We all have them — those things that distract us when we sit down to write. Or sometimes before we sit down to write. At times, they strike even when we contemplate thinking about intending to write.
They can be anything — pets, email, household chores, social media, etc. Obviously, real life gives us important distractions that genuinely demand our attention, such as jobs and children. (All you authors out there who have young children at home and still find writing time: I salute you! You people are amazing. I don’t know how you do it.) Those important obligations cannot be avoided, but what about the non-essential distractions? What can we do to minimize those?
Good question. I wish I knew. Wouldn’t it be nice to develop a perfect solution to the problem? The best I can do is give you a few techniques that have worked for me:
- Set a realistic writing goal each day. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I started by trying to write a minimum of 100 words of fiction a day. Once I could do that, I gradually increased the number to 500 words per day. That seems to be a good fit for me. It is enough to make progress on the current book, but still gives me plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day.
- Make that writing goal a daily priority. Look on your writing goal as a task you need to complete each day. Put off those non-essential distractions until you finish it. Back in the days of typewriters, it used to be easy to go into a room which did not have a telephone or television in it, shut the door, and type. The typewriter was very polite and did not throw distractions at you. Our electronic devices today, however, constantly want to interrupt us with pop-up boxes about the latest news or email. Our phones barrage us with text messages and banner announcements. IGNORE THEM. (Unless they involve your job or other essential life obligations, of course, but that’s not what we are talking about here.) All those text messages, emails, and news stories will still be there after you’ve finished your daily writing.
- Do your homework. Then you can go out and play. The distractions that hit me the hardest tend to fall in the “shiny new toy” category, particularly electronic games. I have loved computer games ever since the day in 1979 when my boyfriend (who was a programmer) took me into his office and showed me how to play Zork. A brand new video game can keep me busy for hours. My way of combating this distraction is to remember a very important life lesson my mother taught me when I was a child — you always finish your homework before you go out to play. If I am obsessed with a brand new computer game, I use that as a carrot to encourage me to finish my daily writing first, before I start playing it.
Obviously, I cannot say whether any of these ideas will help you, but they definitely work for me. John and I have now completed more than 73,000 words of Prophecy’s Malignant Son, and the home stretch of the novel is in sight. Assuming all goes well (and I can continue to avoid all those distractions), I am still hoping to finish the first draft by March. We’ll see!