There is a lot of talk about making time to write, fitting writing into our busy schedules. But what if you’ve made time, you’re literally sat at your computer, fingers poised above the keyboard, but you can’t get the first word written because the phone rings, an email notification pings, your WhatsApp beeps, etc., etc. You are simply too distracted to get further than the first sentence of a new chapter, which you find yourself writing over and over. What then?
This is a problem near and dear to my heart. In addition to writing (and marketing and all that comes with being an indie author) full-time, I have a business in Germany and am on the board of a local non-profit. I am constantly bombarded by distractions during my ‘writing time’. I haven’t figured it all out yet – not by a long shot – but I have found some tricks to help me get my ‘real’ work done of writing.
Establish writing hours. Just like working hours, I’ve established writing hours. I am not one of those persons who can write wherever, whenever. Nope, not I. I am a morning writer. I’ve tried to vary my schedule – especially when I have board meetings, which always happen in the morning. After much trying and some really crappy writing, I’ve discovered morning is it for me. Although it’s not always possible, I try not to schedule any other work or meetings in the morning. And if I have a lunch meeting? I’ll get up an hour or two early to ensure I get in six hours of work before lunch, because lord knows I won’t be returning to work after a boozy lunch.
Set limits. Tell everyone with whom you work or deal with in any sort of capacity, you are unavailable for the hours you’ve established as your writing hours. Naturally, this isn’t always possible. But if you pick up your phone during your writing hours, people will continue to call you during those hours. Don’t pick it up! You have to be a hardliner about your limits. Respect your writing and others will too.
Enforce limits. It’s all fine and dandy that you’ve established writing hours and set your limits, but what if no one respects them? Then, it’s time to pull out the big guns. You can make your phone quiet, but that’s often not enough. You’ll still see the light change when a notification comes in or feel the faint buzz. You can turn your phone on airplane mode, but what if there’s an emergency? The solution my husband came up with is the ‘do not disturb’ mode on your phone. You can use the mode in such a way that certain calls will come through anyway. This is a lifesaver.
Discipline yourself. Even if all of the above is applied, you still have the problem – assuming you write on a computer – of the distractions of social media and all that is the internet. What about those??? I actually don’t have much of a problem with those types of distractions. But when I do – because a chapter isn’t going well or I’m frustrated with the plot or whatever – then the temptation that is the internet creeps in. In those extreme cases, I set a timer for thirty minutes. During those thirty minutes, I absolutely do not allow myself to go online. If I do, the timer starts all over again. I find that if I keep my mind on writing for thirty minutes straight, I usually find my groove and can continue to write without distraction after the timer goes off.
What about you? How do you deal with distractions? Please share in the comments below.