Peggy Bechko: Dump the Distractions, Writers

distractionquote2aby Peggy Bechko

Writers have many plagues in our solitary worlds. There’s writer’s block, procrastination and upfront for this article, distractions.

Now, many of us writers are so skilled we can even use Distraction to enable our Procrastination and thus not complete an article, story, grant application or any other writing task before us. Quite an accomplishment in a negative sort of way.

But that’s probably not the best idea. We do have to get something done. Really. Freelance writers have to get their work done – hopefully on time.

So, how to deal with everyday writing Distractions? First, try to limit them. Don’t answer your phone when you’ve set your work hours. Let it take a message and return the call later. And that really does mean later. If you hear the phone ring, wait for it to take a message, then listen to it that’s kind of self-defeating.

If a cell phone, turn it off, all the way off; it can take messages while it sleeps. And you don’t have to see very text or cute message that comes through right when it does. It peppers your day and punches holes the size of those in your Swiss cheese in your writer’s work hours. It boils down to probably one of the chief reasons you can’t get anything done. It’s kind of hard to say cell phone without putting ‘damn’ in front of it. Seriously. Turn the thing off. Put it away. How obsessive are you?

New magazine just arrive in the mail? The one you love to read and view the pretty pictures? Well put it aside. No, you can’t flip through it right now. In fact why did you even visit the mail box before the end of the day? Unless you’re expecting a very important letter that’ll send your writing career to the moon resist the urge to run to the mail box. If you already have, perhaps you can glance at the new magazine at lunch? Set a definite time. Then return to work.

Beware the internet. It can be your best friend or a demon of distraction. It can be as bad as your phone or worse; larger screen. How easily have we writers all been lured off the path when researching a project and a new line of inquiry grabs us by the eyeballs?

Learn to limit your time online and how long you’ll spend researching a particular subject. And if not actual time limit if you need to do a thorough job, then subject limit. Then get off the web when you aren’t actually completing some research, sending a business email or in some way utilizing its assets for your writing. No, you can’t just wander around and enjoy the off-shoots of your research; you can do that later during your leisure time when you’re not trying to write.

Finally you must identify and admit what your particular distractions are. I might not have covered them here. There are many others beyond what I’ve written about. You might jot things that unexpectedly (or expectedly) distract you down in a notebook for a few days just to get a feel for them. Don’t get obsessive and keep this up forever, it’s just a tool. Then limit or eliminate those potential distractions from your writing day.

Another bit of advice. If you find you’ve been distracted for a while and you begin to feel guilty, don’t. Stop what you’re doing. Take a short walk away from your work station. Maybe grab a quick, healthy snack (emphasis on healthy) to bolster your energy. Then get back to your work in progress and leave the distraction behind.

You can do this and amazingly increase your productivity. Just keep yourself aware of time passing and focus on what you need to accomplish in your writing for that day. It might seem hard at first, but really it isn’t.

All right now, focus, jump off the web and turn the damn cell phone off…writers write.