Real World Distractions

writer choosing

This week, our hound offers a topic familiar to most people. He asks, “What (if anything) drains/blocks your potential productivity? What can you do to correct this?”

The first question is easy to answer. Family responsibilities (for me) have doubled lately. Since the middle of last year, I’ve had lots of trouble finding the time, energy, and inspiration to write. It’s been a struggle to block out the real world and immerse myself in the world in which my characters reside. I’ll often sit down with the intention of writing, but then I’ll find six other things I should be doing and the writing doesn’t get done. I worry. I research. I think of questions and look for the answers.

Health issues (not mine) have taken up a lot of my thoughts, and by extension, my writing time. My husband had surgery in late January and his recovery has not been smooth. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he finally started to return to his old self. For the past three months I’ve had to do all the driving, scheduling (since the meds affected his reasoning skills) and most of the cooking. I’m well aware that cooking, driving, and laundry are things that working women all over the world do on a regular basis, and I honestly don’t mind doing them, but since those are three things that I normally didn’t have to worry about, this made my daily routine change quite a bit. I had trouble focusing on nineteenth century England when I needed to figure out what we were going to eat that night, whether or not we had clean clothes, and what time we had to leave to get to the next appointment.

In addition to being head caretaker for my husband, I’m the only one of my siblings living near my mom. She is a healthy 85-year-old, but she needs to be transported most places, especially when there is snow on the ground. We had more than our share of that this past winter. She also worries about things she really doesn’t need to worry about, so I’m on call for things like being with her when repair persons come to her apartment, or when she needs to speak to medical, legal, or financial professionals. During the past three months it was a very rare to have a day when I didn’t have to take care of a detail for either hubby or Mom.

Those two preoccupations are the only relatively new things in my life. Neither person is asking for much of time my time. But as you might know, my calendar was already quite full. I teach two afternoons a week (the teaching schedule is easy, but the paperwork is daunting) and observed six student teachers this semester. I volunteer with a sewing group one morning each week. Three evenings a week I play in a local musical group. Monthly activities include scrapbooking, card-making, and meeting with three different writing groups. Until this past winter, this level of activity was normal for me and I was able to write and publish two or three stories each year. But added to the new obligations, something had to give, and this year it was the writing time.

My husband is slated for another surgery later this year, and mom is generally healthy, so I’m assuming the next six months will be at the same breakneck pace. I’ve come to the realization that I need to cut back on the demands on my time, not just to gain more writing time, but to preserve my sanity. And this brings me to the second part of our hound’s question of the week: “What can you do to correct this?” I’ve put some of these into place, and others are in progress:

  1. Find ways to hand it over. Today, my husband had an important follow up appointment with his surgeon. My mom also had an appointment with her doctor. She didn’t want to change her appointment because she finally managed to snag a time with the real doctor, not a PA. I finally called a trusted friend of hers to take her and listen. My children are also quite helpful and willing to step in when needed – I just need to let them know when I need their assistance.
  2. Convince myself that I’m doing all I can to help them. I often experienced crippling doubt about whether or not I was doing what I needed to do to for hubby and mom. Each of the three times hubby fell after surgery I wondered if I’d neglected to do something I should have done. Should I have been there? Was there something I’d forgotten to do? It was my daughter who reminded me that if I didn’t start letting him do things on his own he’d never heal. So I watch and hold back when I can. It takes longer, but he can get himself a cup of coffee. When he remembers to use his cane, he gets around pretty well, so I need to be patient.
  3. LEAVE THE HOUSE! During spring break I went to a writing retreat at school. I spent three days in a classroom with other faculty. A change of scenery helped me not think about medications, transportation, meals, etc. I was a teacher and writer. And the words flowed. This past weekend I went to another writing retreat with one of my writing groups. And this week I’m at another faculty retreat. Being in the company of other writers, I’m inclined to focus on my story rather than the day-to-day stuff.
  4. The final, and most difficult solution, is to cut back. I’ve informed the university that I will not be able to teach the class load I’ve carried for the past five years. It saddens me, because this is something I enjoy, but the paperwork takes up a lot of time, and I find it difficult to write about other places and times when I should be grading lesson plans or writing a student teacher evaluation. I’m also considering giving up one of the musical groups I play in, at least temporarily. The decision of WHICH group to give up is one I’m not looking forward to, but I have a little while to think about it.

So now I’ve identified the problem and I have a plan for resolving it. Wish me luck. How do you manage the distractions that hinder your creative self?

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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11 Responses to Real World Distractions

  1. Diana Stout says:

    Fantastic blog and all the right solutions! I find I have to take my work and go to a restaurant to get jump-started so I can continue working on it at home, OR I take my work to an empty table set up by my front window where I pretend I’ve gone elsewhere, leaving all social media at my other desk.. Great for those days when I don’t want to leave the house because of weather! It works. Of course, I live alone and can do that; it would be much harder if others lived with me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I love your solution of pretending you’ve gone elsewhere! I’ll have to try that! I can set up a card table in a different room and pretend I’ve gone away! Thanks so much for visiting, Diana.


  2. God bless you,Patty; I know EXACTLY what you are going through and unless they have been there, other people don’t realize how you HAVE to do things for your family, and the time and energy it takes.
    Now everyone might why so few of my WIPs have been finished ad those which have been finished have been submitted far too few times.
    Accepting that things which you have done and enjoyed are at an end is painful, but part of life’s losses.
    Realizing that you can’t do most of what you do need to do perfectly (anymore) is another acceptance which is hard.
    Dealing with those who don’t understand your priorities, needs and energy levels; you can’t convince them, just shut them down.Learn to do it.
    May your life get back to more of a familiar grind. I have more time now, the stress is off, but the cost is the loss of time with my grandkids, and the fact that they are growing far too fast, (although fast enough not to have to worry about them as much with other family members makes it easier.)
    PRAYERS for you.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Tonette. I know you’ve had to make a lot of adjustments lately, too. Cutting back on the music will probably be the last thing to happen. I had to give up playing while raising my daughters and just got back into it in the last five years or so. Never realized how much I missed it!


  3. Your dedication to your craft is inspiring, Patricia. You juggle so many responsibilities, and still you carve out time to write. I know what a sacrifice it would be to let one of your musical groups go. All of your solutions are solid and intentional. You motivate me to examine the choices I’m making in trying to give my writing time the attention it deserves.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I think we all manage to find time to do the things that are important to us. But sometimes it’s a matter of prioritizing what’s more important.


  4. Jeff Salter says:

    Wow… just reading about all your obligations made me feel completely drained. I truly do not know how you handle everything. Even before having to deal with your husband’s medical issues — which I’d forgotten about.
    I definitely identify with your “crippling doubts” about whether you’d “done enough” for an ailing parent in need of care. I suppose I’ll more to say about that on Thursday.
    I’m quite impressed by your well-thought-out four-step program to assist with this time management overhaul.
    I’ll probably steal parts of it for Hound Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like you have a good plan in place. It sounds like it will e a difficult decision for you when it comes to which music group you will give up.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Angela. It will definitely be a difficult decision. My husband is hopeful that this round of surgery won’t be as full of complications and that I’ll be able to continue to do the things I enjoy, but I need to be ready to cut back if necessary.


  6. Elaine Cantrell says:

    It sounds as if you have your hands full for sure. I hope your husband’s next surgery won’t be as bad. Being a caregiver is an exhausting thing, and that’s on top of all your other activities.


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