Friday, June 17, 2011

How To Avoid Distraction

                Ah, distraction.  A writer’s biggest enemy.  We can champion over writer’s block with outlines or by just pushing through, but distraction is a sneaky little snake.  It creeps in when you least expect it, when you’re really on a roll, and next thing you know, it’s three hours later and all you’ve accomplished is reaching level 3-3 in Plants vs. Zombies.  There are a million how-to articles on avoiding distraction, but I’m gonna throw my two cents in. 
                Turn Off The Internet.  Turn your internet access on your laptop off.  If you really need to research something, write it on a post it and then go back to it later.  If you need music, use iTunes not Youtube. 
                Find A Silent Place.  Whether you use music or not having the tv on and other people talking makes you more susceptible to distraction.  So find a quiet corner or go outside to the porch, as long as you block out distractions.
                Close The Door. When you can, close the door.  It cuts you off from the rest of the house, apartment, wherever you’re writing, and physically separates you from your distractions.  If you look up and you see the open door, you may be enticed toward the kitchen, the living room, the phone.
                Speaking of Phones: Turn Yours Off.  Turn your cell phone off if you can.  Tell your boyfriend/husband/significant other/parent/sibling/cat that you will be writing and will be unable to pick up the phone.  If they really need you they can call the landline.
                Clear Your Computer.  Close all programs unnecessary to writing.  Close spider solitaire.  Close your folders.  Close sticky notes.  Close photoshop.  Close Google Chrome.  Close them.  If you can’t just flip to them it’s much easier to focus. 
                If Something Is Bouncing Around In Your Head, Bounce It Out.  It’s hard to focus on one story when you have an idea floating around for another one or for a blog post.  Write that idea down in you writer’s notebook, and then put that away.
                Change Your Scenery.  If you find you’re writing in the same place every day and constantly being distracted by that place, move.  Go to the library.  Go to a coffee shop or a wifi enabled restaurant.  If you’re in university you should have a million places to go to write.  A step away from your things will help to separate you from your distractions.  I also go into my parents’ room sometimes because my things aren’t in there and it’s much easier to focus when I’m on their bed than when I’m on mine or in the dining room with my books to distract me. 
                Get Some Exercise.  Get outside and walk around the block or swim for an hour.  Exercise helps clear your mind and it releases endorphins.  Getting fresh air into your lungs helps clear out the cobwebs and distractions you create for yourself. 
                Set A Timer.  Whether it’s a literal timer or a deadline for yourself, decide on how long you’re going to write.  If there’s a clear end in sight it may be easier for you to focus on the task at hand than if it seems dauntingly eternal.  
                If All Else Fails, Write By Hand.  If you can’t find any way to keep from being distracted by the internet or your favorite game, close your laptop, get a pen and paper, and write by hand.  You can’t just click over to a game or check your tumblr when you write by hand.  I do this a lot and it allows me to focus on my ideas and my story rather than spider solitaire. 
                How do you focus?  Do you put on metaphorical blinders and write in a frenzy akin to Celtic warriors or do you find ten minute bursts to be more efficient for you?

Stay Tuned.

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