Can writing distract me from writing?

I’m learning all sorts of things about being a writer and one of them is that fall is grants season – a busy time. The first deadline I’ll hit is October 1, on the heels of Rosh Hashanah.

So amidst brisket, gefilte fish, seeking forgiveness, pleas for inscription in the book of life for another year, and a trip to toss my sins into a body of water, I will edit and finalize submissions, resumes and application forms; buy, stuff and stamp envelopes and get to the post office.

 It feels like enough to do until that pesky distraction gene rears its head – this time in the form of an e-mail from Gotham Writer's Workshop. The regular newsletter comes packed with useful writerly tips, info about courses and the odd contest. I spot an NPR  competition for a 600 word short story – due in three days.

Give it a miss you might think my brain would say but no. I spend almost the entire day on it and first thing the next morning, after a run that results in the prefect set of final alterations to the little story – turn to the NPR online application form.

I’m bad when it comes to fine print. Anything in the form of instructions, technical directions, warrantees and content labels leaves me dim and disinclined. The form with its blank space for state (NOT province) and no space for country is the first clue I might not be welcome.

Rather than read the fine print myself I call the NPR office (not toll free) and am informed by a kind, apologetic staffer that unless I am a resident of one of the 50 states I am ineligible. I think briefly about having a friend or relative submit on my behalf but decide instead to take it as a lesson to read rules in advance from now on.

But the story doesn’t end there. My talented, go-getter friend KJ Dell'Antonia, one of the group of writers I met at my Star Island workshop this summer, suggests I cut it back and submit to the Aspen Short Fiction contest. I check the site and find that Canadians are indeed eligible and the story must be 78 words long. 78 WORDS? That’s less words than an ad for a Best Buy blow out sale. Every one of my current 600 words is precious. It’s not possible.

But of course it is. I approach many distractions as a challenge so at the point when most people would click off the site and return to the demands of the day (or the day before), I get down to the 78 word task.

So the answer to my query is YES. Writing is a distraction from writing, especially from the more icky, painful, administrative tasks related to writing – the ones that result in cash or publication. But as distractions go it’s a good one.




you write a fine blog! I always finish them and enjoy them... keep it up.

I love your blog and even read it when I am not in Asia

The last time I checked (which was today), there are only 50 states in the U.S (plus Washington D.C, which doesn't count). You're getting the number mixed up with a deck of cards. Common mistake.


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