The Law of Distraction

by Bruce Blake

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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.

Distractions.

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.

images1. 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.

kablam_little_Robot3. 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 buddymost 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?

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Bruce Blake is the author of the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy trilogy and the Icarus Fell urban fantasy series. The third Icarus book, Secrets of the Hanged Man, is set to be released on July 15.

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7 comments on “The Law of Distraction

  1. Deadlines do it for me hands down. This drives me to get it done even if I’m behind. I’ll ignore everything, including eating, and work late into the night if I’m getting close to the deadline. Mind you, I could have been easier on myself if I had done a little at time, but…well, you know…distractions. But when the deadline is breathing down my neck, I work like a mad woman to meet it.

    What distracts me: my three young kids, my more than 40 animals and wanting to be outside when it’s nice weather.

  2. A combination of daily goals and deadlines works for me. Distractions aren’t as big of a thing (if you can’t work with distractions in my house you’re screwed), especially if I focus on rewarding myself after a big day of writing or editing with some Wine & Wife Time. ;D

  3. Pingback: Writing Dates | Adventures in Writing

  4. Pingback: Camp NaNoWriMo Day 2 | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

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