I understand why writers (yes, I’m generalizing and mean no insult if you don’t fit this paradigm) are solitary creatures for the most part. It is a matter of self-preservation. Alone in our writing caves, we can concentrate, plot twists and turns, dream up witticisms to die for, and discuss things with our characters without fear of being Baker Acted.
For those of us who must also co-exist in the mainstream world of day jobs, radios and televisions we don’t control, internet news and other electronic media, as well as the information screaming at us from the tabloids at the supermarket checkout, let’s face it: we’re on information overload.
No wonder we’re distracted when we finally sit down at the desk to write. I suggest, that when we are baffled and frustrated and end up going to do laundry rather than write, it isn’t procrastination. We’ve been driven to distraction. (Heck, I started writing this topic 6 months ago…)
Over the years I’ve chatted with hundreds of writers including best-selling authors. And writing books that hold the magic key to focus and writing success sell like ice cream to Miami beach-goers in August.
But we know that articles, novels, and non-fiction books don’t get written by reading about how to do it. It does require that our rear-ends are in a chair and our fingers are keying, typing, or writing the words down. To quote Nora Roberts who was answering the “magic” question in a chat session at the NJ Romance Writer conference many years ago: “There is no magic potion. Your butt has to be in the chair and you have to work every day at this.”
So, I offer a few brain-oriented and techo-oriented ideas that may help filter out some of the distractions.
• Start the day writing. Or follow your morning exercise routine with writing. Do it early and get it done. (If you don’t, the day will run you over!)
• Limit information overload. Sure, we want realism, ideas, and inspiration, but if you spend more time reading and watching news, Cold Case Files, or the infomercials, you aren’t going to do much writing.
• Check email and Facebook, etc. at specific “break” times each day. And, limit the time you spend out there. (I set my egg timer.)
• Write your appointments and agreements in a pocket calendar. Include time for writing, research, visiting with friends. Keep them.
• Keep a stack of 3 x 5 index cards or small notebook with you ALWAYS. You won’t be distracted trying to remember that “great idea” – capture it and move on.
• While I can stay at my computer for days on end, my husband objects. And so does my body. Recommendations from many indicate that working in shorter periods is better for you physically, and mentally. We’re fresher if we take breaks every couple of hours or so. I am changing my habits in this arena.
• Eat right and exercise right for you. Keep to a regular schedule, fuel up with a good breakfast after that initial hour or so at the computer. Eat lunch away from the desk, and plan to relax for dinner.
• Airline pilots better be perfect – we don’t have to be. Sure, when we get to the editing steps, we want to get serious, but not for the first draft. Be zany and reach way out there! Write and keep writing.
Below are some free E-tools that have been shared with me by other authors – (I use my egg timer – low tech, I know.)
• RescueTime (avail free for Mac or Windows) – keeps track of how much time you are spending working vs browsing the Web. Very enlightening. http://rescuetime.com.
• FocusWriter (avail free for Mac or Windows) – even sounds like an old manual typewriter! Includes daily writing goals. http://gotcode.com/focuswriter
• FocusBooster (avail free for Mac or Windows) – timer that lets you work in 25-minute sessions with a 5-minute break. http://focusboosterapp.com.
Wishing you happiness and much success in all you do!