I have been thinking about giving up writing because I have no self-control. I was also thinking of getting checked for late on-set ADD. I had to force myself to finish my personal writing work. I would find distractions and excuses everywhere. I would clean the microwave, lose hours on social media, anything to run away from my writing. Time to bring out the big guns and get a self-help book.
I like self-help books, particularly the ones that are prescriptive and with formulas, you can apply to you every day. I didn't want to unpack why I was avoiding my writing, instead, I wanted to know how to stop the bullshit.The bullshit antidote came in the form of a book called Deep Work. It's by a huge dork called Cal Newport, who is a computer scientist and seems like a bit of a tool in his TEDx talk and I hate TEDx because they don't pay their speakers, but Cal's book isn't tool-ish, which is great news for everyone.
If you are struggling with committing to your work and living in the shallows of life, and need help, then this is the book for you.
Here are my top takeaways from the book:
1) Social Media is a networking tool and nothing more. People who see it as something more in their life clearly need to get a life. Take a 30-day break and see which ones you miss and which ones you're missed on. This will tell you which ones matter in your life. BUT remember they are products, owned by companies, designed to sell to you and sell your information to other companies with products.
Also, I realised I'm a tool on social media. So I unfriended myself with Facebook and keep it now only for my gorgeous and private writing group which I run and love. Twitter was taking up too much of my time, as I tried to be clever and pithy, endlessly scrolling, but really avoiding writing pithy and clever dialogue for my book characters.
Keep social media for networking purposes only and don't log in unless you have to, and I mean really have to! I promise, you're not missing anything in the general feed.
2) Put more thought into your leisure time. God, how often did I sit and scroll looking at shit on my phone? Don't answer that, because it will hurt me like a punch to my colon. Finding ways to get the most out of your leisure time is personal. Some people might like to garden, or do craft. I like to read, and if I want to be a craftsperson in my writing, I need to read more. In a week, I have read three books, because I'm not scrolling in a vacuum of echoed, irrelevant content, wishing I was doing something better with my time.
3) Respect your time. This isn't just about social media, it is about using your time properly. This week I have written a huge tender, taken on a new paid job, edited a 50k manuscript, and written a treatment for TV show, because I showed up and respected the time I had allocated to work. And I did work in this time, without any distraction. No phone calls, texts, messages, no internet besides for research reasons if needed, and I set myself up for success. Coffee made, water bottle on the desk, some snacks, and a quiet space. It is kind of embarrassing how easy it was and how long it's taken me to commit to this style of work but my output is the evidence that it works.
4) The work you do at night is shit. I would often work at night, and it was usually always shit. Tired thoughts, distracted ideas, messy structure. No wonder I wasn't inspired to keep working. By deciding to not work at night means I am giving myself permission to read or I am allowing myself to take a break and watch Killing Eve and become obsessed with Villanelle. I am refilling my well.
5) The less information I am exposed to, the more I am learning and mastering my craft. The other day I was getting petrol, and I could hear someone was talking about the weather. I looked up and there was a TV, attached to the pump. I knew it was cold. I was outside getting petrol. Why do I have to be informed about everything all the time? Turn it all down. The radio, the news, the internet, social media. You have so many wonderful thoughts and idea everyday, but how can you hear them over the din of information clamouring for your attention.
I do think that social media has damaged my attention span but this week has also shown me that I am able to repair it if I set my rituals and routines up to do the deep work. I actually found myself wanting to go back to my work for the first time in two years. It was exciting and that felt like a freaking miracle!
I recommend this book if you want a solution to your concentration issues but like anything, it only works if you work it.