My desk, my mind, both cluttered

My desk is a mess. I think it reflects my state of mind, or perhaps it’s the other way around. I find that when I sit here lately, I don’t focus on my writing. I check my email, I post something to Twitter, I think about the next thing I want to blog about. I check Facebook and see which friends are amusing me and which ones are pissing me off. I check to see which ones have been amused by something I’ve posted. I look at the mess that is my desk and think, “I should tidy this up.”

I never seem to get things cleaned up, but neither do I manage to steer my attention back to writing.

I have this wonderful program called “Freedom” that shuts out the rest of the world when I’m sitting at my computer, but only if I take the first step and turn it on. I need to turn it on more often. I read an article at n+1 by a writer named Dani Shapiro and how much trouble she has keeping the world away from her desk when she writes. It used to be just the telephone and the answering machine that would distract, people calling in the middle of the day and not fathoming how she needed focus and time to herself in order to write, her mother’s voice coming from the answering machine saying, “I know you’re there, pick up.” Voicemail was a wonderful thing in that case, because you could turn off your ringer and not know someone had called until you picked up the phone and got that choppy beep before the dial tone.

We had voicemail at home, but since Mike and I both have cell phones, we have an answering machine in an upstairs bedroom that we usually forget to check. I want to get rid of the home phone if we can, but that’s a story for another day. Actually, it’s not even a story, so I probably won’t mention it again because-well, boring.

Now, the little app to shut out the internet asks, “How many minutes of Freedom do you want?”

All of them?

Of course, since I have a smart phone, I can conveniently carry a whole world of distractions in my pocket. It is often useful, but more often than not, it takes my attention away from wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I find myself turning it on airplane mode to try and escape from it.

My contract is up in September, and I’m seriously thinking about going back to a plain Jane phone. (At this point, I might have been tempted to Google the origin of “plain Jane,” but I turned on Freedom last night and asked for eight hours. I still probably have about seven and a half to go.)

Now I’m also thinking, since I mentioned how much Freedom I have left, about the blog entry I meant to post today, the Q&A from another indie LGBTQ publisher. One thing Dani Shapiro didn’t point out in her article is that, yes, Freedom does shut out the internet, but if you can get around its wall if you restart your computer. Not that I’ve ever done that.

Actually, I’ve done that a lot.

She also mentioned the Jonathan Franzen article (the one that pissed off some of my friends) where he talks about writing at a computer that he’s modified so that he can’t get online. He’s plugged the Ethernet port by gluing in a hacked off Ethernet cable. (I’m assuming it doesn’t have wifi built in.) The thing is, I don’t think the lengths he’s gone to are all that unreasonable.

I still have my old laptop downstairs in the basement. I wonder if I should think about doing the same thing to it.

But now, here I am, sitting at my desk, it’s six in the morning, the dogs are fed, there’s a load of laundry going, and I’m thinking I need to go back upstairs to put on my running shoes and go for a walk before I head to work this morning. I’m also thinking about the story I’m revising, which I need to work on because the clock is ticking on that. (Make a note to check the email from the editor again to confirm that I’m covering all the bases he suggested-except that I use Gmail and so I can’t access it offline. Oh, wait, I think I can still pull it up in MacMail. Yep, there it is. Yep, I seem to be on track.) My copy of Wilde Stories 2011 is still sitting here, still waiting to be read. There are the two stories due in November that I have sort of started on. (Well, I’ve thought about them.) Have I mentioned the first draft of the second book is due December 1?

And then of course I have to take a shower and go to work.

Maybe shutting off the internet for eight hours was too ambitious after having been hip-deep in it for a while.

How many minutes of Freedom do I have left? If you’re reading this and it’s Friday morning, the answer is none.

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