If someone had told me even ten years ago I’d ever have trouble concentrating I’d have laughed them clear out of the room. I could work fully focussed for hours, even in noisy, busy places like a train station, a factory or a big open-plan office, especially when I was doing something tricky. When noise started to bother me – maybe a colleague was on the phone and the exchange got a bit heated – I’d simply slap on headphones and turn up the volume. By the end of the day, I’d be knackered and probably stiff from sitting in one position for longer than was healthy, but I’d be happy.
And writing, though I’ve never been that fast a writer, used to be an activity I could totally disappear into.
In the last couple of years all that changed. Keeping my focus became challenging at times, and there were days where my brain was like glitter.
At first, I thought I was simply bored and tried to rearrange my workday so the boring stuff came in chunks or got done first. I changed my playlists to music with foreign lyrics, then to music without lyrics. I – sacrilege! – turned off the music altogether. It all helped. For a while. Then it became plain annoying again.
Now I’m finding out that it’s another lovely side effect that comes in the wake of an approaching menopause. Along with years of living in – and taking advantage of – an increasingly distracted world. Yes, I work on the internet a lot of my day. Yes, the internet is one distracting place of “ooh, shiny!”, especially at the moment.
But now that I have a better idea of the causes, I’m doubly determined to get on top of that nonsense before it gets on top of me.
You hear that, glitterbrain? Woman with attitude. 🙂
As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work and I’m doing my level best to implement his suggestions.
I now set aside dedicated writing time each day, instead of fitting it in where I can – and often letting other work push it out.
My desk is a distraction-free zone and I only sit there to do my actual work. Fiction is written on the couch, in bed or at the kitchen table. Not a lot has changed there, I’m just no longer mixing my work areas.
And the music is back with a vengeance, thank the heavens. My favourite Saturday ritual of sofa, Se7en, wine, and whatever story takes the Muse’s attention that day, won’t have to change. For the rest of the week, I’m trading my usual work mixes of trance and chill, epic and classic, Korean and Japanese for various flavors of jazz and chill, and a hefty dose of rain.
Yes, I’ve discovered jazzandrain.com and can I just say it… I’m impressed. My brain runs on music. Always has done. Now it seems to run smoothly once more.
There’s a reason why Jack listens to jazz both when he works and when he’s relaxing – I’ve been doing it for years. I just didn’t realise that adding rain to the mix would make the jazz even better. It’s not just soothing, or energising. It actually seems to help my brain stay on task, too.
Now I just need to keep my fingers crossed that this is heading towards a permanent fix. Just after I figure out how to put a rainstorm soundtrack over Friday Night in San Francisco!