Fighting Distraction by Veronika Walker
Today I’m happy to have Veronika Walker here to talk about that pesky distraction thing. Thanks for being with us, Veronika!
“But I told myself I was going to write, and by golly, I’m gonna write!”
And then my resolve died a quick death when the latest news of The Hunger Games movie “accidentally” scrolled across my screen. It was all over after that.
I know what you’re thinking every time you open that laptop or hop into your computer chair. You’re thinking, “Today’s the day. The day I’m going to act like a real writer and get more work done than I’ve ever done before. The day I’m going to make it. The day I’m not going to get distracted.”
Come on, I know you. I am you.
Writers don’t often realize just how much – and how fast – distraction sets in. It’s often not just a one minute side-step to a movie link or (“I’m being professional…”) a writing blog. There’s no such thing as a “quickie” break. They don’t exist. Face it…even a bathroom break takes more than a minute even in the best cases. You can’t let it happen!
Distraction, I think, is the writer’s worst enemy, even more so than fear or self-doubt. You can still write even if you’re facing those enemies. But distraction…that’s the one that keeps you from actually writing, because you’re over there reading up on the latest anime cartoon or figuring out your caloric intake for the day. Yeah…distraction is the one keeping you from having three or four books done already…not fear or anxiety that you’re not good enough.
So. How do you combat this problem? Is there any easy way to get rid of it?
Sure there is.
Don’t provide any opportunity for it.
“Say what?” I hear you muttering out there. Yes, don’t provide any opportunity for it at all. In other words, get ahead of the Distraction Monster. Derail him before he gets going. Put up barricades and lock yourself away. Put in earplugs so he can’t hear him roar. Take responsibility for your own time.
Here are a few ideas to show you what I’m getting at:
- Move every electronic device (yes, even your alarm clock) out of your writing room or space. All of them. Unplugging is the fastest and most effective way of getting yourself back on track because it is the biggest deterrent for writers. Electronics make the Internet, your granny, your blog stats, and your grocery list so accessible, there’s no way you can focus on writing when you’ve got such a big Distraction Monster literally at your fingertips. So unplug. Completely.
- Determine that you only have to write for ten full minutes. That’s it. Focusing for short bursts is a great way to trick your brain into concentrating hard. And, before you know it, way more than ten minutes have gone by, and you’ve actually been working on that Great American Novel for twenty, thirty, maybe even sixty minutes. See? Outwitting the Distraction Monster.
- Keep away from people. Don’t be rude here, of course, but make sure you don’t have the potential to be interrupted by people. How far you go with this should be based on how you function as a whole. Me, I don’t like 100% silence – it weirds me out – so I usually head to the library or coffee shop where there’s just a little swirl of noise, but nothing so loud or interrupting that it’s going to draw my attention away from my screen or notebook. If you function better in complete silence, then I’d recommend walling yourself up in a bedroom, closest, bathroom, or outhouse where you know for sure no one will be around. Even for ten minutes.
- Music, I find, is one outside source that can be very helpful. It creates a bubble around you and helps you block out distracting noises, but provides that productive feeling that stimulates the brain’s creativity. Play it just loud enough to be a support for your ideas, but not so loud that you find you’re actually actively listening to it. If you’re humming along with it or imagining the scene from the movie, it’s probably too loud – you’re not focusing on the task at hand. Try different genres and types, too. Sometimes I listen to music from guys like George Winston or Jim Brickman, sometimes movie soundtracks, or Epica. Avoid words if you can, as they interfere with the words you’re trying to create.
- If you really are distracted, take a break and go clear your head. It’s okay to get away from the idea for a while and go get the fidgeties out. Go for a walk, scrub a floor, rough-house with the dog and/or the kids, go read a chapter from your favorite book. Letting yourself not think about the project at hand every once in a while can be a good thing; the passive part of your brain is still mulling over it while the active part is engaged elsewhere, getting a much-needed break. Just be sure not to break for too long…then we call it “procrastination.”
Real writers fight for their writing time. So keep fighting for it; don’t let the Monster win. You’ll be surprised at how much more you get done.
Veronika is a fantasy writer and freelance book editor with over 6 years’ experience. She enjoys a good book and a latte whenever she can, and has a penchant for Shakespeare. You can find information about her fiction and editing services on her blog at VeronikaWalkerWrites.blogspot.