night swim at barton springs

Capturing Love, Loss, and Laughter in the Moment

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There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of journaling. For me, writing crystallizes the thoughts in my head. I generate structures, ideas, frameworks, for holding many different aspects of my life. Poems. Songs. Short-short stories. This blog. I write. It’s what I do. And it helps me process all that is going on around me, even in the moment, when I’m not writing it all down.

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Slow Down

One of the biggest threats to our creative and spiritual lives is this quickening of everything. Today, when a YouTube, IG, or TikTok video is over 45 seconds long, I’m tapping my impatient finger and checking the “length” of the video before continuing to give it my time and attention.

So much of what we consume online and on television is distracting noise. Yes, I’m very interested in politics and the upcoming rejection of the Big Lie, but I’m often too interested. An end-of-day routine, that I’m just beginning to interrupt, is turning on the television and listening to Nicole or Ari give me the “news” of the day.

In my little world, here in Austin, Texas, the “news” is relevant and important, but… Maybe not as my habitual reward for finishing the working hours of the day. Why do I care about top secret documents and mid-terms? I mean, of course I *care* about them, but how is this activity supporting my creative path, my joy, my future actions?

Sure, I’ll vote, but otherwise, this “news” is just another form of distraction.

Intentional Distractions

I look for distractions all the time. That’s not to say I’m distracted all the time, a lot of the time maybe, but this is more about what activities I’m using to actively distract myself. I play a mobile war game several times a day. I turn on the television in the morning with my coffee. I check in with MSNBC in the evenings to make sure the world is still orbiting the sun.

This morning, I noticed the quiet moment before turning on the tv. I jump from CNN, to MSNBC, to Morning Bell. What does this triad of television have for me? Nada. It’s my form of distraction, perhaps loneliness avoidance or something. Today, I stopped myself. I read a long short story from the New Yorker online. Which took me into my own writing, my own story. I was dazzled by this young man’s linguistic bravado in the face of a personal tragedy. It was a story about a man and his daughter facing life in NYC after the death of his wife. It’s not a morbid or sad story. It’s a song of hope.

My distractions include:

  • eating when I’m not hungry
  • seeking sugar or caffeine for the buzz
  • turning on the tv
  • taking a nap (oh, I’d better look deeper into this one)
  • playing a video game

Can I be honest here? I distract myself a lot. And I’m also running a strong self-awareness program in my life. So, this moment, this morning, is a bit of a “hi, what have you been distracting yourself with” moment.

Things that are not distractions include:

  • writing
  • reading something good
  • talking to a friend
  • playing with the dogs
  • being with my girlfriend
  • noodling on the guitar

Make a Plan

Without a plan, I often find my day goes marginally well. Since there was no plan, I did not succeed or fail. But I didn’t move many of my creative chess pieces forward on the board either. If you don’t have a plan, that’s where you’re going to end up: still not having a plan and not achieving your goals.

Let’s set an intention together:

  1. Write a plan (1-week, 6-months, 5-years)
  2. Let’s make a note when we’re distracting ourselves
  3. Redirect our unintentional distractions back towards moving forward towards our goals
  4. Follow through on *every* commitment

With these tools in place, I’m certain I will be more creative, more productive, and less mindlessly idling.

*image: barton springs night plunge

Goal: more night swims.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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