52 Ways to Shift Your Focus

Welcome to the next thing at One Minnesota Writer. “52 Ways to Shift Your Focus” is my new weekly feature that will encourage you to get out of your writing chair for a minute.

Writers sit a lot. It’s part of the job. We sit in front of our computers to get the work done. We sit there until our eyes cross and our butts spread. We know we’re supposed to take breaks and move around, take our eyes off the computer screen once in a while to save our vision.

Or is that refocus our vision?

Ah. Just as we shift things around on the page to make the words work better, we need to shift our body around to keep it working at all. And sometimes moving around shifts our focus in just the right way to let a new writing idea hit us right between the eyes. Hey, we might even see it coming if we pay attention.

Photo by Richard Lau
http://freephotos.com/_data/original/1/19113_2011.jpg

So, for the next year, I’ll post ideas that require you to leave your chair, move around somehow, and do something that might require the use of your hands or feet. Something that makes you look away from the computer screen and directly into the face of your own creative process. Or, if you’re quite literal, directly into the face of your garden, food processor, running shoes, local hiking trail, dog, [insert your thing here].

A well-rounded writer, after all, is one who knows that everything we do when we’re away from our desks influences what eventually shows up on the page. If we don’t stand up, walk outside, and engage with the world once in a while, we’ll have nothing to say.

52 WAYS TO SHIFT YOUR FOCUS – Shift #1: Bake Bread, Break Bread

This first shift doesn’t require you to go very far. Baby steps, right?

I’m notorious for either eating at my desk, not bothering to eat until later, or eating in the car while running the errands that I see as distraction from the writing.

But what if I actually took care of myself and made lunch without trying to do anything else at the same time? Without worrying about taking time away from so-called real work?

There have been a lot of recent articles on mindful eating. I’ve read them with interest and thought, yes, that’s something worth practicing. Of course, I forget. And who can be mindful when they’re eating at their desk? That’s right, no one.

Add to that mindful food preparation and now you’ve got an event.

This is so basic and yet who among us really pays attention to that midday meal, if we eat it at all? I think this is a greatly overlooked opportunity to do something kind for yourself and good for yourself. Use that midday meal to recharge in a more engaged way than running through a drive-thru offers.

So, back away from your computer.

Go to the kitchen. See if you’ve got flour, sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil, water, cornmeal, egg.

Go to the nearest market if you have to.

It’s time to bake bread. Here’s a recipe I use all the time: Pillsbury Rustic Italian Bread. Use the directions for the conventional oven method, even if you have a bread machine, because the whole point is to get up close and personal with your food. You need to knead by hand!

This bread has two 40-minute rise times. You could choose to go back to your computer while the bread is rising, if you must. Just know you’ll be getting up between those rise times to punch down dough, shape it into a loaf. If you can actually stay in your desk chair instead of standing by the oven and inhaling while this is baking, then you’re a far better person than I am.

Your first reward is the amazing smell of bread baking in your own house. Your second reward is the taste of fresh bread that you made with your own little writing-cramped hands.

Now, once that bread is done and is cooling on a rack, you’re ready for the next step in your mindful midday repast.

Gather crisp greens, lean turkey, real mayonnaise, a little salt. Slice some of your very own bread.

Stand in your kitchen and make a sandwich as if you were the most important person in the world. Right this minute, you are. Use your best plate for that sandwich. Sit near the window with your meal. Wonder why you haven’t bothered to do this for yourself before. Make a pact to prepare your lunch with care more often.

Maybe next time you can invite another writer to sample your bread and you can both shift your focus.


7 comments

  1. I hate to “break” it to you, but I am SO not a baker. I stay as far away from the kitchen as I can. But I'm happy to visit a bakery for bread, a nice computer diversion. Looking forward to your future suggestions.

  2. I imagine that most people, when diagnosed with diabetes, go into a sort of tailspin. Rob did, in his own way, but mostly he approached the necessity of his having to change his diet with a surprising enthusiasm. As a result, he is eating a much healthier diet. All of our meals are planned and relatively balanced. (We aren't saints!) Last night we had a low-carb pasta casserole with turkey sausage and some vegetables. Plus a small salad on the side. Even our lunches are planned ahead and often include a soup for me and a sandwich for him, some yogurt, and fruit or vegetables. His favorite snack is nuts so we keep them on hand. Even when he works, his lunches are “packed,” including 2 sandwiches, some veggies, some vegetable juice, a sugar free jello, yogurt, 2 fruits, some mixed nuts, and usually a couple of other things. We eat out about once a month, if that often, and use prepackaged/processed foods about once a week. I love preparing our meals. Not only is there a meditative quality to the process but I like to think that I'm burning more calories than I would be if I just threw something in the microwave and pushed a few buttons.

  3. I agree that there is a meditative quality to preparing food. Absolutely. My daughter is a type 1 diabetic and also allergic to legumes, so I really want her to learn how to be happy cooking for herself. My husband is allergic to fish. It's interesting trying to come up with something that works for everyone, sometimes, but I have learned that preparing things from scratch is a lovely skill to have and it is a great stress-reliever, a wonderful way to take care of ourselves.

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