Tueasday’s Tip: Top 7 Writing Distractions
Last week we talked about scheduling and the discipline it takes to write a novel. This week I’m doing a countdown of the top 7 distractions I have to avoid at all costs when trying to write and tips on how that’s done.
They must realize the fictional people in our heads have the floor right now and we can’t stop to entertain real people. That would be rude and offensive to our characters.
This is fairly manageable. You simply tell the people, “Thanks for stopping by, but I’m writing right now and I have a deadline” (As an entrepreneur you have self imposed deadlines. It’s a fair word to use.) They usually take the hint, but then you have the ones that are a little…thick. They linger and say they won’t stay long. Meanwhile all those characters are running around in your head like bunch of wild lab monkeys that found the keys to freedom. It’s going to be a disaster when you get back to work and the longer you’re distracted the messier it will be. This is when I snap and ‘Go Jack Nicholson’. You’ll hear me use that term a lot. My cousin coined it years ago when she compared my writing personality to that of Jack Nicholson’s in As Good As It Gets. His character’s an author and after being disturbed too many times he delivers a nasty speech to the person on the other side of the door. Yes, I’ve Jack Nicholsoned a few people in my day. After enough polite warnings, don’t be afraid to let your Jack out. You’ve got work to do!
I’m not a big TV person. I used to be, but then I discovered books and just sort of put television in the “meh” category. My husband, however, loves his TV time. He’s a total whore for Netflix. I’m often writing beside him on the couch, which usually works out because I’m not into a lot of the shows and movies he chooses. However, once in a while I struggle to focus when the TV’s on. There are 3 options here. 1. Get up and relocate to a quiet place in the house. 2. Ask him to turn the volume down a little. 3. Shut the laptop and call it a day. It’s time for some quality time with the hubs. (The 4th option would be if you’re alone to just shut it off, but why would you have the TV on when you’re trying to work?) It all depends on what time of day, the day of the week, and how productive I’ve been.
I laugh when people assume writing a book is an easy job anyone can do. Sure, anyone can write pages and pages and call it a book, but I try to write good stories and that takes effort, brains, creativity, research, good plotting, and a ton of know how. It’s having a pulse on the market, knowing what readers want, and being able to twist words into a sculpture of entertainment that’s just right. Sure, that’s not hard at all. There are days those word simply won’t twist the way you want them to and after hours of determined attempts, you realize you have to chuck it and start over. It’s exhausting! It’s also, for me, a vendetta. I want to nail it and I don’t want to walk away until I’ve done so, but sometimes that just isn’t possible because I’m delirious and in desperate need of sleep. At that point I have to call it what it is and go to bed. Tomorrow’s another day.
There are times we just have to stop. Laundry needs to be folded, children need to be picked up, husbands need to be fed… There really is no stopping life. This is why when I have a set aside chunk of uninterrupted time I take it very seriously, because sooner or later, life is going to happen.
This one’s a necessary evil. An author’s search history is an interesting and telling thing. In the past few years I’ve researched tree climbing, DIY tile cutting, kidnapping laws in Virginia, car statistics, autism strategies, towns in Ireland, policies at homeless shelters, and more. Don’t forget I write erotic romance…there is a lot of researching. But, it all makes for a better book. The best thing to do is recognize that research is time consuming and necessary. It’s a part of your job as an author so make room for it.
2. The Phone.
Texts, calls, apps, games, reminders, tweets, etc… It’s a vibrating, whistling, singing nightmare of distractions! You must tell yourself, if something’s wrong they will call and call again. I turn my phone on low (I have to hear it in case my daughter’s school calls) and put it in the other room. That way, I don’t hear the Tweets and texts, but I’ll hear it ring. If it’s next to me, I trust myself to screen. Unless it’s the school calling I hit the button and let them leave a message.
1. Social Networks!!!
I don’t have to name any names. You know what and who they are! They suck you in and don’t let go! You can minimize your screens, but those pings draw you back and rip you from your thought process. Step 1 is muting the computer. But what’s that? A tiny number on the tab to my internet. Maybe just a peek…NO! You close the internet! That’s step 2. Your phone should already in the other room so no cheating there with those tempting push notifications. You can have your social time later, but not until you’ve finished something. I don’t know what it is about social media, but once you’re in it, you’re hog wild deep and nothing will pull you out. Fight the temptation and save it for the end of the day. A two second peek can turn into a four hour distraction you’ll regret.