Why learning Italian is bad for my writing

You’d think it would be a good thing, right? Learning more about language through another language, exploring how the puzzle pieces fit together, reveling in the music (la musica!) of it.

Since I’ve started to learn Italian by listening to learn-Italian CDs in my car on the way to work, I’ve found it harder to write when I pull into a parking space and turn the car off. I generally read some poems first, and that helps sometimes. But later, when I’m walking by the creek, instead of observing the grasses and birds and emptying my mind to receive images, receive poem sparks, I’m rehearsing Italian, conjugating verbs, making up sentences in my head–very simple sentences.

I thought about maybe listening to NPR on the way to work and listening to Italian only on the way home, but I forget to switch to the tuner, and after the voices start asking me questions, I just respond–or I repeat simple words and phrases, which is a kind of comfort.

What ignites your writing? What distracts you from it?