A Man Will Distract You From Your Work...But How Much is Too Much?

Shonda Rhimes
By Veronica Wells 

Shonda Rhimes shared more than a few gems in her memoir Year of Yes. But it was her thoughts on marriage that have haunted me, especially since I'm embarking on marriage within the next few months. In the book, one of the reasons Rhimes says she won’t marry is because she does not want a man distracting her from her work. Mind you Rhimes has three children. But the love she feels for her children overrides the feelings of frustration she might feel if one of them were to need her while she was in the groove of writing. But a man being or causing a distraction to the work she loves and cherishes, she couldn’t rationalize.

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She writes:
“He would move in here? With me? And the kids? Live here? With me? I would have to talk to him all the time. See him every single day. Be aware of him. Hand him even more of my energy and focus. It is incredibly hard to fit him in now. And I don’t mean that as an insult. I mean that as truth. All of my free time, I spend with the kids and then my friends and my family. There’s a certain amount of time alone I need just to have the brain space to write, to have what I call mental pantry time. I already give up some time from each to see him. He kindly offers, “I can just hang out here while you write. We don’t have to talk. I just want to be with you.” You and I are close friends now, reader. So you know how I feel about writing. Writing is the hum. Writing is laying track. Writing is the high.”
She likens writing to running five miles, ignoring distractions like brownies, daydreams about Idris Elba, watching “Game of Thrones.” And then she imagines being tempted, distracted by a man, a man she loves knocking on her door to ask her if she wants coffee or water and then she has to start running those five miles again—from the beginning.
“I try to imagine if it weren’t my kids. I try to imagine willingly adding him to the mix. Why would I do that to myself? To him? It makes me feel trapped. Caged.”
Rhimes said the thought of being married for just two months used to give her a headache.

Since the day I’ve read the words, the idea of men and relationships as a distraction to work have had me slightly shook. Mostly because I know she’s right. Unlike Rhimes, I’ve always wanted to get married, and like I said, I plan on doing so in the next couple of months. But while marriage is something I want, the distraction is...a concern, an unintended side effect.

I write in as close to complete silence as I can get. But my fiancĂ© is a musician. And as many romantic notions surround that concept--and as romantic as it can be, the larger reality is that he specializes in noise. In the moments where I’m trying to write and he’s just around--he’s creating noise. Whether he’s absent-mindedly drumming on something or literally playing YouTube videos featuring a screaming baby, there is noise. I’ve had to angrily or guilitly dismiss him for hours at a time and then apologetically (if I was rude) or sweetly reunite once my work is finished.

As someone who has never been good with juggling relationships, my me-time, and now intense work, it’s a lot.

But unlike Shonda, I’ve accepted to just deal. And I wonder if this decision to just deal separates the unknown bloggers and journalists from the woman who created an entire night of television. I’m sure there’s a correlation. (See also: Oprah...another unmarried woman.)

I think one of the reasons I’ve been able to allow this distraction is because of the way my fiancĂ© has encouraged me and my work in other ways. Whether through his own work ethic, discipline and dedication to his craft, or the words and massages he offers when I find myself overwhelmed or discouraged, I’ve found more often than not that his love not only inspires but actually fuels me to do my work.

What I’m learning is that not all distractions are created equal. My last relationship was also distracting but certainly not in the best way. There were certainly encouraging words but his lack of personal discipline and complete confusion when it came to what should have been his craft, meant that I spent a lot of time and energy soothing anxieties and insecurities--at the expense of my own work. Looking back, I can say that playing therapist is far more time consuming than telling someone to use headphones or leave the room. I tell people within a month of ending that relationship, I became the most productive I’ve ever been in my life, eventually publishing a whole book.

What I’m saying is--and what Shonda said-- is that loving anyone is at least partially about allowing for distractions to other areas of your life--especially work. The trick is finding the people who prove to be or you deem worthy of the sacrifice.

Has a man ever distracted you from your work? How do you know when it’s a good distraction versus one that’s costing you too much?
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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