I Can’t Finish My Book: Coping with Distractions by Catharine Bramkamp

I Can’t Finish My Book: Coping with Distractions by Catharine BramkampLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “I Can’t Finish My Book: Coping with Distractions.” Enjoy!


I routinely ignore click bait. 

I honestly thought everyone did until I witnessed a kitchen full of writing partners click on a “The Universe is Expanding” article.  

And panic.  

The Universe is expanding and there is nothing I can do about it!

Oh no, the universe is out of control!  

Drawn in by Distraction

We are angry and frightened. Too upset to wash the breakfast pans.  

Before we write anything, we must log into Facebook and post about the universe. Oh, and here are other posts to like.  


Many sensitive people are as upset as we are! Who is responsible for the universe anyway? We must organize over the expanding universe, stop the move! 

Don’t Look Up! 

We are worried, look at these beautiful photos of the universe last year, and now it’s changed, see how terrible this is? 

What can we do?

I have a petition to keep the universe stable, like it was in 1960 when life was good.  

Expanding universes are clearly one of the causes of economic collapse and war. They should be doing something about this universal problem. They should work harder to keep the universe stable so we can all be happy. 

I will write a letter to NASA.  

I vow to post photos of the universe on an hourly basis. Perhaps there is an app that will post for me. 

I will research for an app, it will save me time. 

Did the Hubble cause the expansion?  We shouldn’t interfere with God’s universe. Is he punishing us for thinking about the universe?

The universe consumed the morning and early afternoon like a black hole. 

Spoiler alert: we can’t do much about black holes either. 

Saturday’s breakfast pans are still unwashed in the sink Sunday morning. 

Three out of the four writers went to bed early, exhausted by their efforts to save the universe.

The Problem with Distraction 

We should have big existential thoughts. 

We should be interested in an expanding universe. 

However, like the expanding universe, our free floating anxiety about things we can’t control easily grows into Godzilla proportions.  

Unstoppable – a black hole of attention and emotions.  

What does this level of free floating anxiety mean for a writer? 

The click bait is working, but you aren’t. 

I propose that emotional responses like the above are not only exhausting, but a complete waste of your creative energy.  

All that emotion spent on someone else’s click bait leaves little time for your own creative work. 

Social media and, increasingly, “trusted” media is like a child perched on the diving board.  

Look at me, look at me, are you looking at me?  

And no matter how often the parent raises their eyes and waves, once in the water, the child just climbs back up onto the diving board to do it again.

Look at me.

Learning How to Focus 

How do you cope with all these tantalizing and immediate distractions and problems? As artists, we can either react to a strong headline, or deconstruct the headline and apply what we learn to our own writing.   

  • What is the writer here trying to make me believe? 
  • Why did I pause on THIS headline but not that one?  
  • How did this click bait so quickly grab my emotions?   
  • What words are being employed like weapons?  
  • What triggers are inserted into the article?  

Can you do the same in your fiction? (please, not your non-fiction, don’t contribute to the problem).

Many artists find that meditation (as opposed to medication) is one of the most effective practices to turn off the surrounding noise and calm your anxiety enough so you can concentrate on your own creative work. 

Instead of Doom Scrolling,  walk around the block and notice small beautiful things. Dance for two minutes.

Once we stop reacting to click bait.

  • You won’t believe! 
  • See what she looks like now!  
  • Solution in a Minute! 

We can learn from it.  

Maybe we don’t learn that when it comes to the expanding universe, there is little humans can do about it. 

I was the only person in the kitchen who thought so. 

But what we can learn is techniques, ideas and how to identify opportunities to ignore it all in favor of reading a good book. Or writing your own.


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Catharine BramkampCatharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, former co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.



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