I walked out of the locker room at Planet Fitness, ready to do some sort of a workout. I had my ear buds in, The Watcher 2 (Rakim’s verse might be my favorite 40 seconds in music) on blast, and was thinking about zoning out for an hour or so while I rode the bike and did my physical therapy exercises.
Before I could make it to the stairs, I was stopped by a dude who had cut off the sleeves of his “Rocky” T-shirt to show off his arms. His biceps were the size of my quads, I’d be showing them off too. He motioned for me to take out my ear buds and tugged at the collar of his shirt.
“Nice shirt,” he mouthed as I removed my ear buds. “Who do you think is going to win the Rumble Sunday night?”
I wasn’t even sure what T-shirt I was wearing, but knew there was a pretty good chance it was a WWE shirt since I basically only wear wrestling shirts to the gym these days and he was asking me about the Royal Rumble. I looked down and, sure enough, I was wearing a Seth Rollins “Burn It Down” T-shirt.
I mumbled something like, “Oh um, I don’t know,” and he started going on about “Shinsuke Nakamura. But I don’t know, Nakamura doesn’t really do it for me.” It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about the Rumble (if I was booking Finn Balor would win and they’d turn the Balor Club into the biggest group of asshole’s since DX, but Vince didn’t ask me, so …) but that’s not why I went to the gym. I do my best work at the gym when I can focus on the music in my ears and what I need to get done. Talking about the Royal Rumble is just a distraction, like all that damn social media on my phone. Distractions that keep me from doing the work I’m often not motivated to do anyway.
I’m kind of the same way when it comes to creating, I need to find a way to eliminate distractions. Lately I find I work best when I can find a decent work space (in other words, not my bed), turn off the internet, put my phone in airplane mode and turn on some really loud music in my ear buds. If I can just ignore everything and focus at the task at hand, like when I do my best work at the gym, is when I do my best work.
It hasn’t always been this way.
For years, I did my “creative work,” which also happened to be my day … err night … in noisy spaces. Designing pages in newsroom, with the phone ringing off the hook, people gathered around the TV talking about whatever game is on, editing shouting across the room to reporters, you get the idea (actually, I still do that for my day job, it’s just not so loud anymore). Writing stories in high school gyms or hockey arenas while another game is played in the background or music is blasted while people mill about waiting for rides home.
And I worked fine in those environments. I still do work fine in that environment when I’m at work. I have a job to do so I sit down and do it, I have to tune out the distractions and hope I’m not missing anything I need to hear (I don’t, usually).
But when I’m not at work, if I want to get anything accomplished creatively, especially writing, I need a desk, my headphones, no TV, and no Internet. I’m not like Stephen King, who writes with the door closed (if you haven’t read “On Writing” I highly recommend it. I can work in public spaces most of the time, though I do have to make sure to keep the people watching to a minimum (same at the gym). I just need to shut off the distractions. I drown out the noise with my headphones, I turn off the Internet and I tuck my phone away in my back pack (I should try that at the gym, I really need to get an iPod) and usually, I can accomplish something.
I don’t know when this change happen and when I became so ADD that simple distractions keep me from being productive, but at least I understand the circumstances and can plan around it. Finding a place where I can comfortably be productive and don’t have the distractions of my TV, the Internet or a comfy pillow, is crucial to me actually accomplishing something.
It’s exactly the same way at the gym, if I could just get this dude to stop talking to me about the Royal Rumble Oh, and if Finn Balor can’t win, how about Seth Rollins?