I write any time I can – I write sitting down waiting for an appointment, I write on the last smidgeon of counter space at a coffee shop, I write early in the morning, late at night, and I swear to God, I write in my sleep.
It is all in the service of completing my current project. Any delay in my mission is a distraction.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of my all time favorite books and contains this line:
“Delay is as dangerous as the wrong answer.”
So I always ask myself: Is what I’m doing furthering my goal to finish my novel or am I being distracted? There should only be one answer.
Amidst facing the worries of making ends meet, keeping in contact with family and friends and just plain staying sane, distractions have to be dealt with every single day. When I write, everything outside of writing does not exist, at least for that brief slice of time.
Here are the ways I choose to deal with those nasty delays in achieving my goal:
- I use headphones
The screaming, screeching, crying, blasphemy of public space is all out there in the muted landscape while I am in here writing. I am listening to the current soundtrack of my writing needs; and yes, I employ music to make me write mean, romantic, deranged or whatever I need.
Music drives everything for me. Loud and intrusive, my brain needs sound, my sound, not anybody else’s sound. This is not for everyone, I know, but silence turns my writing brain into stone.
- I jail my distractors
All stuff: notebooks, papers, bills, magazines, photos, and any miscellaneous detritus, I put in its labeled container.
I used to use the brown paper bags from the supermarket until I was shamed into buying reusable bags. (Only to be shamed when I left those bags at home). Now I have fancy canvas cubes and I hide, I mean I have them neatly lined up in my studio. All the work that needs doing doesn’t bother me while I write. I have contained it.
Unless I get a reminder on my phone that a bill is due. Or my credit card was used at a gas station for one dollar. So…
- I turn my phone off
If my phone is on I will answer it. If I answer it I will talk. If I see my phone is on I will think of someone I have to call. I will call them and I will talk. The only way I will not use my phone is to turn it off. Period. I am very weak when it comes to conversation. (Italian)
- I use pity
Whereas the canvas containers have no voice and the phone can’t make a sound when it’s turned off, and everybody I care about makes noise when they want to get to me. I created a sign to hang on my studio door as an emotional barrier:
“If you love me, leave me alone and let me write.”
(I offered it to our writing group as a PDF and there were hundreds of downloads.)* It works, most of the time, and when it doesn’t, I at least have gotten pretty good at negotiation
My children are grown, but there are writers who know the distractions don’t go away when you have little ones at home who don’t read signs and they actually require attention unless another family member will take over.
There are also loved ones who can’t read and they can cause significant distractions. And they do not respond well to negotiation. My dogs could care less if I want to write. They need food, they need water, and they need attention.
Again someone else, family or friends, can step in and give the poor writer respite from those furry dictators.
Pity the writer who needs to write. Become a barrier to the distractions, even for an hour or two and let the momentum build and the writing feel good.
Pity the writer who stares at the page and while battling constant noise, fear, worry, indigestion, lack of sleep, lack of money and with a basic hope in humankind continues to lay down word after word.
So I say to you: good luck finding a quiet spot, a calm moment or an empty chair at the coffee shop. Good luck putting aside the pressing needs of daily concerns, family and friends, the urge to dissolve into video games, the Internet and the blessed sanctuary of sleep.
And no matter what, never give up writing, whatever it is you’re writing because in the end, all writers are warriors fighting distraction to write to “The End.”
*If you want the PDF sign “If you love me leave me alone and let me write” email me and I will send you a copy.
What do you use to battle distraction? What works and what doesn’t?
Christina for PenPaperWrite www.penpaperwrite.com
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