Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Confessions of a Writer Easily Distracted

Photo courtesy of pippalou on
clockfaceA number of years ago a speaker at a Writers Conference motivated me to quit my part-time job to dedicate more time to writing. I had to decide how to save that new free time just for writing. I started with one accountability partner. We promised to meet twice a week and each work on our own projects. We met in a library in the morning to write, would chat over lunch, followed by several more hours of writing. The progress we made was exciting.

Here’s what I learned through that experience.
I’m easily distracted when writing at home. It’s too easy for me to start checking email, or to look up “one” thing on the internet, get involved with social media, do volunteer work, do critiques, or even play a “quick” game. Plus there’s the obvious distractions of others at home, the phone, piles on my desk to sort, oh, and shouldn’t I at least start a load of laundry, or pay bills? Before I know it the day is gone and the only writing I’ve done is email, twitter and maybe facebook. Sigh.
However, knowing I have someone who is expecting me to show up to work makes me commit. It makes me sit down and get serious when I arrive. It helps me focus on the task at hand. Partners, times and locations change, but the progress in my writing doesn’t.
I’ve even gone to the writing location when no one else could. I’ve also found that taking my laptop into another room in my house away from the desktop where I do everything else can help.
Are you too easily distracted from your creativity time? Here are some other tips that might be useful.
Be prepared. Have what you need to create at hand, so writing time isn’t wasted in preparation. I have a bag that goes with me that has critique notes, research books, etc.
Schedule. Set aside a regular time and place. Show up whether you want to or not.
Be accountable to another writer or two. Not only does it help you show up, but it helps keep you on task. We knew if one gal was giggling, she was probably on twitter, so we’d tease her about it. If I started making comments about stuff I was finding on the internet, they’d ask me if it was related to my wip. Oops. Back to work. Accountability works even if you don’t meet face-to-face. You can report to each other about the day’s goals, such as I’m going to write two pages or work three hours. Knowing you have to confess to “not trying” makes you work.
Snatch stolen moments. You woke up early? Too wide awake to go to sleep? Your kids took an unexpected nap? Write.
Get away from your time stealer. TV, computer, internet, phone, that social or volunteer commitment you agreed to do out of guilt…
Cut back on commitments if you can.
Tell others about your writing time. If friends or family call, they aren’t offended when I remind them I’m writing and offer to call back later. My family has learned about those scheduled times and try to avoid them.
Helps for writing in public locations.

  • Libraries often have private study rooms and are quiet. They may have a time limit.
  • Coffee shops can be noisy especially near the espresso machine, but headphones and your own music can block that and other patrons’ talk.
  • You may want to bring a surge suppressor power strip as power outlets may be limited.
  • Some public locations are very cold. I wear layers or have an extra wrap in my writing bag. My daughter made me fingerless mitts to keep my hands warm.
  • Don’t leave your laptop unattended to go to the restroom or get food. A friend did and hers was stolen. Writing partners can watch your stuff.
  • If using a laptop, either backup your work onto a usb drive or use a service such as dropbox or carbonite.

I’ve found that the habit of writing regularly makes it easier to write regularly. I get motivated by the pages and projects I complete. The sense of accomplishment makes me want to do it again, and again. This writing habit makes me not so distractable after all.