Are you trying to finish a writing project but you keep getting distracted? In this post we look at 10 essential tips for eliminating distractions from your writing.
Distractions are everywhere. Distractions can keep us from concentrating on the task at hand, and eliminating distractions from what you do for a living is just part of the job.
Doctors, surgeons and soldiers can’t afford to have their attention spans captured during the call of duty – so, why should writers?
Jack Bickham said: ‘Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.’ Writing is a career that’s brimming with potential distractions. From atmospheric noise through to a phone ringing off the hook whilst a deadline looms, every writer has faced things that can draw their attention away from their craft.
How do you get rid of them? Actually, you can’t, but you can learn to deal with them in order to be a more effective and dedicated writer.
[TIP: If you want to improve your writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.]
10 Essential Tips For Eliminating Distractions From Your Writing
Here are 10 essential tips for eliminating distractions from your writing.
1. Have ‘The Talk’.
A lot of writers share environments or living spaces with people who aren’t writers themselves, and this has several different levels of understanding between people.
Have ‘the talk’ with roommates, kids, partners or friends. The talk involves saying, ‘I’m a writer, and now I’m writing.’ It will help you reach your writing goals.
Not everyone understands. It ticks a lot of people off. It’s going to cause fights. But it’s going to make you a better, stronger, more focused writer if you’re able to stick to writing when you’re writing.
If you can, create your own writing space.
2. Limit Bookmarks
Laini Taylor says, ‘Eliminate distractions. Eliminate internet access. Find/create a place and time where you won’t be bothered. Noise-cancelling headphones are great.’
Bookmarks are easy to add and easy to click, but really, really hard to stay away from once you’ve started clicking.
Sure, use bookmarks. Use bookmarks all you like. But don’t take a closer look at your bookmarks when you’re about to write or already writing, and certainly don’t get stuck on clicking one after the other until the end of time. Don’t use them as excuses not to write.
When you need to look something up for your writing, do it quickly, close the browser, and get back to writing.
3. Remain In Writing Mode.
You’re a writer, and you’re always a writer.
Realising this is crucial for making sure that nothing can ever distract you from the craft. Even while you’re doing dishes or taking a taxi, you’re still a writer and you can still take a moment to jot down a sentence or an idea. You can also just absorb the experience, the place, and the people for your stories.
Remaining in writing mode keeps a writer on track, and stops them from falling for distractions.
Writers can use different methods to take notes on the move. Use a notebook, use your phone, as long as writing down an idea is never far away.
4. Set Writing, Pitching, & Editing Times.
Schedule writing, pitching, and editing times – and stick to them. Use a timer. A lot of what potentially distracts is thinking about (or having to do) other things, so ensure that you have more specific times demarcated for what you’re going to need to do.
If Mondays are pitch days, the rest of the week is free to schedule as you wish.
While this makes it sound easy, I’ll admit that it isn’t – but it’s easier and gives a better starting point to plan the rest of your day.
5. Switch Phones To Silent.
While cell phones are a great convenience of the modern age, cell phones can also be a huge obstacle for anyone who has anything to do.
Have you ever gotten into a really good writing, pitching, or editing session – and then the phone rings? Sometimes this can break the flow, and you might lose your place or concentration because of it.
When on deadline, set phones to silent, or set a voice message that says, ‘I’ll get back to you.’
6. Create A Schedule For ‘Other Stuff’.
Writers are seldom just in the business of putting words on paper. Thousands upon thousands have day jobs, responsibilities, and other things that take up their time. Things that aren’t writing.
How do you balance everything? Create a set schedule for ‘other stuff’, and if it helps, plan things by the literal minute, or get up earlier and shift around what you do when.
A schedule like this doesn’t remove distractions from your writing, but it can mean that you learn how to deal with them instead of using them as excuses. Writing isn’t just about the art of writing well, it’s also about the art of learning when to write!
7. Create A Set Playlist.
Music and TV are wonderfully helpful aides for writing and creating a certain feel when you do. Playlists can also be one of the single most distracting things when you’re busy – and stopping to create a playlist or click on related songs can take up minutes (and eventually hours) of valuable writing time.
Save time and create several writing mood playlists beforehand. That way, there’s a lot less clicking necessary.
8. Use A Standard Template.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with word processor settings. First, the font, then the font size – and then there’s line spacing, margins, and everything else. It’s a little confusing, right? And it can also be a distraction.
Don’t spend more time on word processor settings than you need to. Decide on which formatting works for you before you write.
A standard writing template that uses the same size-and-settings every time can cut out minutes of wondering and contemplating.
9. Employ Notes & Outlines.
Notes and outlines are some of the greatest lifelines for a writer, and using them can keep you on the right track. Novels can be distracting and it’s easy for writers to follow the thread of a plot point only to realise later that they could have written it in a different direction.
Notes are good. Notes tell you where your writing is going, and notes remind you exactly what you’re working on.
10. Don’t Just Talk About Writing.
Writers sure do love talking about the craft. About their new story ideas, about their new main characters, about what other writers think about where they put the semicolon in this paragraph or that sentence.
But don’t get stuck for hours just discussing writing.
It’s great to talk about writing and being a writer, but not when it’s a distraction from actually writing. That’s called procrastination. Schedule specific times to discuss the craft.
I hope these 10 essential tips for eliminating distractions from your writing help you.
If you want to improve your writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
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