Friday, May 21, 2010

Distractions and How to Fight Them

Distractions are a writer’s worst enemy. They slow us down, they break our train of thought, they stop us from doing the one thing we were born to do: write.

Today I have a sick cat to worry about. My thoughts keep straying away from my writing because of it. I also have some council tree cutters in my front yard. There’s nothing like the sound of a chainsaw to distract. This week I’ve also been sick and it’s so easy to use that excuse to distract me from my writing.

So, how do we fight these distractions?

Find the best time for you to write. This varies for every writer. I write best in the morning when my brain is still fresh. The neighbour’s kids have gone to school, my husband has gone to work, and the house is mostly quiet. I guard this time carefully.

Use music. If it’s horrible noise that’s distracting me, then I put some great writing music on. It helps me focus. I can’t use any music with lyrics because the words distract me, so I’ve made up a playlist of instrumental background music. It depends on how bad the outside distractions are as to how loud I turn up the music. Sometimes I even have to go so far as to use my headphones to block everything else out.

Fight temptation. Don’t tell yourself you’ll only watch 30mins of TV if you know it will likely end up being an hour or more. Don’t get yourself a snack if you know you are only eating because it’s a distraction. Don’t start a job if you know you can’t finish it before your scheduled writing time begins.

Decide not to be distracted. The mind is a powerful thing. We can deicide against anything that lures us away from our writing. I can write this piece without allowing the chainsaw outside to grab at my thoughts. I don’t have any music on either because I made the decision that I would write now.

Allow the distraction. This might sound strange since we are trying to fight it, but sometimes we must give distractions our attention. Children can’t be ignored. A kitchen burning down can’t be ignored. A cat demanding a pat can’t be ignored. Often we feel better after giving these things some time. Often our minds are clearer and we are more able to write.

These are just a few suggestions. Perhaps you can think of some more? What are your worst distractions? What do you do to fight them?


  1. Decide not to be distracted...
    Allow the distraction.

    VERY WISE and helpful! Sometimes I try to write or read and the distractions make me crazy...They shouldn't and can't be ignored! There are times I just allow the distractions and I shouldn't.

    Very helpful...Love the new blog! I'm following!


    PS Hope your kitty feels better!

  2. We definitely have distractions in our life. The area of prayer is where the devil can distract the most. Maybe with something that is silly as a crooked curtain or noticing the dust bunnies.

  3. Lisa, yeah, the ditractions drive me crazy too, but when they drive me craziest it's because I want to give myself an excuse not to work through a writer's block or something similar.

    Aliene, ah, yes, those dust bunnies are terrible distractions. Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.

  4. I have the SF Masterworks edition of 'Eon' with an endless futuristic corridor on the cover- I saw the asteroid one too!

  5. Ee Leen Lee - nice one. I really enjoyed that book.

  6. I tend toward the "Allow" end of things the most. For one, I have found that the things that I fight (especially in my mind) get bigger and more unmanageable. Alternatively, if I just tell my brain it has x number of minutes (or seconds) to deal with said distraction and then it's back to work, that often does the trick.

    And I love music when I write! I have the same deal with it as you do, Lyn. Instrumentals only. Try this sometime: Go to and make a station based upon "Star Wars Film Score". Makes the *best* writing mix! :)

  7. Oh yeah, and "Decide not to be distracted". BRILLIANT! :)

  8. Oh Nim - yep I so hear you. I fight the distractions until they get too big or too important to ignore. And yes, setting a set time for the distraction is great too.

    I'm going to have to check out I used to stream my music but my husband said I was using too much I'm kinda getting bored of my current playlist. I'm going to have to buy some new music. I like the idea of the Star Wars film score. Film scores are the best to write to because they are so moving or exciting and adventuruos (depending on what you're writing. Actually...this could be another blog post! ;)


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.