Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Fight Distractions

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.

So, how can we fight these distractions?

Find the best time 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.

Find the best place to write.
I have a writing office and desk and spread my mess out there, but I'm more comfortable writing on the couch. In winter I open up the front windows and the sun pours in.

Use music. If it’s horrible noises 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 sound of a 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?

This is a repost that I've edited. It's the 3rd post I ever wrote on this blog and it got a grand 4 comments.

60 comments:

  1. Just make the decision to do it!
    Writing helps me. Puts me in the right mood.

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  2. My life has been a series of distractions the past month or so. But I think I'm finally settling back into a routine. I agree with Alex. Make up your mind and just do it.

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  3. from four to almost 100 comments, that's a huge jump :)

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  4. I agree with Alex, just make the decision to do it.

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  5. Great piece,great advice...especially the one of deciding, making up my mind to not be distracted. Thanks.

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  6. Great advice! To avoid food distractions, I've kept snack items in my work area along with a bottle of water. I still have phone distractions, but trying to figure that one out. I've thought about setting office hours and only replying to texts or messages left if they are important, otherwise they wait until after my set writing time. I also need to leave the computer off during my writing time because I'll start checking emails, facebook or Twitter. Next thing you know, time is gone. I no longer play solitaire on the computer. That was a real time zapper.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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    1. I've been in two minds about bringing bottled water in to my writing area. It's good for me to get up and walk around on occasion otherwise I could all too easily sit there all day. Mind you, if I'm drinking lots of water...
      Nevermind :)

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  7. I just tie my kids up with duct tape and put them to bed. lol

    No, I don't. Great post on distractions and how to deal with them.

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  8. I like the last one. Sometimes when I'm craving chocolate I find it's better to just cave in and have it. Otherwise I'll snack on everything else I find first and then eat the chocolate too. Same with writing distractions. Just get the internet sprint out of the system and then sit down and get busy. I also find that showing up at the same time everyday to write makes it easier to focus for that alloted time.

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    1. see, I start like that and it all goes to pot. Except with chocolate. The theory I have with chocolate is to buy only the best, the most expensive, and that way I'll really appreciate it rather than quaff it.

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  9. My worst distraction is the Internet. I have this bad habit of reading random news articles online, because it's so much easier to read those than to work on whatever I'm supposed to be working on. I think the hardest part is getting started; once I get into the flow of working, it's much easier to keep working without being distracted.

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  10. I love your snaking observation. I have way too many snacks near me. Not only do I not write, I'm getting super chubby! Gotta do the bottle water suggestion.

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  11. Lyn, you nailed it. Loved this post.

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  12. You've been tagged to join the Great Star Wars Blogathon! Details here: http://www.troublewithroy.com/2012/03/so-you-say-youve-got-this-idea-on-how.html

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    1. oh! It has Star Wars in it...sounds cool! I'll check it out!

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  13. Great post, as always! For me, I turn off my wi-fi, silence my phone. I also find, for me, that it helps to have the same stopping point every time. Each day might be different, but I know I'm not going to stop writing until the clock rolls around to X o'clock (burning kitchens aside).

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  14. Distractions, ugh. I still get sucked in even when I don't have the time. It helps if I turn off all my email, facebook, twitter alerts for my computer. And music, like you said. Music definitely gets me in the zone. Thanks for the post.

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  15. #3 works especially well for me. oddly, Iron Maiden is my 'productivity music'. I think I conditioned myself to be more focused whenever it's on while at University, so now it helps to cut out the distractions. Go Maiden!

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    1. Gotta love conditioning! It's all about what works for you :)

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  16. Very important not to ignore the cats -- they'll never forgive you!

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    1. and I have the scratches to prove it ;)

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  17. It took me years to avoid writing distractions. I do the following:

    *write late at night or early in the morning
    *listen to music when I draft and revise, but no music when editing since that doesn't work for me
    *write on my Alphasmart or disconnected laptop to avoid the internet

    Great post, Lynda.

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  18. Oh I so need help with avoiding distractions.. you're blog is exactly what I need right now... thanks;)

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  19. What 'writing music' do you use? I put music on and then I get distracted by trying to sing along with it.

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    1. Yep, that's why I only use instrumental music. No songs to sing along to. My current favourite is the soundtrack from The Dark Knight.

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  20. Great suggestions! I agree that if you put your mind to it and say you won't let yourself get distracted, that's half the battle.

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  21. Great list! A routine definitely helps, as does to keep down the distractions. Getting started is half the battle, but keeping on task is just as important. I make sure to turn my email notification off!

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    1. yep, emails and FB and twitter are all huge distractions. The internet in general is a terrible distraction! hehehe. Sometimes I just have to turn it all off.

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  22. Fighting the temptations. Ugh. that's the one I really need to work on. That quick whatever is never quick.

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  23. The best thing I ever did was to unplug my T.V. After that I suddenly had time to write:)

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  24. Ear buds in and music on usually does the trick. I'm one who can be easily distracted by hearing a conversation on TV, or outside noise if the windows are open.

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  25. Great advice. I should try instrumental music, because lyrics always distract me too and I've found it a shame because music is so motivating when I do other things. Thanks for the advice!

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  26. Ugh! If this isn't the truth??? I agree with Alex at the top there. You. just. have. to. do. it. Make the decision to put everything away and stick to it. :D

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  27. I love to watch PBS series, and need to fight the temptation to watch more than an hour at a time, so I can head to bed around 10pm. Just a couple times a week should be my limit! Thanks for this inspiring post, Lynda...

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  28. Haha! Writing and reading blog posts is my worst distraction! Guess I should get back to work!!

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    1. It does take a lot of time to write and read blog posts. And it's so much fun so it makes an easy distraction.

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  29. Great post. I make a list of things I want to accomplish. Lists make me feel compelled to stay on track...I get perverse joy out of crossing stuff off, lol!

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  30. I will fight distractions. I will. I will.

    Gee, I hope this works now. ;) Great post!

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  31. Great post!

    Fighting temptation is the hardest for me. I usually start something and end up paying it far too much attention, working on it for longer than I originally intended.

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  32. Distractions occur all the time and dealing with them takes discipline. That's the rub I suppose.

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  33. mine is to use a timer. That never fails. Just set a timer for 15 minutes and write. after that you can succomb to distractions until it is time to write again!

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    1. That's a great idea. I'll have to give a timer a go.

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  34. I write best when the wifi is turned off. Internet and phone are my two biggest source of distraction.

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  35. thank you soo much for this! we talk about distractions in my Bible study.....one priest advised us if we are so distracted with the distraction then we should just pray about that...maybe that is how it works with writers...write about the distraction!!

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  36. If I find myself constantly getting distracted, I refuse myself permission to write. It's amazing how much I want to just get on and do it when I'm not 'allowed' to.

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  37. I'm fairly well-disciplined when I write - mornings for me too when my mind is clear and alert. I live in a quiet section of town, and morning time is 'dead quiet' and perfect. So I don't get many outside distractions. Inside, it's my housework that begs attention as well as the new kitten. But they are not so bad. I still get as much writing in as I can.

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  38. Those are some great tips. The last point you made is actually very important, because sometimes thinking about not getting distracted will distract you even more. Sort of like working on not thinking/craving for chocolate. ;-)

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    1. rawr! You mentioned chocolate and now I want some! ;)

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  39. Great advice, and I know all about that pesky cat. Although mine's more a cat that wants to sit on my keyboard!

    Talking of distractions, I've tagged you in the Lucky 7 Meme over at my blog.

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  40. Hi, Lynnie. I know your blog is not typically personal but I just wanted to let you know that I'd tagged you in a blogging game. Hope you had a lovely weekend!

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  41. Great blog! My worst distraction is myself I think. I'm always thinking of things I need to get done, like dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc.etc. I left you an award, although I figured out you've already gotten it in the past. Oh well, you deserve it again!

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    1. Thanks you so much, Honey. I appreciate the Sunshine Award and I don't mind getting it again. It's wonderful.

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  42. Hi Lynda,

    I completely agree with the last one- allow the distractions. After doing all the things you do get your mind clearer. Thanks for a great post!

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  43. Very good advice. And I'm glad you mentioned the music. After seeing (hearing) some of the playlists out there, I wondered how authors write while listening to music with lyrics. I need absolute quiet. But maybe instrumentals would work. Petting the dog I can do. Now if I could just figure out how to silence my homeschooled child... ; )

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