How to Overcome Distractions—Oh Hey! Is that a Squirrel?

You’re going to see a lot of advice on this blog, covering a lot of different issues. Like how to structure a story or do an outline or what to do with a character that seems flat. And this advice comes from people who are well suited to give it. (Have you seen Rebekah’s outlines? They’re epic. Seriously).

What am I suited for? Well…

Today, I am going to talk about distractions.

For me, my major obstacle in writing is distractions. I get distracted. A lot. I’ll sit down to write, and suddenly—oh look! Someone tweeted me! Or, hey, I forgot to unload the dishwasher, better do that now… I put down my pen and wander off. And it’s not just hours later until I find myself back in the chair, it could be days.

(Seriously. Do not ask me about last week. Just don’t.)

Distractions. Gets me every time.

I am nowhere near qualified to sell you some fool-proof system of overcoming distractions in your own writing (or life, for that matter). I mean, look at my last week (which I remind you again do not ask me about). But I have collected a few tricks over the years that sort of help when I’m my most distracted, and they might help you, too.

1)      Internet, Thou Foul Beast

The Internet, hands-down, is the most distracting presence in my life. It doesn’t take much for its siren call to beckon me into its dark corridors. I can find myself whiling away days on the internet, if I’m not careful. And no matter how much I can try to myself that it’s “research,” I am not actually writing if I’m goofing off on the inter-webs.

So, I turn it off.

There. Easy. And I don’t turn it on again until I reach my word count/finish my scene/fold my laundry/whatever.

2)       Kitchen Timers, Thy Greatest Resource

Even with the internet off, I can still find ways to distract myself. Like, with random household chores that I have built up around the house. Suddenly, they look much more appealing now that I’m faced with a heart-wrenching emotional scene where I have to shoot my MC. (Oh God, I told you to not ask about last week!) So, when faced with a choice of impending pain or doing the dishes, I will choose the dishes.

(Oddly, when I absolutely have to do household chores, I’ll procrastinate by writing. Go figure).

This is when kitchen timers work really well. Just set one of those suckers for 10, 15, 20 minutes, and it is amazing how much work you can get done knowing that when it rings, you have free reign to get up and do something else.

And the surprising part is that most of the time, once I’m in the midst of writing, I’ll keep writing, despite the timer having gone off. It’s like a placebo—I just have to use it to get into the mindset of writing, and I’ll keep going on my own accord.

3)      A Change of Locale is a Wondrous Thing

Sometimes, sometimes… you just need to change locations. I do a lot of writing at home. Which is nice, I mean, all my stuff is here.

But, it’s also bad, because all my stuff is here. And I find myself watching television, or playing video games, or cleaning out the closet (holy crap, I didn’t know I owned this!) instead of writing.

And that’s the time to pack it up, and head somewhere else.

I find myself frequenting the local bookstore more often than not. They’ve got a little café and relatively comfortable chairs and pretty much all the coffee I can drink (as long as I have my credit card!) I find that I can get a lot of writing done there with very little effort. Just the change of location really helps me focus my attention on getting done what needs to get done: which is, of course, writing.

And if none of these things work? Well, then I don’t know. This is all I’ve got in my twenty (cough-something-cough) years. If you have any suggestions for overcoming distractions, please comment! I’d love to hear them!

Now, get back to writing!

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6 thoughts on “How to Overcome Distractions—Oh Hey! Is that a Squirrel?

  1. In my life by far the best help I have for overcoming distractions is my kid. You’d think it would be the other way around but no. I guess it’s akin to the kitchen timer in a way…when you know nap time or playtime will only be so long and then you won’t be able to write for the rest of the day even if you want to, you really get your butt in gear!

  2. Re Internet Distraction:

    There’s an app called StayFocusd. I know there are versions for Firefox and Chrome, and it’s awesome. You can have it just block specific websites (I know Tumblr is a weakness for you, Eris :P), or you can set it to ‘Nuclear Mode’ and have it block the entire internet for a specific period of time.

    It’s how I finished that major first round of edits on Catalyst for the Curiosity Quills contest.

    • Thanks! I knew that there were programs that do that. However, being a notebook writer-type person, I usually just close my laptop when I need to buckle down and write. Not being able to actually see the screen seems to help a lot for me. 😉 But for those of you who type directly onto the computer… yes, a program like this would help a lot! Thanks, Rebekah!

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