How to cure writer’s distractions…

I’m not a believer in the existence of writer’s block which I consider one of those myths that far too many believe and often fear.  I am, however, a firm believer in writer’s distractions.

The first step to a cure is identifying those distractions.  Here is a little one question quiz to get the discussion started.

It’s 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday and you haven’t yet done your writing for the day.  You’ve just finished eating a delicious dinner with your family.  What do you do next?

  1. Excuse yourself and retreat to your writing space for two hours, where you write at least 500 words on your work in progress.
  2. Excuse yourself and retreat to your writing space and read e-mail, surf writing forums, read online book reviews, write a blog entry, or post on your favorite social media site.
  3. Tell yourself you’ll write later and turn on the TV.
  4. Tell yourself you’ll write later and perform some household chores.
  5. Tell yourself you’ll write later and run some errands.
  6. Tell yourself you’ll write later and play video games.
  7. Tell yourself you’ll write later and play with spouse, kids, or pets.
  8. Tell yourself you are just too (tired, uninspired, unmotivated, blocked) to sit and write.

If you answered anything but “A” then you are suffering from writer’s distractions.  Something all writer’s face at one time or another.  I fall victim to #2 – 8 all the time.

Note:  the 7:00p.m. time slot is arbitrary.  You may write at other times of the day.  So if your usual slot is 5:00a.m. and you sleep in repeatedly or get up and go to the gym instead, those are your distractions.  The point here is show examples of what writer’s choose to do instead of writing.

So, do you have a regular writing slot?  If not why not?

For most of us with day jobs, writing during the day between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. is impossible, so that leaves us with the 5:00 p.m. to midnight window.

The writing slot doesn’t matter, use what works for you.  If you have to, go to Starbucks during your lunch hour and write on a legal pad or pull out your personal laptop or iPad.

The key here is to find and maintain a regular writing slot.  If that is not possible, an irregular slot is better than nothing.

What is an irregular slot?  Here’s an example:

Monday – Come home from work and write before dinner.

Tuesday – Lead a cub scout meeting after work, so you have a late dinner, and write at 9pm.

Wednesday – You DVR American Idol or your favorite shows at 7 p.m. and write while the show is taping

Thursday – Watch kids for spouse so she can attend a meeting or run errands.  Write after kids go to bed at 9pm.

Friday – Date Night – Write from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.

Saturday – Write at 10:00 a.m. or at 2:30 p.m. after household chores are finished.

The point is it is more important to write every day than it is to write at the same time every day.  Sure the professional writers can get up and treat their writing schedule like a day job and “clock” in at their writing desk at 8:00 a.m. every weekday morning and write for six or seven hours.  Most of us don’t have that luxury, so find a spot or spots that work for you.

If you have a regular (or irregular) writing slot, do you often skip it or do something similar to answers #2 – 8 above?

Why?

Is the other activity bringing your book closer to completion?  Is the TV show helping you get published?  Will your pet rock feel neglected if you don’t take it for a walk right at 7:00 p.m.?  Don’t pet rocks like to take walks at 5:00 p.m. right after work or at 9:00 on a warm spring night?

Did that trip to Circle K for a Red Box movie really have to happen right during your writing slot?

Will the laundry turn into a horror movie monster if it sits unfolded for another hour or two while you write?

Okay, some of these examples are exaggerated a tiny bit, but you see my point.  Most of what we distract ourselves with can be done at a different time.

What if we do have the time available and have organized our other activities to give us a daily writing slot, but we still don’t write?

What is the distraction?  I can’t help with that other than to suggest that you need to identify it and remove the distraction.

If you can’t focus and write while the kids are still up, write after they go to bed, before they wake up, or while they’re at school or day camp.

If you can’t focus and write while the dishes are not done, assign the kids or spouse that chore, or quickly do the dishes and then sit down and write.

Identify and remove.

A writer writes.

There isn’t any better way to say this.

A writer writes.

A professional writer writes daily in sufficient quantities to produce publishable works that reader will pay to read.

So, define your goals (i.e. completing a novel or story, entering a contest, publishing an eBook, or just writing for yourself) and go for it.

Start new projects.

Finish what you start.

Prioritize your time.  People tend to do what is most important to them.  In other words, people usually find time to do what they want to do.

If you really truly want to write, you’ll not only find the time to write, you’ll make the time to write.

And if you really want to write, you’ll be far less susceptible to writer’s distractions.

Find the inner desire to write, prioritize some regular time, utilize that time, and write away.

That is the cure.

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3 responses to “How to cure writer’s distractions…

  • hawleywood40

    Great post. Discipline has always been my demon. I’ve gotten so much better, but still have miles to go.

  • Stephen A. Watkins

    No regular writing time, as yet. I’m still learning what a post-education schedule feels like, again.

    In that time, though, I’ve come to accept some writing distractions as inevitable and even necessary. Some things have to be done, and ought to be a higher priority, even than writing. That’s a hard thing to accept, as a writer who truly wants to write, but things like “household chores” and “time with the family & kids” are pretty necessary (the first because it’s got to get done, and the second because it’s inherently important), for example.

    Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t negotiate with the people in your life for an accomodation of some writing time.

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MY SPOT OF INK: my ramblings on the ups and downs of writing a fantasy novel (or anything else that grabs my interest - books, food, movies, life)

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