Distraction

‘Maybe I should become a YouTuber?’

She walks compulsively, bouncing. River-canal, north-south, nerve-ended. Hates but loves it. Loves the offline time, hates the fiery pavement grinding into her sweaty palms.

‘I mean, what’s the best way to go around this?’ she thinks to herself. She’s listening to a podcast about creating dialogue, but she can’t focus. She looks at her watch. 7000 steps. Over halfway to go. ‘I create a blog, and no one reads it. I create a dreadful Instagram account and end up posting pictures of books. No one follows. I self-publish a novel, rationing it out, and every chapter becomes yet another strand jamming up the cyberspace. Contributing to nothing but the collective overwhelm.

‘But a YouTuber—a YouTuber would catch their attention. I mean, I’m technically recovering from an eating disorder,’ looks again, 7800 steps, fucking hell, ‘and everyone seems to love those vapid whatieatinaday’s.

‘What about this whole book-tube thing? What would I even talk about, though? Each time I finish a book, the corporeal imagery moves along the edges of a mimesis of thought, and each opinion I might share risks fuming itself into the abstract, or a pigeon-hole.

‘No, that’s bullshit.’ Comes back to the podcast. Someone is asking a question, Does talking to yourself count as dialogue? Does it? That’s all she seems to be doing these days.

Imagining inspiration, her favourite thing. Seven blogs, one for each day of the week—one of them has to stick. Or, sleepless nights and paranoid paragraphs. She could pull that off, right? She’s still young. She would skip all her classes. She’d miss out on the greats in favour of her own künstlerroman-esque aspirations. She’d even stop walking.

Yes, she would.

She plays with her hair, looks out the window, changes position with each new tab. She should be writing right now.

Individual overwhelm, at least, is better than anything collective, at least; at least she has a manuscript to her name. Makes her want to drop it all and watch a TV show for the rest of the day. Looks at the clock. It’s not even noon yet. She should be writing right now.

Her acne as a result of rubbing her hands on her face too much as a result of needing to do something, anything, with her hands, as a result of not wanting them to freeze upon the keyboard. Everything’s connected. That’s what she should write about.

Maybe just one round, to get rid of the stimuli.

She has twenty tabs open in one window, she needs to clear her head.

Somesortof writing submission page, deadline in one week. No, that’s important, inspiration could still strike.

Some cinema’s webpage. She needs to keep that in mind if she wants to go out and be a person.

A Netflix tab. She’ll use it later in the day, as a reward for surviving the day.

Google Calendar. Heart-warming, color-coded routine. She has a life now, doesn’t she? She loves her life now, doesn’t she?

Academic essays on Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. She’ll read them. She will. After she goes back to writing and needs a break, then she’ll read them.

‘book exchange in London’ Google search. She needs to get this done at some point.

Screenwriting course. Week 1 completed. Flashy pink square-block of chocolate covered raspberry congratulations. A swollen sugary aftertaste of another fruitless endeavor. She has so many ideas, she’s bursting at the seams of words ripping each other apart. But she still has a bunch of tabs left.

Extras webpage, or two, or three. She should get around registering at some point, but then they’ll require professional-looking pictures and measurements, and she’ll have to ask a flatmate to take photos of her, and put chapstick on, and measure herself and her worth and her time against the hour-days spent on pursuing one application after another, and—

right, those internships. Marketing. And something content and something executive. Leadership something. They require a cover letter. Who’s got the time for that? She has to write, after all.

A still unpublished manuscript of that author, her uncle’s friend. He sent it for her to read and voice an opinion. It’s been over a month, and she read 60 out of 107 pages. She has to focus on her own writing now, so there’s never any time.

All those Goodreads pages, new in January, hot from the Valentine’s press, most anticipated thrills & thrillers not to miss, all that one has to pay for, and r e a d. Why can’t she just read?

All her ideas are dead. She is the killer of ideas. She sees a flicker on the periphery and runs for it, and steals it, and it dies in the palm of her hand. Or in the notes on her phone.

She has a folder called Ideas on her phone. She also has an Unfinished folder on her computer, one that consists of one-sentence long files. No sentence should ever go to waste. But sentences get lonely and then they wither, and decontextualize themselves out of any sort of meaning. She’s scared to open those files. What if they escaped?

She decides to read for inspiration—but first she has to create a meal plan for the rest of the week, she forgot about that. Oh. It’s already planned out. But no, there is definitely something more to do, more errands to run, something that wouldn’t require getting up or thinking or talking, or anything but using her fingers as a warm-up towards something, anything,

substantial.

Maybe someone is giving their food away. She looks that up. Maybe some new restaurant joined the fightfoodwaste scheme in her area. She looks that up. Maybe someone stole money from her bank account, she looks that up. It’s all in there. No cheap thrills for the day. But that’s a good thing. Now she can write, no, read.

First, she needs to think. She has a day off, she has no focus to sign for a shift at her virtual workplace

is that a bug yawning into my earlobe?        

 she could go to that Tesco Superstore. It’s a one-hour walk. There’s a cuneiform podcast she was meaning to start, as well as the Anne of Green Gables audiobook. She doesn’t like audiobooks, but she needs to hit her ‘100 books a year’ Goodreads challenge.

There are few spaces quite as soothing as supermarkets. If one forgets the crowds, and the children, and those mothers mad at her when she tries to outrun their children, and accidentally accidentally accidentally—forgets her point, too preoccupied with the muffins with carrot-cake filling she saw on some Instagram page. She doesn’t have Instagram, of course not, it’s a waste of time. But she does visit sometimes. It’s her way of keeping enemies close.

She imagines surrounding herself with all the food, and its sensory potentialities; offline, outbounds, inwards. Sustenance serves as writing inspiration, doesn’t it?

Sustenanced herself out, as always. Back in her room, she looks for soft stimuli. The fake plants almost swaying. The desk havoc to be unveiled and described, or, better yet, painted. Wet jeans to cause an illness, to cause bed rest and inspiration. Anything to be glued to an entity and write.

What do I want?

I want no distractions.

I need distractions.

How will I face that blank page otherwise?

I feel inspired, almost, having the power to switch between pronouns, as if I wasn’t always alone. As if I wasn’t always doing something in place of something else.

Who am I, Joyce?

Is that sloppy? Is that a sign of being so disconnected from my own work, I don’t even check up on the perspective that matters? I flew a little bit too close to the sparkling circle, you know, the one that appears when the computer gets jammed. It’s both a sun and a rainbow—everything can multitask these days.

The page is never blank, not if it resides in contrast to multiple open windows, and tabs and notes and emails. Nothing’s ever blank anymore.

‘And so I will never write again,’ she says, I say, someone or other says, out into the compressed, dramatized ether. The room does not provide echoes. Thoughts do not provide echoes.

Writing is an echo. But an echo needs a voice.

Photography Credit: Jason Rice

Alex has been experimenting with various forms of writing for the past few years. She’s a culture editor and writer for Roar News, her work has also appeared in publications such as HuffPost UK, Bad Pony Mag and Heliopause Magazine. She’s a creator of the YouTube channel, Alex Blank, where she explores the themes of identity, self-understanding, and leading a more substantial life.