Leonard is a former teacher and principal who has been a writer for the past three decades. Writing and animals are his true loves.
It seems like I have been writing for my entire life. From a student in primary school, steadfastly composing stories about ghosts and goblins, to a published writer with articles appearing in numerous publications. It is something which I have always loved doing- and still do today. I will tell you about something that I don’t love, however. The constant distractions, interruptions, and general procrastination which disrupt the creative process of actually writing! Arghh! Wondering what I mean? Let’s take a look at a typical day of writing and see if you can see my point.
The Typical Day:
Each day I wake up excited to begin a day of writing. Notions and ideas have been running through my head all night long, and I am eager to put them down on paper.
But before I do, let’s just quickly check my emails.
1 hour later.
I am good to go now. My coffee has been refilled and nothing will stop me. Time to maximize my writing! That penguin joke that Scott sent me was hilarious though. I wonder if anyone else has seen it? I’m just going to send it out to a few people and then I will get right back to my writing. No excuses!
1 hour later.
Ok… no more jokes. The dogs have been walked and fed. All the dishes and chores are complete. Emails or no emails- nothing will stop me now! But before I really get started, let’s just check Twitter and Facebook. We all know it is critical to interact and engage with one’s audience! If we don’t, how will anyone ever find us? Marketing… marketing… marketing.
2 hours later.
Well, that took a little longer than I expected. What do you expect? There were so many great threads about reading and writing that I just had to get into it. Also, when I start to retweet- I just can’t stop! Time to get down to business though. Right after I check out a few stories on Medium. It would be unsupportive of me not to!
1 hour later.
How to be a pirate in 2022. That was a funny story! Speaking of writing, however, I better get to it. Right after lunch.
2 hours later.
That lunch took longer than I thought. My partner says I do not spend enough time with her and that I am always locked away in my office. I hope that lunch date placates her for a while. Back to writing I go! First, though, I better check my website. We all know how important a website is to our “author brand.”
3 hours later.
Wow! That certainly chewed up a lot of time. But the good news is that I downloaded some real neat plugins which will help me write even more! Speaking of writing…
2 hours later.
Well, I still have not actually written anything today. I did conduct a lot of top-quality research on my topic though. Everyone knows that you cannot just write without actually being knowledgeable about a topic. I only stopped once for a quick game of Wordle!
It is getting kind of late now and I have to make supper and take care of the dogs. Anyways, no sense getting into my writing as I will just have to stop and start all over again. That will disrupt my keen train of thought. Everyone knows not to do that!
I will start…tomorrow. For real this time!
So there you go. You can certainly get the picture of what a typical day of writing can deteriorate into if we let it. The good news, however, is that it doesn’t have to. There are many techniques that can be used that will eliminate these tedious distractions and allow us to maximize our writing time. While everyone is indeed different, the following are some of my own tried and true methods for preventing distraction and procrastination so we can get down to the business of writing!
Prepare Your Workstation:
This may sound a little obvious, but if your work area is disorganized and cluttered, it will distract you from your writing. You will spend all your time looking for notes and writing tools. Not to mention all the other sources of distraction that a messy writing space provides. Before you start writing, make sure you are actually prepared for the task with all your required tools at hand. Unbelievably, this will save you countless hours of wasted and unproductive time.
Make a Schedule-And Stick To It:
Everyone has a time of day in which they do their best writing. For me, it is in the wee hours of the morning before anyone else is awake. That is when my creative juices flow! Whatever the time may be for you, try to block this period off for writing. It can be one hour, two, or more. Just make sure that this time is solely dedicated to actually writing. Have no mercy!
I do realize that many of us (including myself), work a full-time job in addition to our writing. That certainly complicates matters. Nevertheless, make sure to schedule your time in a way that allows you to fully commit to the writing process.
Personally, I write for 2 hours before work each and every day. That is my focused writing time and no interruptions are allowed. I will then work all day and come home to take care of my household and family duties. To end the day I typically engage on different social media platforms and do a lot of reading on Hubpages. A very busy day- but I still managed to get in 2 solid hours of writing.
Conduct Your Research Before Writing:
There is really nothing worse than starting to write about a topic that you know nothing about. It will come across as amateurish and disingenuous. Undoubtedly, most quality writing requires painstaking research. That research takes a lot of time to conduct and is a full-time job all unto itself. However, writing is a flowing and creative process. Therein lies the enigma!
My own best work tends to take place when I have a good chunk of uninterrupted time. If you let it, research will be a huge source of distraction. You can be in the middle of a particularly great piece of writing, only to be sidetracked by the need for more research and potential details. Let the Internet surfing begin! By having your research conducted prior to sitting down to write, you have removed a serious distraction pitfall.
Drown Out The Noise:
No matter who you are, outside noise is a significant source of distraction when you are trying to write. It will seriously stifle the creative process. The worst example of this is having to listen to conversations around us that frustratingly interfere with our own thoughts. There are certainly ways to address this issue, however.
I am one of the lucky ones who has my own office. Be that as it may, it still tends to get quite noisy in my house. I have purchased a white noise machine for just such instances. The machine will drown out all the other sounds and conversations which my subconscious is trying so hard to engage in. Also, for those who do not have a choice but to write around other people, noise-canceling headphones should do the trick. It is all about concentration and focus!
This could very well be the most powerful of all the distraction foes to be defeated! However, it does not need to be. We can turn this enemy into an ally with some old-fashioned discipline and know-how.
First of all, there are many facets to address here. Social media, web searches, emails, cell phone calls- and the list goes on. Some people would suggest that you just turn off the technology cold turkey and go on a virtual hiatus. I personally do not agree with that. As writers we need technology. It provides many of the things we require to efficiently practice our craft. It also allows us to connect with our audience in a meaningful way.
Instead, what should be suggested is to use technology differently. Make sure that the phone, emails, and social media are off when you are in your scheduled focused writing time. Also, if you don’t trust yourself to have the computer on to type out your work, try writing it down with pen and paper. I always do this. It helps me to think about and process ideas while minimizing distractions at the same time.
Also, use technology to help you reduce the amount of time you actually utilize technology (a tongue twister I know). Bear with me. For instance, automate your social media posts and if you need to, install website blocking apps so you can truly focus on your task at hand… writing!
Get A Writing Buddy
Have you ever heard of a training partner? Someone who will participate in such physical training as running or weight-lifting with you. Such a partnership allows you to push and challenge one another to get to the next level. You will also hold each other accountable. Don’t want to go for that 10K run today? Too bad! Lace up! The same applies to writing. Find a buddy who will help keep you on track. In return, you can do the same for them. This will dramatically increase focus and productivity. Win/win!
My parting advice, dear audience, is to take everything I have mentioned here and personalize it. You and I are different people. What is a significant source of distraction for me may not bother you in the slightest. Discover your own distractions. Only then will you be able to truly address them and maximize your time writing!
Join the Discussion
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Leonard Tillerman