I work at a writing center, so I see a lot of writers each day. Most of them want help with common issues like grammar and organization. There are those rare gems who ask me for writing advice, though. And the most common question I get in that regard is “how do you write?”.
I’ve mentioned my writing process before. For a while, I answered my clients by talking about the things that I included in my post. Usually the client nods along with me, and I hope that I am being helpful.
It was not until last week when a particularly outspoken client asked me a follow-up question – interrupting me, even, as I tried to tell her about my writing process. She asked, “but how do you find the time?”. Aha. My clients don’t care about my process. They care about how I get the work done in this distracting world we live in.
So, I explained how I minimize distractions. Instead of nodding along, she wrote it down.
These are a few of the highlights from our conversation, condensed and organized for you. If you are like my clients (or me!) and sometimes find it hard to write without distractions, this post is for you.
1. Disconnect: This may seem simple, but I find that many writers actually cannot disconnect. We are living in a time where if you turn off your phone, you are breaking a connection between yourself and all of your friends. The same is true when you log off of Facebook or Twitter. I have always associated a certain guilt with logging off of social media sites and turning off my phone. Taking an hour all to myself is sometimes impossible for me to do, because I feel selfish. We must rise above this guild in order to write well. We must give ourselves an hour or so each day, though, so that our writing does not suffer.
2. Share: I also urge you to tell others what you are doing. If someone calls, tell them that you’re writing. More often than not, they will not keep you from it.
3. Download: There are several full-screen word processing programs that will help you stay focused. Download one and give it a try. Or, stick around. I will be testing each of these programs in the months to come.
4. Go Old School: If you are still having trouble with distractions, take out a pen and paper and write away. I do this sometimes just for the inspiration.
5. Schedule: If you know you want to look through Pinterest, by all means, do it! But, schedule when you’re going to do it. This way, you will have control over how long or how often you are using social media.
6. Stop Procrastinating: If something bothers you (a messy room, relationship problems, etc.), fix it! I always tidy my room before I write, because it is hard for me to work in a messy environment. I also get anything pressing out of the way so that I have plenty of time.
7. Say No: If writing is important to you, you need to make it a priority in your life. That means that you will need to make sacrifices. Treat your writing time like you would any other job. If a friend asks you to do something, try to rearrange your writing time. If you can’t and have to pick between your writing time and your friend, ask yourself if you would be willing to take off work to be with your friend. If so, take the day off. Hang with your friend. If not, explain the situation and ask for a rain check. Saying no may not be easy, but if you say yes too often, you will have no time to write.
8. Be Reclusive: When you write, go someplace quiet (unless you are the rare writer who writes best in crowded places). Shut yourself up in your study or your bedroom. Close the door. Get away from anyone who may disturb you.
We can’t eliminate all of the distractions, but we should try to control as much as we can. This will give us a more distraction-free writing experience, which should lead to better content.
What tips do you have for minimizing distraction?
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