Confessions of a Wandering Writer (or How I Deal with my Short Attention Span a.k.a. Unfocused Mind)

Kellar by Strobridge & Co. Lith.,, from the Library of Congress
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As I scoured the Internet on writing advice and tips, one of the common and best advice I came across with was to turn off all distractions. Wholeheartedly, I agree with that. Usually, most writers’ problems begin in facing the blank page. Once you get the momentum going, it will be difficult to stop. To achieve that momentum, total focus is required. There’s no room for distractions.

With my short-attention span that predates the Internet era, sometimes I go against the grain and indulge in distractions I label as my “commercial breaks”. They will not induce writer block nor will take me away from the task completely. Instead, I find that they help by providing a short break to generate fresh thoughts and ideas, and quickly review what I have written so far to evaluate if I am still on track.

What are these “commercial breaks”?

  1. Look into the mirror – Being immersed in the process of writing sometimes puts hygiene at the lower half of the priority list. There’s a level of grime on skin that’s acceptable and I have to check that by looking at myself in the mirror. Totally narcissistic you may tell me, but hey mileages may vary. When I see that I am quickly turning into a walking dead then that’s the cue to hit the showers. Taking a shower refreshes my mind so when I get back in front of my work-in-progress piece, there are now ingredients to add to what’s already cooking.
  2. Browse Twitter – Dubbed as the best social network by yours truly, the fast pacing of my Twitter timeline does not kill my writing engine at all. Both relevant and irrelevant information goes from the Twitter stream to my brain, oiling my mental parts. Sometimes, the unexpected humor from Twitter wakes up whatever area of my brain is snoozing and I find myself speeding away with the keyboard afterwards.
  3. Read a blog or an article – Writing, and writing, and writing can be exhausting and draining. Words are squeezed out from you. You cannot help but to feel empty handed at times. To refuel that empty tank, reading a short article or any written piece can be beneficial. Reading restores the balance lost from a lengthy writing. Together, writing and reading are the push and pull of our mental muscle. This does not only apply short term but also for the long term as well.
  4. Play with my cats – For a purely subjective reason, petting, cuddling, or baby-talking my two cats clears my mind of invisible clutter, detoxifies my writing spirit, and unloads any stress accumulated from writing. The only downside with this is once I pet my cats, they will never leave my lap or even sit on the desk where my mouse is. If you own a cat, imitate with caution.
  5. Play a quick game – A quick round of Robocop, Sims Freeplay, or Smash Hit is my caffeine to give that extra buzz when arriving at a dead end. It’s one of the reasons why I like downloading iOS games. Most of them can be played for a short period of time, then allows you to step away from them, and resume right back to where you left off with ease. When I’m really feeling stuck and none of the previous items is helpful, then playing a minute or two of my favorite games can pull me out of the pit I’m trapped in. It’s also a form of instant small reward.
  6. Get moving – While writing this piece, I took a break and completed a 40-minute bodyweight workout in the confines of my room. After that, I went back to finishing this. Sitting for a long period can put me to a sleepy state. This happens to me at work, at meetings, or even when commuting. Getting up and doing a physical activity can prevent that and put the body to an alert state. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous task. You can walk, do jumping jacks, dance, or whatever physical activity suits you.

It doesn’t always have to be this way. There are times I can get into overdrive without any problem, spending hours writing without stopping. Sometimes, things are the opposite. My mind is in a struggle to concentrate but I know I must write, because it is the duty of a writer to write. We discover ways to aid us in hours of need. Here I gathered some, to share with you for your assessment or your experimentation. What do you do? Do you get commercial breaks too?

 

Featured image: Kellar by Strobridge & Co. Lith.,, ,from the Library of Congress, and cropping by trialsanderrors

“Get Stupid” Should Be Your Mantra

Oh Deer by photophilde (https://www.flickr.com/photos/photophilde/8811752416)
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Running on a treadmill going at 3 mph used to kill the shite out of me. It was embarrassing. To aid me in improving my treadmill performance, I created a custom playlist specifically for it. Beats must be fast. Lyrics should be appropriate. “Don’t stop me now. Don’t need to catch my breath. I can go on and on and on,” I heard in the pre-chorus. Fitting. “Give it to me, yeah! No one’s going to show me how. Give it to me, yeah. No one’s going to stop me now!” sang the singer in the chorus. I made it to the end of the timer, and my “treadmill skill” improved gradually over time. The song, Give It 2 Me, was a great motivator, a perfect treadmill track you would say. If we listen closely, it’s a song that continues to resonate off the treadmill, off the gym, and in life. Continue reading

A Review of The 6th of November

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A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to Pablo Solares Acebal and was honored to be given a chance to review his novella The 6th of November. He holds a BA in English Studies and Translation from the University of Oviedo, and is currently working as co-writer on The 6th of November’s script with director Daniel Cabrero. And now, my review of his novella.

Pablo Solares Acebal’s The 6th of November is a bittersweet novella.

Reading it conjures up images from Filipino national hero Jose Rizal’s acclaimed novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. It’s a tale of family and household tragedies, doomed love, faith, and the shadow of war colorizing and decolorizing the village of Requejado. It is both homely and grand. There’s a simple yet powerful message told in the path of the lives of the novella’s characters, who never overstay their welcome, coming and fleeing, and keeping you guessing.

The narrative reminds me of my favorite early classic novels. The 6th of November is light and dark, superstitious, with a tasteful touch of religion every now and then. But just when I had finally immersed myself in a scene, the novella yanks me away and thrusts me to another one. Perhaps this is a door to a longer form of the novella, or a sequel maybe, because their is a desire to follow the characters beyond Requejado, and to know more the aftermath after that day. The curious question now is, “What comes next after the 6th?”

You can get in touch with him via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pablosolaresacebal or Twitter: https://twitter.com/solaresacebal.

Facebook Crimes People Still Commit

Facebook's Secret Message to Me by Nate Bolt - https://www.flickr.com/photos/boltron/4461019149
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I fondly remember the time I introduced Facebook to my former co-workers. It was fairly new, and had that combination of simplicity and elegance. We were hooked. Needless to say Facebook was fun. Five years later, Facebook became arguably the most popular social networking site and everyone, from your spouse to your mother, from your co-worker to their dog, from your favorite actor to that high school classmate you despised, has a Facebook account. From fun it transformed into an annoyance. Pity parties, hourly non-sense updates, photo albums detailing everything happening to people’s lives, public feuds; the barrage of these is what Facebook has become. A decade had passed and some had gone sour on Facebook abandoning it altogether. Some still remained committing the following Facebook crimes they should’ve learned by now. Yes, the following acts still happen in the world of Facebook. A section of society had become more oblivious of what makes an online conduct head-shaking, or perhaps social media just highlighted the ignorant. Continue reading

Banjo. He Made Me Cryte.

Reaper by Sergio Fabara Muñoz (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kinofabara/5853905375)
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When I wrote the poem Oh Grandfather, I was in a fragile emotional state and under the influence of alcohol. It was easy to channel thoughts into words, what with an emotional baggage to pull inspiration and ideas from. Towards the middle of writing the poem, I couldn’t help it and cried. The pile of shiz I was going through around that time broke me, and any sad issue from my lifetime triggered the tears easily. I cried while I wrote, or perhaps I wrote while I cried.

It wasn’t the first nor the last, but it was memorable. It had been more than a decade since my dear grandfather passed away. I should’ve been completely over it, I thought wrong.

Continue reading

The Wagonner

Horse by Jelle (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jelles/3190387365)
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The road was murky. The fog would not clear despite the futile attempts of the god of the wind to clear it up. The dark could not be penetrated and the goddess of light had become exhausted. The silence was terrorizing instead of peaceful, no song from the Muse could cheer me up.

I was commanding the wagon, horses chosen from the best of breed and wheels fashioned from the finest of trees. My passengers, men and women from villages I’ve traveled to, were all lounged in the box, sharing space with my map, books, and food, essentials to my journey. Unaware of the difficulty that was ahead, they were sleeping, exchanging jokes and gossips, and even nibbling from my stash every now and then. Though the map had indicated a pleasant travel down this road, some unknown force decided to make this trip the opposite. Continue reading