Friday, July 13, 2012

Distractions: Love-Hate Relationship

Are you like me with distractions? Do you get up every morning, or come to your computer every day, with writing in mind? And when you sit down to write, do you find that you are distracted by other things that take you away from the project you sat down to do?

I rationalize some of those distractions. I need to check email because someone may be in a faith crisis. Or an editor may need a rewrite. And while I’m there, might as well knock out those few emails that need answers. But then Google has a headline that is provocative and I just peek at it. For a while.

I have to look at Facebook because I don’t want to ignore looming situations in the lives of my friends. And those links—better at least “like” them. They are good, after all.

The weather and local news – well, how will I know what to wear without it? And what about road closures? Local hostage situations?

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so one writer’s distractions are another’s research. Sometimes I read articles about quirky things—why you should never try to recycle pizza boxes, for instance – and they turn into magazine article queries that turn into contracts.

But most of the time, I succumb to distractions. I am ambushed by my own wandering eyes; waylaid on the path to writing by just-one-more-look.

What do you do to combat distractions? I can give you a few things that work for me, when I have the self-discipline to implement them:

A kitchen timer. Makes me hurry through online tasks and prioritize them.
Closing my email client (and the little popup numbers and reminders) with a promise to myself to check them at noon and five p.m.

Screening phone calls (used to work; but since my husband is recuperating from GBS at home has so many therapists and others who come, I not only have to answer the phone, I have to answer him when I don’t answer the phone!)

So—NovelMatters readers, do tell. How do you trick yourself into not being distracted?


Megan Sayer said...

Interesting. I am, on the other hand, a card-carrying member of Generation Distraction. I grew up eating meals and doing my homework together in front of the TV, often with the radio on as well. And yes, I was a top student. It just worked for me (not that I'd recommend it).

I realised recently that the same method of working has carried through into my adult life: I managed to peck out a 75,000 word manuscript in three months, all the while seemingly glued to Facebook. It worked. Actually, that distraction probably kept me sane during a very intense write.

I've found though, that while I write well with distractions, it's completely impossible to do any planning or plotting with them, so whereas I can write on my computer, I need to plot in a notebook at the kitchen table.

Ah, a bit of self-knowledge goes a long way. Long live distractions, I say!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I can flip a switch to turn off the internet. Sometimes I do that. Other times I step away from my desk and write with paper and pen.

Either that, or I go to a coffee shop that doesn't have free wifi. Yes. A few of those still exist. I like the ambiance of the place and that the girl keeps filling my coffee cup. :)

Marcia said...

I think, if you check, my picture is probably in the dictionary next to the word distracted.

Funny this subject should come up, because I've been struggling with it lately. Big time. I've had nagging back pain and it has made it hard to concentrate on anything the last couple of weeks. My writing schedule went out the window. Instead I poked around making greeting cards and experimenting with new techniques.

While I'm feeling better today, I saw something on YouTube yesterday afternoon that has helped me focus to a much greater degree--in just the few hours since I read it.

The gist of this guy's message was "How to Overcome Laziness in Four Simple Steps" or something like that.

He says to ask yourself these questions.

1. What am I trying to avoid?

2. What do I really want?

3. What is the next step I can take?

4. Repeat 1-3.

I extrapolated on that a bit, asking myself, "Even more importantly, what would God wish me to avoid? What would Jesus wish me to do? What's the next step I can take to do that?"

As a result, I've been focused, rather than scattered.

Another tip: I set alarms on my iPhone reminding me of important things to do... like giving my husband insulin. I hit the snooze on the alarm until I finish the task or at least start it.

And the last tip: If I don't make myself get enough rest, that's when I tend to get most distracted. Making myself go to bed when I don't want to has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. Still struggling there.

Patti Hill said...

Great questions, Laurie! And Susie, where is that switch? I suppose I could power down my router. I'll try that.

The biggest thing for me is to have a schedule and priorities. It's especially important for me to set writing hours and let the people who might call me know when I'm available. Writing in hard brain work, and mine would, sometimes, rather not.

I also tend to be a reward-centered person. If I meet my writing goal for the day, I eat the carrot, which may be as exciting as running errands or meeting a friend for a cool drink.

Nicole said...

Simple answer: I don't. ;/

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Patti, on my laptop, that switch is on the front. Obviously, I haven't switched it off today. :)

Bonnie Grove said...

Great tips, Marcia!

I'm a love-child-hippie-chick when it comes to my time and distractions. At least sometimes. I'm terribly forgiving of myself when I am in phase of stewing a story.
When it comes to writing, I sit and write. When the muse flees, I acknowledge the absence and stop writing.
I wait. Sometimes she's just on a potty-break. Other times, she's so far outta Dodge I can only hope I will see her again.
I dunno. Life is short. I have children at home. Publishing works at a snails pace.
I write for a Canadian paper, and I always hit my deadline (actually, I'm always early). Maybe I should write for magazines, then I'd feel the distraction pinch more acutely.

Latayne C Scott said...

What interesting comments! I though surely everyone would be giving tips to overcome distractions. But some of you seemed to embrace and welcome them!

Anonymous said...

Ah me, I guess I'm of the old school. I can't write when I'm distracted, and I'm distracted by so many things. I neeed QUIET when I write; I don't even listen to music (of the instruental variety). Songs with lyrics would just be impossible. But so many writers talked about the music they listened to when they wrote, that I thought I was surely missing something. So, a couple of years ago I bought an Enya CD collection, because I didn't know her music at all, though I liked the sound of it. But, dang, the moment I become familiar with a piece, it becomes a distraction. If I know the next note that's where my mind goes. So I write in quiet with only the whir of my fan as white noise.

In between scenes, when I've finished one and am finding the bridge to the next, I'll occasionally play Spider Solitaire. But to get to the heart of your question, Latayne, it's all the distractions before I sit down to write that waylay me. If there's laundry to do, rooms that need vaccuuming, bathrooms that need cleaning, I have to do that first. Then I can enjoy my writing time, guilt free. That's just how I'm made.

Latayne C Scott said...

I tell you, Sharon dearest, we were twins switched at birth. I agree with everything you say. But it took a five-alarm-fire crisis to show me I could write with distractions because the crisis in some strange way became the white noise to everything else.