Protecting Ourselves from Overstimulation

“The worst thing for me is overstimulation. Checking e-mail manically can do it. Getting on the phone really can do it. I have learned that I must protect myself from that overstimulation and get to the page…” ~ Dani Shapiro

This weekend I finally sank in my reading chair with the latest issue of Wisconsin’s own The Writer (Feb. 2011), and, as usual, one of my favorite parts of the magazine was the “How I Write” feature on the last page. Author Dani Shapiro’s thoughts on overstimulation hit home for me and give me a new way to think about distractions. Some distractions are just that: momentary detours from my main focus. But others are sources of overstimulation. They not only lead my mind astray, they also rev it up in unproductive ways.

My guess is that what is overstimulating for one person (a phone call, for example) may be just what is needed for someone else to get motivated, so it is useful to pay attention to our energy highs and lows throughout the day, to see what precedes them.

“No Business Looking Neat”

Here’s another quotation from the piece that speaks to me:

“In recent years, I have started writing longhand when I’m embarking on something. There’s something about writing longhand in spiral-bound notebooks where you have to allow it to be messy. You have to cross something out as opposed to cut and paste it. There’s something about writing on the computer that can make something look neat when it has no business looking neat. I like the process of writing longhand. There’s a freedom to it…”

I agree. I am only beginning to do more of my writing by hand, but I find that the thinking and creative process involved is very different (at least for me) from using a laptop.

You can learn more about Dani Shapiro at her website (loaded with essays and interviews) and on her blog, Moments of Being.

What is your experience with being under- or overstimulated as a writer? Or with writing that looks “neater” than it is?

4 thoughts on “Protecting Ourselves from Overstimulation

  1. I totally agree. I have to be in a calm, quiet space to do something creative. If I’m in a busy mood, I’m too easily diverted–and that’s when I end up with twenty-five windows open and a call coming in on the land line and texts beeping on my cell. I do a lot of my best work when I’m alone and uninterrupted but not sleepy.

    • Oh, can I relate to the 25 open windows! What was it that Eliot wrote? “Distracted from distraction by distraction …”

      “Not sleepy” is important for me, too. Naps are always soooo inviting. 🙂

    • Cyndi, thank you so much! Guess what? I just went back to school (first step toward a PhD program), inspired in part by the Sophia Project. You are making a difference. 🙂

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