re feeling pretty good about the discipline you just exercised. You congratulate yourself for not getting waylaid by the wicked pull of the internet.

This is a minor miracle, because right about 15 minutes in, you need to research a book title you want to mention in the essay you’re working on. So you open your browser and navigate to Google. Book title found. Good. Book title added to essay. Ok.

However.

As a result the inspiration fix you dipped into this morning, Sloane Crosley’s essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake, you now find yourself wildly curious to know more about her, right this very instant.  Your fingers go twitchy over the keyboard as you think, “I’ll just Google her and leave the results page up in the background, then get right back to my writing, then once I’m done with my 30 minutes, I’ll read through the results.”

And holy of holies, you do go back to your writing and finish your 30 minutes, without getting lead down the garden path of distraction.

Score!!

You feel enormously proud of yourself for this one small thing, because there are many days when one brief dip in the Internet pool leads you far, far astray from the work at hand, not to return for hours. And sometimes never to return at all.

Next on your to-do list for this day: write a blog post.

But wait, you’ve got those Google search results about Sloane Crosley to read through. You decide you’ll give yourself half an hour to read a few interviews, half an hour, 30 very short minutes, then get back right back to work on that blog post.

So you read one interview, then another, then another after that.  One of the interviews you read links out to something that’s supposed to show her writing space. Oh my God, you want to see it so badly!

So you click on that.  But the link is dead and there is no image of her work space.  Huh. So you Google “Sloane Crosley work space.” (Is this a form of light stalking, you wonder? Or a perfectly natural form of mild curiosity about someone whose breathtaking writing skills you happen to admire?)

Somehow in this search you find a video of the time Crosley appeared on Craig Ferguson’s show (how you ended up on YouTube, you have no idea).  Because you adore Craig Ferguson and you love this writer’s work, you watch the interview. This’ll just take 3:36 minutes, after all.

Then you remember living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the second time, in 2006, when you were still in your politico days and working on the Attorney General’s race, which is when you “discovered” Craig Ferguson and his hilarious show for the first time. As you’re watching the interview with Crosley, you see down the side of the page more videos of Craig interviewing famous, accomplished, beautiful women. 

Crosley too is beautiful, and you think she must live a charmed life – a life you’ve fantasized about, if you’re honest – that of a successful New York creative, living in a lovely large apartment somewhere on the upper West Side, maybe in the low-80’s off Amsterdam or Columbus, where one room is devoted to your writing space and outfitted with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, full to the brim with books and a nice view of the Park.

But let’s not tell anyone about that. That’s not for public consumption.  

Anyway, Sloane – what a great name, you think. She’s young, beautiful, and successful, a well-respected writer leading the New York literary life.  Aaah, how nice that must be.

You finally drag yourself away from YouTube and read a couple of print interviews with Crosley. You try again to find an image of her writing space, but, alas, no luck there.

Next, you find yourself on the Salon website, where you read a piece Crosley wrote about the Girl Scouts called Your blood turns green: Why the right can’t derail the Girl Scouts.  Edifying. Entertaining. Informative.

Then, after reading just.one.more. interview with Crosley in New York Magazine, you see a piece in the sidebar of said magazine called Six Reasons Chris Christie Is Probably Guilty, by Jonathan Chait, which you must read this instant, because you’ve been riveted by the story of the lane closures in Fort Lee, NJ known as “Bridgegate” ever since Rachel Maddow first starting reporting on it in the fall of 2013.

When you read the line, “It’s not that partisan enemies are ginning up accusations,” you laugh and think, “Ha ha, ‘ginning up’ – what a good old-timey phrase, I’ll have to find a way to work it into a piece of writing soon.” 

Somehow from here, you end up on the GQ website where you read an interview with Bill Hader of SNL.  You love Bill Hader.  

Then you remember one of your favorite SNL sketches with Hader, Tony Ruins Puppet Class,” so you Google that up and watch it.

And in this way, 2 ½ hours pass. Hours that seem like minutes. Hours which you will never get back.

But no matter, you got your 30 minutes of writing done, and that is a victory.

Good for you.

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