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Monday, June 25, 2012

WSG 16: Fighting Distractions

Writer's Survival Guide 16: Fighting Distractions

Distractions? What? I would never be distracted while writing. Never.

I wouldn't sit down and click on Internet Explorer, getting sucked into a time warp of Facebook updates and Twitter check-ins. Nope. Not me.

I couldn't imagine blocking off two hours to write, and instead of focusing on my manuscript, hopping up to pay a bill, grabbing yet another cup of coffee, staring out the window, tossing a load of laundry in, and scanning the fridge for the perfect snack. Uh-uh.


Lodi - various distractions
Photo by greceres

Let's face it--no matter how much we love writing--it's a daunting task. Even when we adore our work-in-progress, we still worry the magic will disappear, that we'll hit a major problem midway through, or that we're deluding ourselves and the book really isn't that great. It's natural to allow distractions to keep us from working. I think it's a protective mechanism.

But...

If we want to finish a book, make a deadline, and continue our writing journey, we must fight these distractions!

How? Use as many tricks as necessary.

- Set a timer for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour. For some reason, anything under 60 minutes doesn't freak me out the way 4 hours does!

- Reward yourself for small successes. You revised for 2 hours? Enjoy your favorite beverage. Wrote another chapter? Read for an hour. Figured out the plot problem you've been stewing over all week? Indulge in a treat. For me, it's chocolate!

- Just say no. Fight temptation! If you routinely lose valuable writing time to social media, make the Internet off limits until a certain time of day. If phone calls interrupt your writing time, use call waiting or have your answering machine pick up.

- Schedule the rest of your life around your writing. Let's say you have one hour every night you know you can write. Maybe it's 8:30-9:30. Don't let anything come between you and that time. If someone "desperately" needs something, say a poster board for a report the next day, or you realize you need to wash a special pair of pants--wait until 9:30. I know it's late. I know it's not the best time, but we have to keep our writing time sacred. No one will do this for us.

- Use an accountability partner. If you're stressed about the amount of time you're frittering away, and it's an ongoing problem--say, you've struggled for a month--enlist a friend to help keep you accountable. Maybe you e-mail her after each session and let her know how it went? Or you keep a log of how long you wrote, and how many times you took breaks, etc...

- Schedule your writing-related activities. Sometimes we get distracted from our writing because we're doing tasks that are truly necessary, yet we aren't sure how to fit them in. For most writers, social media is a vital part of their writerly duties. I block off an hour each weekday morning to check e-mails, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and my writer loops. If I have a bit of time left over, I read a few blogs. If I have no time left, I move on.

I'll never be able to eliminate all of my distractions, and I don't want to. Perfection ranks low on my list of aspirations! I just aim to do my best with each day. That's all any of us can do!

How do you fight distractions?

Have a wonderful day!

25 comments:

  1. Jill, I like the idea of blocking off an hour for writing-related activities. I get too caught up in this throughout the day. I think a small amount of time would be very helpful. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Heidi, I tried a "block schedule" for my writing last fall--kind of like high school. I divided up my day into hour increments. I couldn't believe how much I got done! I'm going back to it this fall. :)

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  2. I am learning to ask myself with each activity - "Why am I doing this? Is it necessary, or am I just frittering time?" Once I start thinking purposefully about each thing that I am doing, it helps me to balance. If I'm only checking Twitter because I'm bored, it's easier to recognize that and put it aside, work on my short story outline instead. If I'm on FB because I need to check if my MIL wrote back to me about something crucial for our weekend visit, that's legitimate, and I allow myself a couple minutes to check other things as well. Just asking myself "why" is a tremendous tool for staying focused on my values!

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    1. Louise, that's such great advice. Being intentional makes all the difference in reaching our daily/weekly goals. And I'm with you, sometimes e-mails/FB ARE crucial. We just need to recognize when!

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  3. I have my work times and goals per day and per week and I'm usually good at meeting those goals. Anything above is a bonus. I have no problem shutting of distractions and working. If I am procrastinating I try and figure out why - usually I have a plot problem to work out! :)

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    1. Same here, Laura! Plus, you've launched your career and really have to treat it like a small business--you're doing an amazing job! Congrats on your YA spy books!!

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  4. I do fifteen minute sprints. It doesn't feel like work then...and my butt doesn't get sore.

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    1. Em--great idea! Anything to save our buns!! Miss you!

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  5. The temptation to surf the web and check email and social media constantly has always been a challenge, so I simply vow not to do it for a couple of hours when I need to focus on writing projects. If I really have trouble, I shut off my wireless router (it is a long way away from my office) so I can't access these things. Turning off email and social media alerts usually does the trick though, and turns my media addiction into a reward for getting work done.

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    1. Same here, Michael. Once I make the decision, I'm good at sticking with it. I lose too much time if I go online every 15 minutes!

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  6. I found once I unplugged the modem in the basement, I could work without distractions. And man did my word count climb once I did that. Now I'll go several hours before surfing the web or checking my inbox. :D

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    1. Ooo, smart! And you're getting a workout by having to head to the basement, right? Double goodness! Ha!

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  7. Love all of these ideas. I too am guilty of frittering away time on Facebook and Twitter! Ah! I really like your accountability partner idea. I've done that before. I also like to plan out my week and my goals for that week on Mondays so I know what I HAVE to get done. If I don't get it done, I have to examine why that happened and make a plan to prevent it.

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    1. Lindsay, having an accountability partner really helped me stay positive last fall when I was tempted to be a wreck. It's amazing what an AP can do to help us out! Also, I agree with your method of setting and reviewing goals. Seeing the plain truth each week is enough to keep me working!

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  8. I like the idea of the schedule and rewards. Having a deadline helped me to finish the WIP, and I'm hoping the new deadline to get it revised and sent to the editor will do the same. My big issue is not getting on the Internet and clicking away. Going to try some of your suggestions. Thanks!

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    1. Nice!! I'm sure the new deadline will work just as well! And don't forget, some Internet is a good thing! :)

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  9. I'm really trying to focus on this issue, now that I'm motivated to get my WIP done sometime this year :) I'm trying to block of times of the day for different things, being sure to schedule a good chunk of time for my story. Because this time comes toward the end of the day, I'm trying to use time earlier in the day to think about my story and what I want to write next so when I finally do sit down, I can get right to work, and use that time as well as possible.

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    1. Yay!! You'll get it done. You're a super-motivated writer. And now I have something to look forward to this fall, reading your book--woo-hoo!!

      I like your idea of brainstorming in the morning and writing at night. I'm stealing that one!

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  10. Great strategies, Jill. I think the hardest job for any writer is making writing a priority. We're conditioned to think that everything else should take precedence.

    Perfectionism is also a distraction. It's easy to say we won't do something unless it's done right.

    I fight distractions by disconnecting the computer from the internet and holing myself in the office until my writing quota is done for the day, lol.

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    1. You've got a great strategy! I agree with you on prioritizing and fighting perfection. One of the things I always tell myself is that I will fix it while revising. And I do! :)

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  11. I turn off the TV, phone and internet. It's the only way for me.

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    1. Smart!! I keep a silent house. I do answer the phone if it's my mom or sister--we have a hard time connecting sometimes!--but I'm similar to you. :)

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  12. These are awesome tips. Distractions are everywhere!!! I tend to be very scheduled, but scheduling writing time does me no good if I waste it online. :) One thing that really helps me is software which lets me turn off my Internet for whatever length of time I tell it to. Otherwise, I'm hopeless with social media. :) I also put my phone in another room or turn it off.

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    1. Wow, cool software! That's a great idea! And, please, I've lost HOURS to social media without even realizing it!! I know all about hopeless! Ha!

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  13. These are great suggestions -- thank you (found you via a tweet on @BTMargins) -- I've been struggling with this on and off with my current WIP and all new ideas for fighting distraction are very welcome! For me I really need to turn off the wi-fi to my computer, yet I still find myself trying to check email... and then there's the iphone... as you say, hopeless!

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