5 common writing distractions and how to combat them

b/w woman at typewriter

Here’s a scenario you’ll probably be familiar with if you’re a writer. You sit down in front of your computer, ready to tackle that day’s word count like an absolute boss.

But wait!

What’s this?

A wild enemy appears!

Cue the battle music, as you are faced with… well, any one of the common things that plague a writer on a daily basis, really. Whether you can’t stop checking your emails, or you’ve fallen into a “research”-related Wikipedia hole, or you’ve come down with a sudden onset of immense guilt, there’s always something that might distract you from getting your words down for the day.

So, here are a couple of ways to tackle some of the most common distractions facing a writer during the actual writing portion of their day.

Enemy one: the lure of Twitter (and other social media)

This is the one that most of us will have to combat several times an hour, let alone a day. Twitter and its social media cohorts are definitely your friends when you’re engaging with your readers or promoting a new release.

But when you’re hell-bent on getting words down, Twitter essentially becomes a massive tease. You know it’s there. You wonder if anything major has happened since you last checked it (ten minutes earlier – and no, no-one famous died or nothing you watch got cancelled in the intervening minutes). You know you probably have a deadline looming, but can you really let another ten minutes go by without firing off some hilarious contributions to that new hashtag game?

Well, you probably can on that last one. But the lure of Twitter and its buddies is a big one and one that pretty much everyone deals with on a regular basis.

How to combat

Go Cold Turkey… as in the application which allows you to temporarily block certain websites, while you get on with your work.

Enemy two: “research”

Ah, the dangers of falling into a Google-hole. Or Wiki-hole. One minute, you’re writing a thrilling St. Patrick’s Day encounter in a Dublin alleyway, the next you’re on Google Maps trying to determine which alleyway your trysting couple are steaming it up in. And then you’re on Wikipedia, wanting to know about St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Cut to an hour later when you’ve successfully determined where the River Liffey starts and ends, how St. Patrick’s Day came into existence and what the six most frequented pubs in Dublin are. That thrilling tryst in the alleyway you were writing? They’ve been suspended in mid-kiss all the while, waiting for you to let them get their rocks off with each other.

How to combat

Keep a notepad and pen nearby. Any time you come across a part of your story that needs to be researched, make a quick note of what it is you need to know. In your draft, just put [to be researched]. Then, set aside some time later on to concentrate on research only.

Enemy three: time management

This one speaks for itself, really.

How to combat

Try Pomodoro. A time management technique which uses a timer to break down work into 25 minute intervals, the Pomodoro technique is a firm favourite amongst many writers. You can either do it the classic way and get a kitchen timer, or download one of the many Pomodoro apps for your phone.

Enemy four: “could have” guilt

This is a special one. A boss level. The one that usually sets in at the end of your writing day, rather than at the start. And good grief, this is a hard one to combat. That feeling that you could have written a few more paragraphs. You could have started on that new story already. You could have outlined, edited, whatever. The point is, you didn’t. And even though you’ve probably worked your behind off to the best of your abilities, there’s a nagging feeling that you could have done more.

How to combat

Set clear, attainable goals. Write them down the day before. Don’t ask too much of yourself, or else this feeling will come on even stronger. Know that you most likely have done enough and that you deserve that drink.

Enemy five: hitting the wall

We all know that feeling of hitting the proverbial wall. We’re in the zone, getting stuff done, running towards that word goal… and then suddenly, nothing. No idea how to continue, no clue as to how this scene will develop. You have reached a block.

How to combat

Save what you’ve got so far. Close down your computer. Put on your shoes, go out the door and walk. Let your thoughts about the story run free while getting some air. If the weather’s terrible, repeat steps one and two and just go and make a cup of tea.

Author: Jillian Boyd

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2 Comments

  1. Good advice. Not always easy to follow, but I think allocating a block of time, as you mentioned, is a good thing. As for Twitter, I only look at it once a day, but then I am one of the older generation who hasn’t yet got the actual point of Twitter.

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