Spaces to Concentrate

This week and next I’m spending my mornings taking my grandson to swimming lessons and writing. Together. When we arrive in Indian Head, he heads to the pool and I open the sunroof on my car, turn on my laptop and plug in the memory stick.

The pool, of course, is busy with lessons going on as well children running back and forth from the kiddie park while waiting for siblings to finish their lessons, a large number of grandparents (we’re the lucky ones sharing our grandkids lives) visiting, and an assortment of young people hanging out until the lifeguards and instructors have some free time.

Linda in Mexico.
Linda in Mexico.

Not everyone can write in the middle of organized confusion, but I can. I might even say I do some of my best writing under these circumstances.


Well, it occurs to me that in order to create a realistic world on paper, the writer has to be able to enter that world, which takes a huge amount of concentration. For example, that little ding that I have a new email in my in-box is a terrible distraction when I’m at my desk. A new post from one of my favorite sites beckons like a piece of peanut butter & marshmallow squares, just begging to be sampled. And speaking of food, well, the beep-beep-beep of the bread maker demands that if I want raisins in my pumpernickel bread it’s time to go and add them.

Distractions. A writer’s life is all about getting away from distractions.

At the pool, though, there’s way too much going on to take everything in at once anyway, so it’s easy to ignore it all. There’s nothing I have to do — my one “duty” of the morning is to drive Jon to lessons, make sure he has his cell phone when he’s done, and drive him back to town. And in between that I have about 40 minutes of “nothing required time” to spend sitting in the back seat of my car, staring at my computer screen.

My first YA novel I did the final edit in the computer lab of the high school where I was working, with 25 students who all eventually stopped asking: “You still writing that book, Mrs A?” When the novel finally came out, it was a finalist in the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and many commented how authentic the teen voice was — no surprise there!

So, my advice to writers who struggle to overcome interruptions and distractions is to find those circumstances under which you can best enter the world of your imagination. They may not be what you think.

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