We asked this year’s faculty to respond to a question related to this year’s theme of disTRACTION. Today, Henry Hoke offers some tips for getting focused. Hint: DO feed the animals.
How do you create an undistracted space for writing?
I tend to embrace distraction as a constant cluster on the continuum of my writing life; the majority of hours in a day, all those hours I’m “getting ready to write.” As long as I produce work at the end of/in the midst of whatever, the distraction in hindsight becomes a barnacle on the boat that was carrying me. Connectivity and access have pushed us down to a point where our heads are below the digital water level and we’ve got gills for it. But fish sometimes pop out of their liquid immersion to test fresh air, and when deprived, the water they return to feels clearer, more navigable.
So here are three ways I recommend creating undistracted writing space:
One: have someone you trust “lose” your phone for you. When you’ve completed a solid bit of writing, have them tell you where the phone is. You might decide to leave it lost a little longer.
Two: leave your room/home wherever and go to a neutral space. Bring nothing but a pen and notebook. Try and find a view that you could also have had in another decade, another century, and get cracking.
Three: find an animal and offer it a treat. Look into the animal’s eyes. See that singularity of focus. Picture completion of whatever piece of writing as your treat. The animal may get distracted by a noise, but it’s gonna go back to that treat, stay frosty until the chow down. Feed the animal and then write with its spirit. Don’t choose too large and carnivorous an animal or you might be the treat.
These can help, but the only surefire way I know to be productive is to be part of a writing community (whatever form that takes). Make literary promises to other people, and keep these promises. A title at the top of a blank page can be a promise.
HENRY HOKE was a child in the south and an adult in New York and California. His work appears in Electric Literature, PANK, Gigantic, Birkensnake, Entropy, and is forthcoming in The Synchronia Project. His plays have been produced on the west coast and at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, and published by Snail Press. He co-created and directs ENTER>text, a living literary journal in Los Angeles. 3 years, a book about ENTER> text, is out now.