On Interruptions Large and Small

I was perusing articles on creative habits the other day and I ran across the recommendation to put your phone into “airplane mode.” This setting turns off the cellular connection, WiFi, and Bluetooth of your device, effectively shutting out the distractions of the internet, texting, and even phone calls. In the sweet absence of all that chatter, perhaps we can focus on our work.

Interruptions can be very costly to creativity. I sometimes joke that creative work is best done in short bursts of ten to fourteen hours. That may not be the most sustainable approach, but the point holds—focus and flow help us do our best work.

EarlyWords is intended to help us enter that state of flow.

But how do we stay there, in the zone? The answer of course is to try to avoid interruptions and temptations to engage with something else. That person who is wrong on Twitter (so wrong!) can wait.

Engaging with someone or something else can be viewed as a context switch. We come out of a state of focus, out of the zone, in order to interact with something else. Unfortunately, returning to the context of our creative work (writing, music composition, drawing, choreography, coding, what have you) is challenging. We often have difficulty finding the mental space we occupied before the interruption. How to jump back in effectively is a challenge I have not mastered, so I just do my best to avoid the distraction in the first place.

Regardless of these intentions, the rest of life intervenes from time to time. This year has been that way for many of us.

For example, my father caught COVID-19 somehow, despite his relative isolation, and I spent about six weeks of my summer driving across the country to care for each of my parents. For what it’s worth, my father recovered no worse for the wear, thank goodness.

And then this month, our family was put on alert to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice because of a wildfire that started in our town. This catastrophic fire destroyed over two thousand residences, leaving thousands of locals and friends without homes and possessions. By dumb luck, the wind was blowing away from our home and we were spared. For others, their life has been put on hold until they can resettle themselves.

Maybe there’s no such thing as normal, but we can rebuild and re-establish practices that have been interrupted. And we can be there for each other to help make this possible.

So, here’s to all of you who have been thrown out of your rhythms and habits this year… Be well! You’ve got this! We’re here for you!

— Rob