Welcome to the last issue of this Creativity Newsletter for 2020. If, like me, you're often distracted from your creative work, I hope my comments below will help.
Interview with A.J. Cattapan on Book.Ed
I was honored to be interviewed by A.J. Cattapan about my YA historical, Playing by Heart, for the Book.Ed program on Shalom World TV. The interview was actually conducted in 2019, but wasn't aired until last month. The program includes an interview with a teen fan of Playing by Heart. I was thrilled to hear how much she enjoyed the novel! You can watch the program online here. If you'd like to learn more about the two sisters who inspired Playing by Heart, I invite you to read this post I wrote for my publisher's website.
Rave review in Italian-American Magazine
Another post on my publisher's website announced a rave review of Playing by Heart that appeared in the November issue of Fra Noi: Chicagoland's Italian American Voice®--a publication read by members of my family for many years. As my publisher noted, "it’s always a wonderful surprise to see such a review coming in three years after the book made its debut." The review, by Pam DeFiglio, is not only filled with praise, but it's beautifully written. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but the editor has given me permission to share the review with you, my readers. If you're interested, you can read the entire review here. The page includes a brief excerpt and a photo of me with Catholic Writers Guild president Joseph Wetterling after the book received the Catholic Arts and Letters Award.
Creativity and Distractions
In my September 2020 newsletter, I wrote of how distraction can be useful when we're feeling stuck. By taking a break to go for a walk or work on a jigsaw puzzle, we can give our unconscious mind a chance to find a solution. That "unconscious creativity" often yields surprising breakthroughs.
"Truly, distraction starts from within and it is our never ending search for an escape from psychological discomfort that is the root cause of distraction. We check Facebook because we’re lonely, email because we’re stressed, Google because we’re uncertain, and Instagram because we’re bored. We like to blame the technology, but these companies are powerless to change our habits if we don’t give them an emotional trigger to latch onto."
These words really rang true for me, though the emotions that trigger my distractions aren't typically loneliness or boredom. Instead, I find myself tempted to avoid writing when I feel self-doubt. I think it's another case of the internal critic whispering in my ear that I'm not a good-enough writer or my idea isn't marketable enough.
In the article "You’re Probably Supposed to be Doing Something Else Right Now," Aswin John talks about some of the emotions that keep him from writing, saying: "We distract ourselves because we want to avoid pain.... that pain could be anxiety. It could be restlessness. It could be feelings of incompetency." He goes on to discuss several strategies from Indistractable that he uses to fight his writing distractions, including keeping a log Nir Eyal calls a Distraction Tracker--you can see a sample of the form in the article (linked to above).
According to Eyal, "there are only three reasons why we get distracted. Either we got taken off track because of an external trigger, an internal trigger, or a planning problem." The Distraction Tracker includes space to identify the reason(s) behind each distraction.
I've started using the log myself, and I'm finding it quite helpful. Another strategy Eyal recommends is "time-boxing," something I've been doing for years, though I'd never heard of this term before. I set aside specific time for writing, usually first thing in the morning. During that time, I don't check email or social media, or even answer the telephone. Eyal recommends also using time-boxing to plan recreation and down time. I haven't been doing that, but it sounds intriguing.
So far, everything I've learned about the strategies in Indistractable has come from online articles and resources on Nir Eyal's website, called Nir and Far. I recently borrowed the book from my library and look forward to learning more. I hope that by applying the techniques to my daily life I can have a happier and more productive new year. And that is my wish for all of you: a happier and more productive new year!
As I mentioned last time, I'm now sending this newsletter quarterly. So watch for the next issue in May.
P.S. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you or you're reading it online, I encourage you to become a subscriber so you don't miss an issue. You can do so here.