I’m one of those people who will drop everything if I think of something I believe needs to get done right away. For example, let’s say I hear a squirrel scurrying around outside. The sudden urge to watch it and study its movements will immediately take precedence over the string orchestra piece I’m in the middle of composing. I love composing and interlacing the different instrumental voices in interesting ways, but I often have a very short attention span, and I get distracted easily. So all of the sudden I switch my focus from the music to the squirrel. Sometime after the squirrel is gone and the day is done, I get frustrated because I realize that the tisquirrel-on-tree_w725_h544me I had available to composition was sucked up by watching that little squirrel run around—not that watching squirrels isn’t fun, but I could’ve been a lot more productive with my time if I hadn’t let myself get distracted.
If you’ve ever read mystery novels or tried to solve a mystery yourself, you may have heard of or run into a few red herrings. Red herrings are false, misleading clues that you follow, but they really don’t have anything to do with the mystery and they stop you from making progress on the case. When working on something in everyday life, distractions can be called red herrings as well: they’re things you let yourself focus on, but they don’t help you get your original job done.
This topic may seem similar to my previous blog, Tangled in Cobwebs, but it’s really a different cause for the same problem. Both of these blogs, Tangled in Cobwebs and Red Herrings, focus mainly on what prevents us from getting our work done. However, Tangled in Cobwebs focuses on bodily or emotional reluctance (being too tired to get the job done), while this blog looks at what happens when both body and soul are ready to get the job done, but our eye catches something else and we switch our focus from what needs to get done to a red herring. Reluctance, more often than distraction, is a conscious decision to avoid work, while we may get distracted without even noticing until it’s too late.
So how do we keep ourselves from following red herrings? I finally figured out what works for me: a schedule I force myself to stick to and a quiet room without any interruptions (or Internet, which has the magical ability to absorb all my time if I let it). Your red herring-free zone may be different from mine, but for me, I’ve found it’s hard to work when there’s a room with a whole bunch of other people all saying and doing different things. Try a few different locations and background noises and see what works best for you.
If you already know what works for you, then make sure you stick to it! For me, I can be totally isolated, but it still takes a lot of willpower to keep from turning on the Internet. Maybe you’re in a distraction-free room, but you’re still finding something else that is able to distract you. Whatever it is, remove the temptation so that you can focus on what you want to get done. Artists, if you’re able to get more work done in a shorter amount of time without distractions, just think how much more of your art will be able to be released to the public! The more art you get out there, the more you can glorify God in what you do! After all, that’s really the biggest reason we’re artists. Spreading the good news of eternal life with Jesus is definitely more important than watching a squirrel.
God bless your day!
Alicia Michelle