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Turns out if you ignore the end of the world it goes away

Posted March 24 by John Birmingham

Like everyone, I've had a bit of trouble concentrating recently. You know, lots of stuff happening. I've been trying to wrap up the first draft of The Shattered Skies and I'll admit, it's been tough. I was cruising through this manuscript, cranking three or four thousand words a day without breaking a sweat, and then all of a sudden I wasn't.

Instead I was obsessively checking newsfeeds, obsessively hunting stores for pasta and rice, obsessively refreshing my Twitter and Facebook feeds. None of it was helping me focus on work. It was all pretty goddamn stressful, if you want the truth of it. Not just the end of the world, but the way it was interfering with my deadline.

So yesterday I took some time out. I dipped into my copy of a pre-release book I've been sent, The Organised Writer, by Antony Johnston. You may know Antony, you may not. But you would know his work. He's prolific.

This is one of his...

I promised him I'd look at an early copy of his new book and give him a cover quote if I liked it. I did like what I initially read, but then, you know… The end of the world got in the way.

By happy coincidence I put down The Organised Writer just before the most useful chapter, so when I returned to it yesterday it was like a cool drink of water in the desert; a discussion of how important it is to keep your mind clear at the start of the day.

I have not been doing this of late because, you know, the end of the world and everything.

This morning then, I took Antony's advice and cut myself off from all distraction. You might think that's something I do every day, but not like this. I refused to read the news, to check my email, to listen to the radio in the car, to play a podcast, to do anything that might suck me into the vortex that the whole world is currently disappearing down.

It was a merciful release. It's just after 5 o'clock now and I first checked today's news about half an hour ago. I stopped after a couple of minutes. It was super fucking stressful. Because of course it was. Nothing is getting better. It's only going to get worse for a considerable time yet.

The information I needed, I mostly already have. Stay the fuck home. Wash your damn hands. I'm not going to apply for any of the relief packages of programs the government is putting together so I don't need to stick my head into the cyclonic howling shit show of their massive incompetence – which is a relief, really.

There is likewise nothing to be gained from social media. In many ways it's less horrific than normal, because people are making an effort to pull together. That's nice. But going there means diving deep into the end of the world again. And frankly, I'm over it.

So I worked on my book, I'm writing this blog post, I'll write another one, and now I'm going to go check my email.

If you are feeling desperate, anxious, whatever, I suggest you try take a break from the news yourself.

I will provide appropriately distracting content on the morrow.

11 Responses to ‘Turns out if you ignore the end of the world it goes away’

insomniac mumbles...

Posted March 24
I can save you a lot of time regarding the news.

1. Cases will still be doubling every 3 to 3.5 days (and I think it's accelerating)
2. Scott Morrison (and the whole government) will still be shit
3. Communication will still be poor
4. Muppets will still be muppets

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted March 24
I found last week was a roller coaster in exactly the way you described. I'm incredibly fortunate to not normally suffer from anxiety but last week was hugely stressful and anxious. This week I've been better simply because my employer gave us a clear plan about working from home. I'm new in this role so still on probation, and I found myself fretting about whether we'd shut the offices down and go on unpaid leave etc. Being a single income household that was a stressful prospect.

But your suggestion about going dark on the news is a great one; I start working from home tomorrow and I'm going to implement this for the day and see how my concentration and stress levels go :)

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Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted March 24
In 1978 a band called The Sweet released a song called "Love is like Oxygen". Yes Burgers I am that old. You probably know it too. It you don't it's this one:

At the moment you can swap out news intake for oxygen as well - please keep breathing though. I check out the news at the moment once a day the old fashioned way: the eight o clock news bulletin on tv. If in the meantime shit is going down, I will get push message on my phone, so when an asteroid is dropping down on us, split pea soup and salted herring are banned or something similar happens I am warned.

As JB said: we all now know the drill. Let's all keep sane and KBO ... Keep buggering on Burgers, KBO.

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jl mutters...

Posted March 24
There is a trick to dealing with extreme stress. Focus on exactly one thing.

This can be something very simple, like putting on your boots. It can be something very complex, such as a large-scale operation with a lot of people involved. If simple, one action completes a discrete task. If complex, break it down to separate simple tasks. One action completes a discrete and necessary part of the total equation. Give yourself a realistic daily goal, execute the simple tasks. Build in appropriate time; i.e. if you think something will take x amount of hours, plan for 2x. Anything involving other people that is time sensitive allow at least 3x.

It all starts, however, with putting on your boots and taking the first step. Finally, never be afraid to pull people in or to delegate sub-tasks. It will make for a stronger final product.

Last thought? My bud Howard says when you think you can't go another step, just make that next step no matter what. One step adds up to a thousand. This is the guy who went through the Q-Course with a gunshot wound in his thigh.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted March 24
I bounce between anger and fear.
Anger because smart people have been warning about this for decades. Decades. Our society is almost purpose built for catastrophic pandemic.
Also we are one misfolded protein, or a slight change in a lipid later from Project Blue.
Fear because La Bobette is an ICU nurse, Show quality grand-daughter is under 2 and my Mum is 79. And we are governed by dyspeptic arse-monkeys on meth.

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 24
Lipid *layer*

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Spanner reckons...

Posted March 25
Adapting to working from home is weird. MrsS is working at the other end of the house working and Mr19 is working doing IT help desk from his room.

At work I’m extroverted and do a lot work face to face. The isolation is difficult.

For a while we all had our doors shut to concentrate. Now they are all open. The sounds of office conversations as we all make phone calls give a veneer of normality.

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted March 25
I've been too busy fighting with the fucking abortion of an LMS called Blackboard in order to "teach" (what a fucking lark!) online.

So, what is going on?

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Halwes ducks in to say...

Posted March 30
Good advice mate. It's easier for us in the bush to turn the world off than you I reckon. I've been listening to the Melbourne Ska Orchestra instead of switching the news on. What a great group of uplifting musicians they are. Nikki Bomba for PM ! One funny aspect of this whole thing. A lifelong Yolngu mate, Barayuwa, and I were having coffee and discussing the edict that all Aborigines should go back to the homelands to wait this out. Barayuwa said " 50 years ago they told us not to set up outstation communities, then they tried to starve us out of the outstaions calling them cultural museums etc and now thay are telling us to go back there". Can't blame Yolngu for being terrified and confused. Chronic illness and overcrowding in urban centres will be fatal to many. The World Health organisation website is the only one that should be counted on for information in my opinion. Some of my mates on farcebook have been coming out with the most ridiculous theories that I've ever heard and once chinese whispers have taken off then ridiculous becomes farcical. I have dusted off my copy of The Plague by Albert Camus to see what might be still up the sleeves of "the authorities". My concern is that this issue will accelerate the world's slide in to authoritarianism as the preferred form of government.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 1
just occurred to me.
I never thought we’d see a limit or boundary of the influence of Clubs NSW.
Closing the pokies is possibly the most interesting thing of this Fed Gov’s Covid19 actions.

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted April 2
Obviously they could have just moved the pokies so that there were further apart from each other.

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