How to Concentrate

When the world is 🔥🔥🔥

Hi Friends,

So this is the not newsletter I wrote this morning before everyone got up. That’s in my drafts and is about how we weren’t going to publish books in the fall because of the election and now we’re moving lots of book into those slots because of, you know, a global pandemic. Fun! I have some things to say about how no one in publishing has a crystal ball and how, later, down the line, if you feel anxious about whatever pub date a publisher may give you, try to relax because there’s no perfect pub date and in the end ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ can happen. It’s my usualy blend of optimisim with a touch of nihilism, and I think it could be helpful for some people to read.

But I can’t get it out on the page in a way that makes sense. I could just send it and let you read it and you’d shrug and delete it and move on to the rest of your email. That’s fine. Not every newsletter can be a banger. But I just know reading it that the transitions are jarring and it might not quite say the thing I want it to say, so it’s going to sit in the drafts folder until I can concentrate on it more. Maybe Thursday, or maybe not. Maybe the timeliness of it will fad and I’ll forget about. Maybe tht paragraph up there is enough.

It’s not wonder I can’t concentrate. I’m trying to work 8 hours in 3 or 4 and parent a toddler when I’m not working. There’s no downtime. There’s no time I’m “off.” I’m giving myself ALL kinds of grace about this, but the thing is, I WANT to work. I WANT to focus and concentrate and write cogent arguments and do my job with a clear (enough) head. When I can’t concentrate, at least in the Before Times, this is what I would do:

  • Make a list or outline.

    If it’s just a bunch of stuff I need to do but can’t stay on task, I make a list and just do them one by one. Maybe not in order, but I try to just do the things on the list and avoid the things NOT on the list (like Twitter, Instagram, Words with Friends). If I’m writing, I make an outline, even if very brief and basic, so I can see how the ideas build upon each other and can at least get a draft to edit later.

  • Turn on white noise or something.

    I am a big fan of very, very bad “spa” type music. Woo woo ocean sounds and ambient music and things you would hear while getting a massage or at the nail salon. (My local place in Park Slope plays the most bonkers piano covers—”My Heart Will Go On!!!!” and I love it.) (Sigh, I miss them and manicures.) I use this app called Relax Melodies where you can layer sounds to create your precfect white noise. Crickets + waterfall + rain on a tent = bliss

  • Set a timer.

    Listen, I didn’t say these were revolutionary ideas. Maybe you already do the Pomodoro method. Maybe you’ve never heard of it. But I bet (espeically if you’re a parent) you’ve use your phone’s timer ALLLLLLLL the time. Use it on yourself. 15 minutes of email, and then you can go back to staring off into space.

This is enough. We’re sick of lists, I know. But I hope this helps a little and is maybe just a reminder of the stuff you already know that you can’t access in your cloudy, worried brain, and that it helps just a tiny, little bit. We need all the help we can get.

If you’re enjoying this newsletter, then you should check out The Daily Good, a daily newsletter with recommendations for being kinder to yourself and the planet.