Writer’s have faced a myriad of distractions for centuries, but the modern breed is arguably more besieged by distractions than any of our predecessors.
From televisions to screaming children to cell phones to the lure of the Internet on our laptops, the next writing roadblock is never more than a couple of keystrokes away.
We have to be intentional in order to overcome this sensory barrage and stay focused on our work. We need to actively build an environment in which we have no choice but to focus on getting words on the page.
How do we go about that?
Cone of Silence
The answer could be different for everyone, but here are some suggestions for creating your own “cone of silence.”
- Find a quiet location, preferably with a door that closes.
- If you can’t lock yourself away, then at least go someplace where people you know won’t find you — the library, a Starbucks on the other side of town, your car.
- Use the restroom and get any needed victuals BEFORE you sit down to write.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Turn off your tablet (assuming you write on your laptop).
- Open ONE document you want to tackle in your editor of choice — Scrivener, Google, a physical notebook.
- Turn off your Wi-Fi and other network connections.
- Set a timer for the amount of time you have available and write until the timer goes off.
- Write until the timer goes off.
There are also more high-tech ways to help you block distractions, stay focused, or track your activities. Some popular tools in this genre include:
- Notational Velocity
- Time Out
Some of these are free, some paid, some apps, some Chrome extensions, but they can all be useful in your quest to get more writing done.
You can get even more extreme by turning off the distraction of on-the-fly editing — you know, agonizing over every word and possible misspelling as you type them out. Nothing kills your productivity more than backspacing every few characters to correct typos. There are applications that obscure your words as you type, or you could simply turn off your screen or look out the window.
Don’t Forget Your Writing Schedule
Absolutely key to any of this working for you, though, is to schedule your writing time. If you don’t own that hour when you’re trying to knock out your next chapter, there’s no way in the world you can keep yourself from checking email and text messages constantly.
You know, just in case something big comes up.
But if you take the time to stake out your territory — your writing schedule — before you sit down to create, you can take control of your word world with complete authority and zero guilt.
Just be aware that, even with a clear schedule, diversions can wreck the best plans.
Get rid of all your distractions, though, and you might be amazed at how many quality words you can bang out in a fraction of the time you usually spend staring at a blank screen.
How do you block out distractions to your writing? Tell me about it in the comments below.