Don't Try to Get Things Done With All Your Windows Open

How can you focus when ... You may already be a winner!

Posted Mar 10, 2014

In the interests of discovering the effect of technology on creativity and concentration (“If You Pay For Auto Insurance You Better Read This”), I am writing today’s column in an entirely new way (“Want To Publish Your Book?”) -- by permitting my screens and various social media outlets to remain open (“Laura Rossi tagged you on Facebook”) and available as I work.

My students insist they can stayed focused doing this but (“Professors Hate Him”) I want to see for myself.

It’s not as easy (“Karyn Buxman likes your comment on LinkedIn”) as you might think (“Lose Five Pounds By Eating This Miracle Berry”). I usually begin by transcribing notes (“Dear. Ms. Barreca: Re your last column, I could not disagree with you more”) often from torn off bits of paper (“Is your credit card protected from fraud?”) and while that involves little more than typing (“You’ll love this: ‘New Antidepressant Makes Friends’ Problems Seem Worse’ from ‘The Onion’ xx A”), I’m not actually a touch-typist, even after all these hours at the keyboard (“What Secret Has Ellen Been Keeping from Her Fans?”).

Frankly, I need to pay attention (“I found youre pix on Facebook. Send youre phone# soon so I send sexy pix of myselv”) just to read my own handwriting.

I gather notes for the columns all week, finding ideas and lines at the oddest moments. I scribble while having lunch or driving with my husband to the mall and only rarely (“Regina! $5 Coupon IF YOU ACT NOW!”) do I have a notebook handy. I often write while trying to prevent hot pizza from falling into my lap or while going over the speed bumps now installed (“Russian Literary Dispute Ends in Stabbing Death”) at every ramp.

As you might imagine, I’m writing on the backs of napkins, receipts, menus, and envelopes, all of which have been shoved into the bottom of my bag for a week (“@MAFatWoman retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in!”). Therefore, once I sit down to write, the crumpled pieces of paper surrounding my computer don’t look like inspiration: they look like (“Watch: ARE you already INFECTED? Are you gaining weight because of a parasite is using your body as a host to eat what IT wants?”) trash.

Although I love hearing from friends who I might not (“Bethanne Patrick via Twitter”) be in touch with except through the Internet, like everyone else who has an electronic device, I’m also wildly confused by (“Vérifiez vos capacités de remboursement avant de vous engager”) the many notices I receive.

For example, how did I (“Gena Bereca, I write beter than you so how come you have a colum but I do not? Anssir today I am waitting. Yrs truly”) get on a pet-grooming mailing list? Yes, I have a pet but it is smallish creature that requires little “grooming” apart from being stroked by hand. Yet my inbox is replete (“Penny Stocks Can Make You a MILLIONAIRE!”) with so many offers for animal-care services you’d think my husband and I were breeding miniatures horses or exotic gerbils.

And I’ll confess I’ve yet to learn how to unsubscribe (“Earn up to 50,000 miles by enrolling NOW”) successfully. I keep asking to have my address removed but it seems to make no difference (“Like saving money? Own your own home?”). I am in a more permanent relationship with some of these vendors than I am with my first cousins (“3 Early Warning Signs of Dementia”).

Mind you, this is all without even texting. If I’d learned how to text, something I have no intention of ever doing despite the sneers of those who rely exclusively on abbr 4 wds, I would never have had the time to reach the following conclusion (“You’re ALREADY A WINNER!”): Distractions and writing don’t mix.

—Adapted from a piece first published in The Hartford Courant