On Wednesday I posted about three of the top five distractions writers are likely to face. I’ll review those briefly and continue the discussion with two more barriers to writing focus.
- You love them dearly, but they don’t respect your need for solitude when you’re writing. You need to fulfill your duties to them, but just not during your writing time. Negotiating some boundaries is key to balancing family and writing.
- The phone. Turn off the ringer while you’re writing and check your voicemail and texts after you’re done for the day.
- Household tasks. This takes willpower, especially if the words aren’t flowing. Shut yourself away, or go to an out-of-the-house location where you aren’t tempted to do chores just to feel productive. Counter-corollary: sometimes doing something mindless (like ironing, or polishing windows) allows you to daydream and frees your imagination, giving you new ideas to add to your work-in-progress. Be ready to abandon your task and go back to writing while the idea is fresh.
- Writing tasks. We all know that writing isn’t just churning out manuscripts. There’s brainstorming, researching, outlining, rewriting, editing, marketing. And you want to network with other writers, with agents, editors, beta readers, and reviewers. You also need to maintain a vibrant presence on social media and grow your email newsletter list. It almost seems that in order to do all these things well, you pretty much do them instead of writing. But you can’t. So you have to schedule them. It’s the only way to balance your time. Prioritize what you need to do. You must write every day. Some days you can’t get started writing until you do some research, so go research—but beware of chasing tangents. Sometimes your research will uncover interesting information that may have no bearing whatsoever on what you’re writing, but you feel compelled to go deeper. Sometimes there may be a payoff in a brilliant plot twist or an entirely new direction, but usually getting off track will just waste time that you could have been spending more productively. Put a limit on how much time you devote to those other writing-related tasks, and then write.
- Dissatisfaction with the way your project is going. Your first draft is not going to be brilliant. That’s okay—first drafts are about getting ideas down; you develop them in more detail in the subsequent drafts. But when your third or fourth draft still seems rough, it’s easy to feel discouraged and focus instead on disappointment and dreams unmet. How do you satisfy your inner critic and get back to work again? It helps to have an insightful critique partner, someone who will read your essay or chapter and act as a sounding board for your concerns. (How do you find a critique partner?) He can make suggestions about changes or additions or rephrasing that will help you take your manuscript to the next level.
Now it’s your turn. What are your biggest distractions when you’re writing? How do you counteract them? Share in the comments below.