by Bruce Blake
Anyone who follows me here or on my blog will know I’ve been on a tear about productivity lately. I’ve been preaching about setting aside regular times, planning you writing sessions, staying enthusiastic, and expecting more of yourself. Today, I want to address one more…the biggie.
They’re everywhere and they happen to all of us. There isn’t a writer out there who hasn’t frittered away an hour they should have used for writing. So many important things can come up: Facebook, Twitter, blogging(!), editing, feeding the kids, petting the dog, napping, etc., etc., etc. The list is endless. So what do you do to avoid them?
Here are some ideas.
1. Go extreme. Turn off the internet, get out of the house. I met a writer who rents an office to get her work done. I don’t think I could go that far–the local library is good enough for me. Most everyone will stay away from you there, but it turns out the inter-webs are just as easy to switch back on as they were to turn off in the first place, so you need to exercise some willpower.
2. Make a schedule. The reason why some distractions happen is because everything is important. That editing needs to get done, the blog needs to be written, the kids won’t feed themselves (trust me, they can eventually, they just don’t want to) and, yes, even social networking needs some attention. To ensure everything gets the time it needs, create a schedule. Plan when you will write, when to get to the editing, and when to promote. Your schedule doesn’t need to be something you do at the beginning of the month and then force yourself to stick to, but sit down at the beginning of the day to plan your work, then work your plan. Pet the dog when you can fit it in.
3. Automate. Use technology to take care of your technology, at least while you’re writing. Programs like SocialOomph, HootSuite, and Buffer can take some of the social media burden away and free up your time for the more important aspects of being a writer, you know, like writing. Please don’t spam, though.
4. Set goals. I tend to be the competitive type, but writing isn’t really a discipline that sets you head-to-head against another author, so I’m all I’ve got. I’ve kept track of what an average writing day means for me (around 1200 words/hour) and what my best is (about 1600 words in an hour), so I set goals based on these numbers. Do I only have 2 hours to write? I put my head down and aim for 3000 words. With something to work toward, I have more reason to concentrate and get ‘er done.
5. Set deadlines. Like #4, but on a larger scale. Deadlines work for me as having an end date for the entire project forces me to follow some of the other suggestions outlined above (it’s tough to hit a deadline without having a schedule, for instance). Without an end, things can go on forever, and you have no reason not to be distracted.
6. Use the buddy system. Has anyone reading this ever done NaNoWriMo? Did you complete the task? If not, did it still turn out to be one of your most productive writing months ever? That’s because you made yourself accountable to someone else. You didn’t want to let down your team, or the people you buddied up with. NaNo works because it brings writers together, so why not do that all the time? I’d be curious to know how many people who complete the NaNo task write 50000 words in any other month of the year.
You’ve probably read this far and now you’re thinking to yourself “well, duh, Bruce.” But that’s it guys, there is no secret cure to distractions. Really, the secret to avoiding distractions is to want to write more than you want to do anything else, but if I wrote that first, it would have been a short post.
What distracts you most when you’re writing? What do you do to avoid it?