What I’ve Learned About Diversions and Distractions

photography of book page

Many diversions can be quite enjoyable, serving their purpose in the name of work-life harmony. Indulging in hobbies and other recreational activities is necessary for all of us to maintain our overall well-being. We all lose ourselves in a good book, become mesmerized by a favorite TV show, or succumb to the rapturous embrace of an immersive role playing video game.

But, while being able to unwind and relax is a necessary part of work-life balance, there lies a darker side with our delightful diversions. While their hypnotic allure beckons us to leave the drudgery of daily life behind, these diversions can metamorphose into insidious distractions. If we’re not careful with keeping work and play in balance, our recreations begin to stealthily devour precious time, leaving us adrift in a sea of unfinished work and unmet deadlines.

Through my various trysts and escapades with my overindulgence in recreations, I’ve learned that the key to striking a balance between leisure and productivity is to set boundaries for myself. I’ve learned to confine my indulgences to brief interludes, when I can allow certain mobile games to divert me with their short-term goals  When I limit my indulgences to self-imposed short breaks, I can stay focused and maintain my momentum with my creative work.

Nevertheless, discipline remains a fickle friend, often requiring the aid of external forces. Accountability partners and digital timers become watchful guardians, though their presence sometimes only serves to make the allure of diversions more potent. My discipline was never more tested than during my several years as a creative freelancer. The unpredictable ebbs and flows of available work allowed for diversions to transform into dangerous sirens, tempting me to embrace their comforting illusions.

Sometimes, I’d be drowning in a deluge of projects, while at other times I was left gasping in the barren abyss of idleness. Initially, a surplus of free time appeared as a welcome respite from demanding clients. But soon enough, I’d realize that I couldn’t simply sit idly by and do nothing. After all, as a freelancer, every moment not working was a moment I wasn’t making money.

The diversions would prove useful distractions during moments of creative strain or overload. But during those inevitable valleys of idleness, they became impossible to resist. Social media became my worst enemy, lulling me into a stupor the way millions of others are by mindless TV shows. The result was a gnawing sense of guilt and unease, as time would slip through my fingers like play sand.

Having lost so much time to idle diversions that should’ve been spent on more productive pursuits, I’ve come to understand that left unchecked, diversions can morph into crutches, enabling the evasion of work’s challenges and responsibilities. Though often arduous, productive work bestows financial stability, purpose, and fulfillment.

Determined to chart a new course towards prosperity, I finally resolved to transform the voids in my work schedule into new opportunities for growth. My penchant for trading card games such as Magic the Gathering metamorphosed into a monetized endeavor. Though quite modest in revenue, it offered a springboard to hone my skills in SEO, online research, and article writing.

Even as I indulged in diversions, I ensured they were imbued with intention and purpose. I allowed them to be a rejuvenating respite rather than a hindrance. My diversions blossomed into a cornucopia of potential blog topics, filling my writing notebooks with all the questions fellow trading card game enthusiasts would ask.

I would eventually expand into Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon, even branching out into the proper video games for content. Turning my greatest diversions into a side hustle felt like a major victory for me. Many of those articles still exist in one form or another online today, some of which still bring me organic search traffic. Unfortunately, this victory would eventually turn into a bitter defeat, as it ultimately became a terrible distraction from all of my other work.

After a few years, I crossed paths with other content creators who made it their mission to discredit me and talk ill of my opinions on various decks and cards. While I did get through a lot of this flak mostly unscathed as far as rankings and views, the abuse took a major toll on my mental and emotional health. Meanwhile, my affiliate programs ended up cutting their revenue sharing percentages, to a point where it was no longer worth it for me to expend hours on creating this content at all.

Yet I persisted, continuing to create the content, eventually for no financial gain whatsoever. My hope was that I could become a guest poster on a prominent trading card game website. But site after site, I was told that I’d have to contribute an article for free, with very little monetary compensation for future contributions. After these frustrating misses, I resolved to simply write these gaming articles for my own pleasure.

Finally in 2022, I realized that while my Pokemon, Magic, and Yu-Gi-Oh articles were getting plenty of search traffic, I was getting nothing out of them besides page views. The high search rankings of those articles, while notable, felt hollow to me. I eventually had to make drastic changes in my life to divert myself to more productive avenues. 

In early 2023, I banished all my trading cards to a bin in the basement, plus ended up selling my Nintendo Switch and all of its games to someone local. I decided to reinvest my hobby time to reading books and researching a wide array of niche articles for my new website Obscure Curiosities. By casting a wider net, I could resist the urges of pigeonholing myself into a niche where I wasn’t respected or appreciated, but stubbornly continued to pursue for no reward to myself.

But these gaming articles were not a waste, although I certainly invested far more time than I should have in them. Some will reemerge in somewhat different forms over at Obscure Curiosities, and for their existence as content fodder I continue to be grateful. What’s more important is the practice I got from creating this content, which allowed me to simultaneously learn and grow as a content creator.

In the end, the greatest lesson I learned is that diversions only become a malevolent force of distraction when they become an excuse for idleness, hindering our growth and potential. Instead, to combat diversions from becoming distractions, everything I do now becomes a potential blog topic. With this approach, my writing notebook files continue to be filled with years worth of potential topics. This way, I enable myself to savor my diversions without sacrificing the fulfillment that comes with the creative expression of my passions.

Now that I’m no longer a freelancer, all I have are my own interests to make into constructive ventures. What I’ve resolved to do is never again give into a single niche, keeping my lifelong learning on a steady diet of interdisciplinary education. I invite all of you, my dear readers, to follow this example. After all, by consistently expanding our knowledge and perspectives, we can live a more fulfilling and productive existence.

~ Amelia Desertsong, April 22, 2023

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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