I admit it. Distraction is a major adversary when it comes to my writing. Every time I’m pinged with a new retweet on Twitter, a new comment on Facebook, a new email, a text message, or even a new thought that pops in my head that must be Googled, I’m taken from my writing and sucked into the never ending vortex of the World Wide Web. I swear to myself that I’ll only check things out for a second. But soon, a few minutes turns into a half hour or more. That’s time wasted on trivial stuff that could have been spent much more creatively – like getting further into the storyline of my book.
The worst part about getting distracted is how hard it is to refocus. It takes time to get back into the heart of what’s being written. A half hour may have been used up by mindless Twittering, but a lot more time is taken by trying to remember where you are in the story, what the characters were feeling, how to get from point A to point B…
This last week, I suffered a major bout of distraction. I had a ton of time set aside to continue writing the sequel of A Symphony of Cicadas. I’ve already transcribed a loose storyline to follow, so it should have been easy to keep the story flowing, right?
I got stuck on one scene of the book, frustrated that it wasn’t forming the way I wanted it to. Instead of sticking with it, I found myself traveling to all my favorite social networks, stalling for time instead of just working through it (or even just skipping it and moving on). As a result, my writing suffered greatly this week.
So this week I’m working on focused writing, freeing myself from the bondage of distractions in efforts to use my writing time much more wisely.
I found a few tips on how to free yourself from distractions from a few other writers. Here are a few of my favorites:
Suzannah Freeman of BetterWritingHabits.com suggests making a list of your top three writing distractions, and then finding a way to banish them during your writing time in the future. For me, that would be the entire internet (especially social networks), my iPhone, and my family (no offense guys, I love you!). I’ve already figured out a way to keep from being distracted by my family, and that’s setting up my writing time before anyone in the house wakes up. But the phone and the internet have become a pretty big problem. So it’s obvious that I will need to set my phone up on “Do Not Disturb”, and maybe even disconnect the internet completely while I’m writing. If I need to research something, I can always look it up later.
Suzannah also advises writers to schedule distractions. Write for 30 minutes, then take a Twitter break. Or write until you’ve reached a certain word count and then give yourself time to surf the net. Set little goals and then reward yourself for time well spent.
Ethan Waldman of cloud-coach.net encourages writing until you’ve finished something before allowing a distraction to take place. Get to the end of the chapter you’re writing. Write a full draft of the blog post you’re working on. Get to a true stopping point so you can completely immerse yourself in whatever you’re writing until the thought is finished. He gives several more really great tips on distraction-free writing in a guest blog post he wrote at goinswriter.com/distraction-free-writing.
Dustin Wax advised scheduling alone time in a past post at Lifehack.org. Become unavailable to everyone around you for a specified amount of time. Turn off the phone. Leave the house. Do whatever it takes to be totally isolated from anyone who thinks they require your attention. They can have it when you’re ready.
And my favorite advice was from Cheryl Strayed at the writing workshop I attended a few weekends back – write like a motherfucker. Take a day or a whole weekend and designate it for just writing. Once it’s set aside, don’t let anyone or anything take it away. That time is for YOU. Use it wisely. Hole up in a hotel room or on top of a mountain – wherever you need to go to not be disturbed. Then, write, write, write until you can’t write anymore. Don’t edit, don’t re-read, don’t research – just write as if your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Anyone else overcoming distractions when writing? How do you keep yourself focused?