The Practice of Creativity

‘Love Your Creative Self’ Series: Befriending Our Distractions

Posted on: February 12, 2012

How can we pay attention to our lives—our real lives, not the outward trappings that are often labeled as life—if we have distractions at every turn? Our minds provide a lifetime of distractions to work with. When we combine our own natures with the sensory overload most of us live with every day, we have more than enough work to do just trying to hear our own voices—something essential for every writer. Laraine Herring, Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice

I’m delighted to welcome writer Jessica Yinka Thomas in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series. You’ll find prompts based on her reflection.


Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept that honors all things imperfect by finding the beauty in the imperfections. My tendency to flip on a ‘Housewives’ show of one metro area or another when I need a distraction is the great imperfection in my writing practice. I’ve learned to love this imperfection. It gives my brain a well-needed break from thinking and can even provide inspiration for a blog post. So I love my Wabi Sabi Housewives, but only for a tea party or a shopping spree. Then, it’s back to the page.

Jessica Yinka Thomas is a novelist with a background in mechanical engineering and social entrepreneurship. Information about her new novel How Not To Save The World can be found on her website.

Jessica’s post reminds us that while trying to create we will face distractions. We’ll often fantasize that if only we could go on a retreat and escape our obligations we could create without interruption. What we forget, however, is that we can never escape our mind’s ability to notice and focus on sensations. Instead of being frustrated about this inevitable dance, Jessica asks us to chose the one distraction that we enjoy the most, revel in it (briefly), and then return to our work refreshed. Instead of choosing our distraction with intention, we usually get pulled over a waterfall of distractions. We don’t just watch ten minutes of a favorite show or play a computer game, it’s an hour we lose and then we turn to the laundry and then call a friend, etc. After a few hours, we’ve dissipated our focus so much that we can’t get back to the internal world we were trying to create.

Today consider: What’s the distraction that’s satisfying and refreshing enough to indulge in once during your allotted creative time? Then later when you’re feeling antsy consciously chose that distraction. Freewrite about your choice. Did you rebel?

If you have trouble reconnecting with your material after a break writer Laraine Herring advocates narrowing your focus to specific sensory details.

Here’s what I have tried: Look at where you stopped in your writing. Get up close and personal by describing one detail that you overlooked when you first began writing: a gesture of a minor character, the chill of the air, your main character’s socks, the laugh of an aunt, what the character just finished eating, etc.

If you are still stuck try one of Herring’s suggestions (both exercises below are from Writing Begins with the Breath):

Describe a full moon from the point of view of someone who cannot see.

Describe the taste of broccoli; the smell of clothes fresh from the dryer, the smell of earth after a heavy rain; the states of chocolate to someone who has never eaten it; describe a physical pain (don’t say it hurts!) describe a fight between a husband an wife witnessed by someone who can’t hear.

Photo Credit: Google Images


5 Responses to "‘Love Your Creative Self’ Series: Befriending Our Distractions"

Michele – Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a part of your inspiring series! Happy creative valentine’s day! – Jessica

Thank you so much for sharing how you’ve integrated my work! 🙂

All best,
Laraine Herring

Dear Laraine,
Thanks so much for your comment. I love your book Writing Begins With the Breath! I discovered it last year and have it by my side when I write. We have to figure out a way to get you to visit North Carolina to do a workshop–there are a lot of wonderful yogis and writers out here!

This is good stuff. I find that distractions work both for and against me–Or, I LET them work against me when I get sucked into a chain link of segues. I really like the idea of beginning with a detail that can draw you back into writing again, after a break (or when stuck!)

Hi Helen,
Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment. Usually my mind is racing after a series of distractions, so I have to slow down again in order to write.

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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