The Relentless Fight Against Distraction

posted in: Calling, Writing 4

I’m constantly battling distraction. Back when I was writing Finding Divine Inspiration, before movie clips and GIFs where available on-line, I felt like God gave me a picture and phrase that became the motto of my writing process. It was from the scene in Star Wars where the rebel fighters are making runs to blow up the death star.  The leader (with that authoritative captain tone) admonishes a nervous pilot to “Stay on target….Stay on target!”   The movie clip would play in my imagination every day, sometimes every hour. That simple sentiment was essential to completing the 10 year writing journey.

That idea is more pertinent now than ever. It was difficult enough before the mid-2000’s, with all that life demands.  Now, with our cool devices and connectivity, it can be maddeningly illusive to just Stay. On. Target.

You might recognize these scenarios:

You go online to return a pressing email, but decide to first make a quick visit to CNN to see what’s going on in the world. 3 random stories and 4 videos of sink holes collapsing later, you have no idea who you were supposed to email.

You’re heading to bed and decide to check out your Facebook feed to find maybe one last uplifting video or post to end the day. An hour later you realize the half dozen videos you’ve watched didn’t seem to quite satisfy and you’re long past your target bed time.

You are doing research for an article not unlike this one, and find yourself somehow looking at increasingly bizarre “must read” stories, which mean its takes twice as long as it should to compete the writing task.

If, like me, your sense is that—even taking into account 2017’s increased connectedness–the struggle to stay on target is getting exponentially harder, you are probably correct. Internet gurus develop new ways every day to hook us and keep us clicking to the next story or video or image. 60 Minutes did a report on how Silicon Valley players have taken to “Brain Hacking”; engineering our phones, apps, and social media to get us hooked.   Though it is disturbing, I don’t think most of this is done with malicious intent; most companies are just trying to work their business model and become more profitable.

It’s not yet known the impact all this technological manipulation is having an on our brains. I imagine that at some point there will be a backlash, and maybe a movement to combat the “distraction culture” will surface.

In the meantime, I’ve dusted off that gem of wisdom from 1977 and am increasingly referring to it in the battle to stay focused and fulfill my calling. “Stay on target…Stay on target!”  Maybe it’ll help you, too.


J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration (Destiny Image) and The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation (InterVarsity Press). He directs The New Renaissance Arts Movement and blogs at Reach him at Scott(at)


4 Responses

  1. Ruby Tanaka
    | Reply

    Have been wrestling with this very issue as I begin the upteenth draft of my novel. A novel that my literary agent is WAITING FOR! Ugh!
    As one of the first children in America diagnosed with attention deficit, focus has always been a daunting challenge for me, but with all the trappings of social media it feels doubly so.
    Thank you for the article. It’s made me realize that I’ve got to get extreme with myself about this. Too much is at stake.

    • J Scott McElroy
      | Reply

      Thanks, Ruby! May God give you laser focus and energy to push forward!

  2. Linda Sylvester
    | Reply

    So true! Needed this encouragement today. Thank you!!

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