How I’ll Replace Distracting Thoughts With Writerly Ones
I need to remove distractions. This is not as simple as removing them from my work environment – this is about removing them from my mind.
I find the more time I involve myself in something, the more my mind wanders to it when I’m supposed to be doing something else. It’s like a mini-addiction.
I find the same thing with crisps (bear with me). Generally speaking I don’t care much for crisps. If I have, say, two packets in a week (normally I’ll have none for months), then I might begin to get a hankering for them.
Chocolate is worse. Christmas brings a bounty of sugary brown treasure and it can take weeks to “get off” Cadbury’s Heroes!
Likewise, the passions in my life. Some of these are more addictive than others. If I involve myself more in activities around writing, writing occupies more of my thoughts.
That’s all good, but there are some distracting thoughts I could do without. One I struggle with is videogames. I have an overabundance of these and I always want to get through them. When I am enjoying a particular game, or looking forward to one, it occupies my thoughts.
The more I engage in activities around games, the more I think about them. The more I think about them, the more I engage in activities around games.
I check gaming news sites; I play vicariously through “Let’s Play” videos; I play games on my mobile; I think about strategies for my next play; I imagine designing my own.
It’s a vicious circle, and it’s distracting. The trouble with vicious circles is too often they control you – you’re a hamster on that wheel, unable to slow down. Tweet this
(Side note: I’m not saying videogames are addictive: there is no solid evidence. I am saying patterns of thought, or frames of mind, can be self-reinforcing. And that goes with anything, not just games.)
Pattern of Interest
It reminds me of how practice works in the brain, and I expect it’s a similar phenomenon. I remember reading (and also writing) on several occasions that the more a neural connection is made, the more it is reinforced. As the connection is strengthened, so it becomes easier for the signal to travel between those neurones.
This is how we learn to remember things (like your seven times table for example), but also how habits are formed, and (probably – I’m extrapolating here) ways of thinking – mindsets.
If true, this means the more you think in a certain way, the easier it is to slip into that way of thinking (actually physically easier).
It sounds obvious, but knowing about why this happens also allows us to know it can be changed.
So, if I’ve got nothing pressing to do at lunch, or I really don’t feel like doing the task I’ve set myself, I will read from a selection of writing blogs and comment, rather than trawl the gaming news sites (I should be doing this anyway of course, and I do, but not enough).
I will remove all games from my phone (I will, honest).
I will no longer seek out gaming videos to add to my “Watch Later” list on youTube.
Writing will be my crisps! Tweet this
I’m not going to cut out gaming completely. It might be argued I should, but I don’t want to. It’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember (which might account for how easy it is to slip into that frame of mind).
I just want to seal it in a box called “weekend” and use it as a reward.
Over to you:
What subjects crowd your brain? Have you ever tried replacing “addictive” thoughts with more productive ones? Do you think it’s even possible to unlearn such patterns of thought? Please comment! I’d love to hear from you!