Andrea Lani
Mother ~ Nature ~ Writer
“The power to concentrate was the most important thing. 
Living without this power would be like opening one’s eyes 
without seeing anything.” 
~ Haruki Murakami, "The Elephant Vanishes"
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to an episode of the radio program Hidden Brain about how the constant interruptions of modern life interfere with our ability to  do what one of the show's interview subjects, Cal Newport, calls "deep work."

This topic resonated with me. When I was working full time in a cubicle and raising three kids and trying to complete an MFA program, I desperately craved what I called "head space"—that quiet, uninterrupted zone where your imagination can chase thought-threads wherever they take you. All my short stories from the time included scenes where a character was driving in a car, because that was the only time I got to be alone with my thoughts. My dream vacation was a sensory-deprivation chamber.

Even though I have been freed from the cubicle environment and have hours of time each day uninterrupted by my family, I have, over the last year, been unable to concentrate as deeply as I wanted to. Distractions—the phone, social media, political crises, storm days and holidays, laundry and housework—encroach on my head space and prevent me from doing deep work. I was starting to fear that I'm not smart enough to accomplish all I want, with this book and other projects in the wings.

After listening to the radio show, however, I decided to implement a deep work practice in my days. I didn't do anything fancy or complicated—I put my cell phone out of reach, closed all tabs on my computer that didn't have anything to do with my writing, and I ignored the home phone when it rang.

The transformation was dramatic and immediate: I completed more work in the first day than I usually get done in a week. It was addictive, too. The more deep work I did, the more I wanted to do. I wouldn't have gotten up from my chair if my fitness device didn't remind me once an hour that I hadn't moved. By the end of the week, I was exhausted, but I had accomplished so much and I felt great!

I worry about my kids in this screen-centric and interrupting world. It's one of the reasons I took them on a six-week hike through the wilderness. I worry about society, too. What will happen to innovation and creativity (both of which we so desperately need to solve the problems we're creating) when most people can't focus for more than two minutes without a ping from their phone drawing their attention away?

If you feel frazzled and distracted—and who doesn't these days, this time of year?—I encourage you to give deep work a try. Whether you're knitting a sweater, writing a legal brief, or having lunch with a friend, tell yourself that this is sacred time, and create a dome around you and your work that doesn't allow for the shallow and steady flow of interruption. I think you'll be pleased with the results.
Upcoming Workshops
January 20: 
Winter Nature Journaling ~ Trees
Viles Arboretum, Augusta 

Plan a custom workshop
New Website
After ten years of blogging at,
I've decided to move on and
will wrap up my blog in January.
Visit me at my new online home:
Writing and Editing

I offer copy writing, copy editing, proofreading, and content editing services for all types of projects.

How I can help your writing shine.

Literary Mama
I'm an editor in the Literary Reflections department at the online journal Literary Mama. We seek great essays about the intersection of motherhood and literature.
Submissions guidelines.
Many warm holiday wishes and peace in the new year to you and yours. 
~ Andrea
Copyright © 2017 Andrea Lani, All rights reserved.

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