The Attraction of Distraction

Jessie: In New Hampshire where even though it seems like spring outside everyone is staying in their houses anyway!

Yesterday morning I took my dog, Sam, on a walk round our village. Most Sunday mornings at around 9 o’clock, at the first signs of spring, the streets and yards would be buzzing with activity. After all, the snow is mostly melted from the gardens and daffodils and crocuses are poking up through the cold earth. Usually, gardeners armed with rakes would be gleefully aiding their progress and children would be eagerly whizzing down the sidewalks on their bicycles.

Alas, things are a little unsettled at present. Perhaps you’ve heard there is a a nasty bug making the rounds and causing havoc to all and sundry? Here, the governor has ordered all public schools closed for the next two weeks. My husband has ceased his endless business travel and my college kid has had his university convert all classes to virtual ones.

There is a temptation to feel unnerved by the prognostications and the state of the stock market. But, although I have stocked up on frozen veggies and plenty of dry goods as well as a bountiful supply of coffee beans, I don’t wish to dwell on potential disasters. I am always happy to create untold troubles for the inhabitants of my fictional worlds but I have no such desire to spend my real life gnawing myself apart with worry.

But telling oneself, or anyone else for that matter, not to worry is futile and irritating. I find the best approach for me, whenever something heavy threatens to run on a loop through my mind, is to look to distraction. I am convinced that feeling agitated in my mind makes my body more vulnerable to whatever might like to come to call. So, here are a few of my favorite ways to distract myself:

  1. Write a letter to a loved one by hand, using beautiful stationery and a preferred pen. If there is any chance the world is going down in flames I see no reason not to break out that box of lovely notecards and let someone I care about find a cheery and uplifting message in their post. It is like receiving a germ-free hug from afar!
  2. Take care of one small thing around the house that bugs me but that I’ve been putting off addressing. There is nothing like sorting out a small but habitual irritation in my environment to make me feel a bit more in control of my world and slightly triumphant as well. I may not be able to buy hand sanitizer but I can track down all the loose rechargeable batteries in the house and juice them up before they are needed.
  3. Make some popcorn or some bread from scratch, the old-fashioned way. Pull out a corn popper or turn on the oven. Serve either one piping hot and savor each bite. Nothing drives gloom away like hot carbs smothered in butter!
  4. Learn something new. I love to learn new things and a deep dive into a new topic is one of my favorite distractions! Many, if not most, public libraries offer access to online learning programs, like Mango, for languages. MIT, Harvard and a bunch of other institutions offer free access to an astonishing variety of online university courses. Skillshare provides an amazing learning experience for about the same monthly cost as Netflix. I find I cannot pay attention to the latest disturbing news when I am busy concentrating on developing watercolor painting skills or brushing up on my Portuguese.
  5. And, of course, read a book. Nothing has ever transported me so completely from my own life into another world like a good book. I, like the rest of you, I’m sure, have a towering TBR pile that is always at the ready to serve up some solace. If, for some reason, I should run out of things to read before the pestilence subsides, I have a library card that allows three ebook downloads at a time. And I can borrow and return books without ever leaving my house!

Readers, what do you do to take your mind of the things that trouble you? Writers, are you using current events to spur your creativity?

34 Thoughts

  1. Excellent ideas, Jessie. Well before anyone heard of the corona virus I’d arranged to take this as a vacation week. I’m looking forward to paring down the tbr stack.

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  2. Good ideas, Jessie. I missed baking a pie on Pi Day, so I plan to whip up an apple masterpiece this afternoon. Frankly, my spring had gotten way too busy with in-person events, and I’m a little relieved to stay home and write the next book!

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  3. We must be related, Jessie. I’ve been thinking of cleaning out a clutter corner in my house as a distraction, writing real letters to friends, and baking some bread too. Unfortunately, first I have to get my stuff together for my annual meeting with my tax accountant (I suspect that is one thing that WON’T be canceled) next week.

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  4. Cleaning. Genuine, haven’t done it to this extent in a while, spring cleaning. When in college and law school, I dealt with stress by cleaning. One day, my oldest daughter came home to find me on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor under the refrigerator (having moved the refrigerator). “Aren’t you supposed to be writing your thesis?” Years later, when she was writing her doctoral dissertation, she found herself taking cleaning breaks. Additional benefit/requirement is that I’ve just had my master bathroom redone to make it more accessible for my mother. Usually, I would hire the cleaning ladies for a double session. Since we’re socially isolating, I’m doing it myself. Getting to examine my mother’s dust-enhanced elephant collection piece by piece.

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    1. Cleaning is a classic! I’ve been noticing tings lately with a far more critical eye in my own home so I completely understand where you are coming from! Good luck with the elephants!

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  5. Hubby and either go to the kitchen since we both love to bake or he head outside with our cameras to find a critter, a four-leaf clover or daffodil or maybe even a sunset to photograph.

    This time of year activities should be beginning in our musical tourist town, but as with everywhere else, things have had to postpone their big start up. We are a small town with a lot of small businesses that rely on the tourist to make ends meet which means a lot of them are already feeling the pinch of folks staying at home. Everyone things of how it’s affecting them now, but I am more concerned of the long time effects. However, I have found that worry does nothing more than to create ulcers. I’ve had my fair share and trying to keep from having more so I am determined to stay positive, stay home and be happy to be healthy and able to do what I like to do like bake and photography – when not reading.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. I agree with you about creating some art and about worry for small businesses. I read newsletter recently that mentioned purchasing gift certificates from them to tide things over. If you can do it online, all the better!

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  6. Reading is a must do for me everyday! But especially now that I’m home from work, I hope to get through some of my piles. Taking a walk outside for me has always been therapeutic, as well as good exercise. I especially like it in the morning when the birds are singing.

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  7. All great suggestions, Jessie. Personally, I have a book to write and another to edit. I suspect that will keep me busy for a while.

    Current events won’t play in my near plans for fiction, but I think it’d be impossible to avoid it at some point.

    The real challenge will be keeping my 17-year-old from being a gloomy Gus. His school moved to virtual learning for at least the next two weeks. He’s an extrovert, so he needs social interaction to stay mentally balanced and we’re working on alternatives to physical get-togethers with friends.

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  8. What a wonderful and most welcome post, Jessie! My day job has me working from home for the next two weeks, so my challenge will be budgeting my time between the day job and writing gig. At least I get to sleep in!

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    1. Thanks, J.C.! Working from home is a pleasure and a skill, isn’t it? I am constantly trying to imprive my process and practice but there is always something to learn to juggle with more elegance!

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  9. I was watching entirely too much coverage of the pandemic and dipping into the book “A Very Stable Genius”. But happily my computer found me videos of dog agility trials – mostly British – even one for rescue dogs who were really bad at the agility “rules” but – each and all of those dogs were having a blast. If you need to remember what “happy” looks like try these videos…I’m a “cat person” and uncomfortable around dogs, but these dogs and their people are just wonderful.

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    1. What a lovely suggestion! Fun is such a great way to combat what ails one! While out walking my dog this morning I spotted two children, who were home for the day as the schools are closed, bouncing joyfully on a backyard trampoline. Their laughter was more infectious than the virus!

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  10. Good morning!
    I’m doing reading of course 😁 . Trying not to get to worried about what’s going on with the health scare. Praying it’s over soon. Working on a garage sale I will be having hopefully in May.
    Prayers you all stay healthy!

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  11. Reading, of course, is the number one distraction. Then there are 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. And that always long TBD list of household things. I have already refinished two tables. I’m looking forward 🙄 to fixing that damage to the wall behind my sofa. So easy to ignore when it can’t be seen. I hate plastering, but this is a great time to get ‘er done. And all that lovely yard work that be can started early this year because of the great WX we are having.

    As horrible as the CV is, and I’m not diminishing its importance in the least, it lets me stay home and do things without feeling any guilt about other things I “should” be doing. There’s always a silver lining if one looks for it.

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  12. Reading is one of my favorite ways to distract myself. And getting caught up in a TV show or movie. I’ve got plenty of options around the condo. I’ll be working from home starting tomorrow or Wednesday, but I don’t live that far from work, so I won’t be gaining that much extra time. It will probably just feel like it since I won’t be going anywhere.

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  13. So glad that you authors are writing. I will be reading, watching TV and being on the computer. Since it is getting warmer, I already cut some of the dead foliage back in the garden and may start dividing plants. Unfortunately staying home leaves time to clean! Yuck! I ordered books online but I don’t like to do that with clothes. When this is over, I think people will be swarming the malls, restaurants, etc. I know I’ll be happy to lunch with friends again.

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  14. It is so lovely to hear positive talking about this. It has just started & folks are complaining😯.
    This is what most folks do or should be doing. The supplies is nothing..everyone in the line of hurricanes has a 2week supply of most things. We are wipes and Purcell are in that box.
    Just go to what we would do then cards, cribbage, battle ship😉 movies, series..while I read
    &knit …kidding .. The lawn might be able to get cut if it stops ☔raining. See so many things
    to do
    They can use volunteers to bag food and put in cars when folks drive up 10:30-12:30 lunches and weekend food for school kids. If anyone is really looking for something to do. That’s NC.

    I can’t I am still coughing. I am 6feet away so you are ALL ok.😂
    State safe ..enjoy

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