I really enjoyed this essay by David Schurman Wallace in The Paris Review about being distracted while writing. It reminded me of a much shorter version of one my favourite books about writing: Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer.
Wallace delves into the complexities of distraction, using Gustave Flaubert’s unfinished novel Bouvard and Pécuchet as a lens to explore how our pursuits, whether intellectual or mundane, often become a chain of distractions. He argues that distraction isn’t necessarily a negative state but could be an essential part of the human condition, a byproduct of our ceaseless quest for knowledge and meaning.
I began writing this essay while putting off writing another one. My apartment is full of books I haven’t read, and others I read so long ago that I barely remember what’s in them. When I’m writing something, I’m often tempted to pick one up that has nothing to do with my subject. I’ve always wanted to read this, I think, idly flipping through, my eyes fixing on a stray phrase or two. Maybe it will give me a new idea.
In this moment of mild delusion, I’m distracted. I’ve always wanted to write an essay about distraction, I think. Add it to the laundry list of incomplete ideas I continue to nurse because some part of me suspects they will never come to fruition, and so will never have to be endured by readers. These are things you can keep in the drawer of your mind, glittering with unrealized potential. In the top row of my bedroom bookshelf is a copy of Flaubert’s final novel, Bouvard and Pécuchet. Something about it seems appropriate, though I’m not sure exactly what. I pluck it down.
Source: In This Essay I Will: On Distraction | The Paris Review