Entry 40: Mandatory and Not-So-Mandatory Distractions

February 7, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 40th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?


Today was full of mandatory distractions from writing. I’m supervising some master’s theses that are close to deadline, still nugging away at preparing curriculum for the upcoming term, doing some quick-turn editorial work, and trying to nail down logistics for an upcoming conference. I put in just under 500 words. Tomorrow will be better.

I managed to spend minimal time on twitter today, though a film producer contacted me out of the blue and I found myself spending way too much time daydreaming about the various possibilities. There’s a 95 percent chance he just wants me to consult on a North Korea project or do an interview, but not knowing for sure makes the mind ponder.

Here’s what I’m doing to try and get the Twitter impulse under wraps. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t hop online until after I’ve done some stretches and showered. I’m always curious about what happened overnight and what’s waiting in my inbox, but it’s satisfying to assert control of myself. When I’m eating, I also stay offline. And at least one hour before bed, I put the devices away. Practice makes habit.

When I go Twitter-mad, it is the times in between. Riding public transportation, standing in line, walking from A to B — all times when I’ll check Twitter and offer mostly unsolicited hot takes on what’s happening. Even engaging social media during these windows feels like it’s eroding my patience or tolerance muscle, but I justify it by telling myself that these are transient periods of time where I’d otherwise be worthless.

The real struggle is when I’m writing and need to hop online to search for leads or look something up. It’s very hard not to just type “tw…” in the browser and let auto-complete whisk me into the crack den that is twitter. I have a hardcore self-disciplining mechanism for when I’m really stymied from writing, but it’s too severe to resort to it everyday. It’s so bizarre feeling chained to social media when you genuinely hate social media, but that’s my situation.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review.