Thursday, November 21, 2013

A moving distraction

My attention span, ugh. I think I join most of the modern world in the sentiment that social media wreaks havoc on one's ability to concentrate. And Words With Friends! What faulty wiring in my brain makes it crave a regular hit of that stupid game more than it craves chocolate or caffeine? I have been chipping away at book chapters; supposedly this is work I enjoy. And yet, writing often feels more like a test of endurance than anything else in my life. I chip and scratch and delete, and without even deciding to, find my way over to the New York Times homepage and suddenly a half hour is gone. You know how it goes. I do have my Internet-free "concentrate dammit" zones, but it's becoming a little too cold to sit outside by the pool.

On the days I do contract work, I'm more than happy to sit inside clickity clacking all day. Editing projects are wonderful; my objective is well-defined and immediate. Writing is more vague. It's a tough thing to force. And the more I resolve to chain myself to a desk and get something — anything — done, the more I feel that unquenchable desire to go play outside.

This morning, I thought to myself, "You've been hitting the training thing a bit hard over the past week. Maybe today should be a rest day. And a 5,000-word day! And a zero-word day in Words With Friends. Wouldn't that be amazing?"

By mid-afternoon, it started raining, hard. I haven't seen such a display of exciting weather in my own time zone in months, and I couldn't help but leave the confines of my workspace to stare out the window with my nose pressed against the cold glass. I thought to myself, "A little run won't hurt. Get soaking wet, maybe even blasted by some wind. It will be good inspiration for the book."

I suited up and headed out the door, and immediately felt sluggish. All morning I dealt with some gastrointestinal issues; this happens occasionally as part of the monthly cycle. But it meant most of my system had emptied out before I even hit the pavement. Clearly this wasn't a good day for a run, but the storm was already breaking up, and strips of sunshine glistened through still-heavy sheets of rain. "I'll just run slow, and start walking back if my knee hurts," I thought to myself.

I veered onto a dirt trail, and within minutes had to hoist some rather heavy adobe bricks that had formed around my shoes. This is what happens when the first rain in weeks falls onto a thick layer of moondust and dead grass. The resulting paste was at once sticky and slimy, and it was difficult to anticipate whether each footfall was going to glue me to the ground or send me into an uncontrolled slide. Clearly this wasn't a good day for a run, but there was a double rainbow forming over the Santa Clara Valley that I didn't want to miss, and anyway, even a sickly mud run is easier than writing.

There was not one, but two outhouse stops on the outskirts of Rancho. My abdomen started cramping up in a way that wasn't like a stomachache or a side stitch, but more like an actual muscle cramp stretched across my core. But I was really enjoying listening to the new Naked and Famous album, and the sun was threatening to emerge all the way out of the clouds and cast golden afternoon light over the hillsides. And anyway, it's good mental training to do an icky slow run from time to time. I headed up the Rogue Valley Trail and maybe don't want to admit how far I actually ran. Let's just say I eventually looked at my watch and realized I was going to end up chasing darkness if I didn't start back toward home and pick up the pace. But I was thoroughly blissed out by this point. The air had warmed up, I had the whole big park nearly to myself, and given more daylight, I may have decided to continue up the mountain all the same.

I strode toward home feeling inspired, filled with so many new ideas. I was going to march right to the computer and get them all down before I even jumped into the shower. But walking up the stairs, I was overcome with enough woozy ickiness that I opted to lay on the living room carpet for several minutes instead. All of those great ideas slipped back through the funnel of self-doubt, as they so often do once the luster of the run has faded. But I managed to tap out a few quick thoughts before I consumed some much-needed fructose in the form of a fruit snack. And thus, I managed to stretch distraction into a two-hour run. But I did have fun, and that kind of fun sure beats Words With Friends. 


  1. I do most of my writing while I'm riding, but I've killed so many brain cells and had my brain zapped enough times that often times I forget what I'm writing by the time I get home. So I use my iPhone recorder to get my thoughts down. Writing really is a struggle sometimes, but you always come out with something insightful to share with us Jill. I'm glad you're not going to do just one post a wee k:-). Gastrointestinal distress when you're away from a bathroom is tricky. I hope you feel better soon.

  2. Every time I ride alone my brain goes off on a tangent solving world-problems, and I swear I come up with some really great stuff...however by the time the ride is done I've forgotton all those ideas. I sear someday I'm going to put a little divers tablet on my handlebars (a piece of plastic and a grease pencil, you can write underwater on it to communicate with other divers). That way I could scratch out little reminder-notes. Who knows how much world-good I could have done by now had I done this years ago!

    It's interesting that when foul weather strikes MOST of us hibernate inside, yet you intentionally go outside. You actively seek the crappy weather...maybe that's part of why I like reading your posts so live and thrive in a side of life I don't normally know much about. You find comfort and fun when others (including me) see misery. That's part of what makes you so interesting!

  3. Yes, yes, and yes on the moving distraction, writing, and abdominal cramps. Good to know I wasn't the only one having that kind of day yesterday. :)

  4. Glad I'm not the only one that enjoys being out in a storm...although I prefer a nice easy hike or walk and not a run.

    Unfortunately I was over in redwood city at a jobsite in the pouring rain yesterday instead of enjoying it...


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