On Distraction and Inconvenient Inspiration

It’s remarkably easy to get distracted. Look at me, right now, writing a blog post instead of reading Spivak. The issue isn’t that I don’t want to read Spivak. The issue is that I’ll be reading Spivak, and all of a sudden she’ll mention something about myth and then next thing you know I’m thinking about how much I liked my Classical Mythology class junior year and then I’ll start thinking about SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE and the article they posted on twitter a couple weeks ago on MLK day about Martin Luther King Jr. and Socrates and wasn’t that fascinating and then my mind wanders over to thinking about how genealogies of texts and authorship build on one another and wouldn’t it be grand if we actually had more of what was written and thought in the past because just think of all that lost knowledge and that would be pretty much the number one reason I’d want to travel with the Doctor, definitely Thirteen, she’s my new favorite because as much as I like Ten he points and laughs at archaeologists…

And on it goes, and all the while I’m still scrolling through the PDF and it’s only once I’ve gotten to the end of the section I’m supposed to be reading that I realize I have no idea as to what my eyes have been gazing at for the past ten minutes because I was too busy daydreaming about how whatever looping train of thought I’m in could be turned into a blog post or essay or some other form of creative project. Hence, why I’m drafting this now, because I really do need to get that reading done, but sometimes the writing just needs to wring itself out before I can get on with what I’m actually supposed to be doing, which is actually quite frustrating, but c’est la vie.

The thing that fascinates me about this preface — which, by the way, what I’m reading is Spivak’s preface to Derrida’s Of Grammatology — is that I’m reading commentary written in English that is reflecting upon the influences of texts written by Nietzsche in German on Derrida who wrote in French. And isn’t that amazing? Translation as it pertains to the exchange of philosophical ideas is so nuanced, it baffles the mind. And I’m not the first person who has thought of this — not by a long shot. I was reading After Babel by George Steiner for my Ethics & Translation course, and within that text he discusses the very issue of translating philosophy and how nearly and actually impossible it is, even that there are concepts in some languages that simply do not exist in others. There is an idea that some day the language might evolve such that it will be translatable, but for the moment it lays outside our grasp.

Honestly language fascinates me, and sometimes I get so caught up in it that I can hardly concentrate on anything else. This is obviously less than ideal when I am supposed to be reading and concentrating on a text because my thoughts will be completely adrift and then I’ll have to flip back or scroll up until I get to the last part I remember. It’s why whenever I am reading something that I know I’m going to need to come back to I always make a point to take small notes as I read, either in a notebook, or in sticky notes that I put inside the book. Sometimes, if I own the book, I write in the margins with pencil, but not often. To be honest I only really do that with my Harry Potter books, and that’s just because I’m a nerd, and because  I write about Harry Potter a lot.

Writing and reading are two of my favorite activities, but often I find that they are at war with each other. As I mentioned above, sometimes I’m reading and I am forced to stop because of the need to write, but other times I’ll be writing and I get the urge to doubt check something and I’ll get caught up reading. Basically what I’m getting at here is that the world is a distraction, and when inspiration strikes I can’t help but take advantage of it. The exception to this, of course, is when I need to hit a deadline — that’s when the razor focus kicks in. Fortunately I’m pretty good at planning ahead so that usually doesn’t happen, but some things just end up slipping through the cracks on occasion, and there’s not much that we can do about it when that happens other than damage control. 🤷🏽



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