Weapons of Mass Distraction
“I hate waiting.”
—Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
“The Waiting is the hardest part.”
—Tom Petty, The Waiting
Tom Petty had it right: the Waiting is the hardest part of being a creative person. We all go through it: actors wait for the call after an audition. Musicians send their songs to record labels, and then wait for a response. Writers submit drafts to publishers, and then sit at the keyboard, hitting “refresh.” (I’m totally not doing that now.)
Wait, wait, wait.
I don’t know about you, but I respond to waiting with ANXIETY, which I then manage poorly; I drink too much coffee. I gnaw my fingernails to the quick. I obsess over things I can’t control: the economy, the environment, or the proliferation of poorly lit cat photos on the internet. I get irritable, snap at loved ones, and become unable to enjoy the activities I usually cherish, like practicing yoga or walking my dog.
I know I’m not alone. Many of us creative types fail to properly manage the anxiety that accompanies The Waiting, and we end up getting sideswiped at the intersection of art and commerce. However, over the years, I have developed a series of mostly effective diversionary tactics. I call them:
WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION
Here are some of my favorites:
Example: I inhaled two seasons of Breaking Bad the week after I finished the second draft of my novel..
Effectiveness Rating: 5/10. I can’t sit still for more than an hour unless I’m duct taped to the sofa.
Example: Um… I saw The World’s End. That’s recent, right?
Effectiveness Rating: 7/10. Once I’m in a darkened theater, I’m blissfully lost to the world. But you have to get me in the theater first.
Example: What I’m doing right now. Also, the tumblr.
Effectiveness: 6/10. Blogging is a great distraction, but it’s not much of a break from what I usually do: sit at a keyboard and type.
Example: During that same post-draft period, I completed Portal and Portal 2.
Effectiveness: 9/10. Of all my weapons, video games are the most accessible and engage my brain the most. I love them. The only downside is that they’re INSANELY addictive. So I have to stick to games I can finish quickly.
Example: I wish reading calmed me–but when I’m anxious, my mind can’t focus on reading. Audiobooks, on the other hand, do the trick. When I’m washing dishes or driving, my mind will turn over hypotheticals until steam comes out my years. But an audiobook keeps my imagination active with happier pursuits.
Effectiveness: 8/10. I listen to audiobooks daily.
Whatever it is you’re waiting for, you need to escape from your own thoughts. I know meditation and solemnity work for some people–but for me, it’s got to be distraction. I have to replace the anxious thoughts with calmer ones. I have to place myself at the helm of something I can control, or take myself to a world with much bigger concerns than the ones over which I’m obsessing. I have to run away.
So now I’m curious: What do you do when you need distracting? How do you survive the Waiting?
Because, now I’m done with this post, and I’m out of new video games. And there’s no more Breaking Bad on Netflix.
I can feel the anxiety beginning to buzz again at the corners of my mind.