I once was a disciplined writer. I religiously followed a writing schedule. I set aside specific days to work on my upcoming book or write for one of my blogs. When life started interfering, I reduced the number of blogs I wrote each week, but continued writing. Then, I took a two-month sabbatical to travel Europe both for pleasure and research for an upcoming book. Though I posted each day on my travel blog, my creativity was on vacation.
I returned home a month ago, but have not gotten back into the writing groove. More pressing issues need my attention. I fear that the longer I wait to get back to writing, the more difficult it will be for me to do so and the easier it will be for me to get distracted by social media, marketing needs, family, friends, a nice day, or just plain laziness.
Are distractions preventing you from writing? A Goggle search on the topic indicates that I am not the only one suffering from lack of focus. The image on the left, created by Beth Canter, provides suggestions on how to focus in this age of distractions. I hope it helps you find your focus.
This is what I plan to do to keep on the writing track.
Make the calendar my friend
From experience I know that this is a viable tool for me. I create recurring events for the days I write a post. I block out times for working on my book and refuse to schedule appointments in that time slot. I know that my creativity does not respond to deadlines, so I don’t set complete-by dates.
If you work best with a deadline, be realistic about setting it. Give yourself enough wiggle room so that you don’t burn out or become frustrated in trying to reach your goal. Create a flow-chart or use another project-planning tool to work out just how much time or how many words you need to complete each day. Don’t forget to include time for reviews, editing, and prepping the book for publication.
Create a writing habit
Making a schedule is the easy part, adhering to it is more difficult. Creating rituals or habits helps. I have a dedicated working space. Since I am most creative in the morning, I write for an hour or so before breakfast and crossword, and then I return to the task. I always start by combing my hair–removing the tangles symbolizes unsnarling my thoughts.
As writers, try to pick the most creative time of the day for writing. Let people know that during that time you will turn of the phone, will not respond to emails, or want to be interrupted, unless it is an emergency. People generally comply with this request.
I like it quiet when I write, so I don’t play music. My biggest distractions are social media, an occasional game of FreeCell, and checking my sales. Fortunately, there are programs that impose self-control by temporarily blocking out the distractions. I purchased Cold Turkey for $10 ($5 goes to charity). This tool allows me to set up the blocks each day or schedule them for a week. Once activated, I cannot unblock anything until Cold Turkey times out. Without the distractions, I can pay more attention to my writing and am more productive.
I choose not to block my mail, just in case I needed it. If I can’t keep from checking it out, I will log out while I am working. If that doesn’t work I will block that.
An alternative to thwarting technological distractions is to work off-line. Unplugging from the internet can help you focus on writing.
TV can be a major time-suck. I do not watch the tube before 9 P.M. and am trying to replace this passive entertainment with reading.
As writers, we have to learn to juggle our time. There are always things that come up that need our immediate attention. The trick is to set priorities while remaining flexible with time management.
- The Results Curve™: How to Manage Focused and Collaborative Time (Free ebook)
- 8 Tips for Finding Focus and Nixing Distractions
- 13 Ways to Beat Distractions and Stay Focused at Work
What to you do to keep focus and away from distractions? Please leave a comment.