Overcoming Writing Distractions



I recently went to a class conducted by writers Amy K. Nichols and Joe Nassise. They talked about writing in the age of distraction (squirrel writing, they called it). It was very helpful, so I'm going to pass on some of the ideas I found most useful.

-Know your triggers. Write down all the things that distract you from writing and be ruthlessly honest as you do it. Internet surfing, e-mail, games, videos, etc tend to be big culprits, especially since you can do them on the same device you're supposed to be writing on. Even legitimate research can be a distraction, especially if you interupt the creativity of your first draft to go down that particular rabbit hole. Being aware of your worst distractions can help you avoid them (more on that below).

On the other side of the coin, know what triggers your creativity and productive writing. Sometimes wearing some item of clothing (a magic writing hat, etc), playing certain music, putting on headphones, or writing at a certain time will get you quickly in the zone. Take advantage of these triggers.

-Get into habits and do things religiously. Set aside certain writing times and treat it like a job. Ask yourself, "Would I get fired right now?" If the answer is yes, get off Facebook or whatever and get back to your job of writing.

-When writing at home, put a sign on the door (doorknob hangers work well) so that family members know you're working and know not to distract you.

-Try a brain focus app, like Brain FM. It sees what focusses you and then plays sounds that help.

-Use the Pomidoro technique (see my last post). This consists of 25-minute working sprints followed by short breaks (5-10 minutes). During your breaks it might work to reward yourself with one of those distractions you wrote down earlier.

-Give yourself deadlines, but make them reasonable and connect with other people who will keep you accountable to those deadlines. After all, if someone expects a certain number of pages from you by Monday, you're more likely to get it done.

-Resist "shiny thing syndrome" where you get excited by shiny new projects and start so many things but never finish. If this starts happening, pick one and finish it.

-Use apps that turn off the internet or black out the rest of your screen except your writing page for a certain amount of time. There are many apps and browser add-ons like this.

-Try something like Write-o-Meter, which tracks word count and keeps a log of productivity over time. It may help also you find when your most productive hours are.

-Take care of yourself mentally and physically, and don't compare yourself to others. Be kind to you.

-Give yourself permission to "be a writer." It will legitimize your work and make your work time seem more valuable.

Thanks, Amy and Joe, for all this valuable advice!


Melinda Brasher's most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in NousElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com

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