Lately, I've been feeling fragmented, my attention all too splintered by way too many choices. I could watch one of the Netflix movies I've been sitting on forever, read one of the huge array of books in my massive to-be-read stack, catch a show on TV, or default back to the mind-numbing computer game or aimless Web trolling that have recently consumed far too many hours.
It's no wonder I can't focus on my current work-in-progress. Many years back, Robin Williams appeared in a movie called Moscow on the Hudson, which featured a Russian musician named Vladimir Ivanoff, who defects to America. I don't recall a lot about the movie except one scene where Ivanoff, used to long lines for basic commodities, freaks out in an American grocery store, overwhelmed by the myriad choices laid out before him. (Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!) Finally, he passes out, escaping the information overload in the only way he might.
My solution is simpler. To reclaim the single-minded focus I need to do my best work, I plan to go unplugged for a few days early next week. No ringing phones, no movies, no Internet or laptop. Just a few days reconnecting with the old man and scratching out notes on a legal pad. I might make an exception for some great old jazz or classical music, those wordless standards that flow around me rather than carry me away. But mostly, I need to spend time outdoors, to watch the play of moonlight on the water. I need to hear the birds and listen to the sky breathe through the treetops.
When you find your attention splintered and your own output diminished, you might attempt a similar solution. I can almost guarantee you that afterward, when you get back to your computer, your story will be waiting eagerly to meet you. Only now, you'll be able to hear its quiet voice above the din.