5 Tips For Avoiding Distractions and Getting More Writing Done

Writers have always had to be disciplined, but the internet has made matters a million times worse. In addition to the temptations that everyone else faces, we are being actively encouraged to be online 24/7: to network, promote our books and so on. Ashley Ream wrote a great guest post recently about how to write a novel when you’re busy, but how do you focus on the writing itself when there are so many distractions right at your fingertips?

(Adapt your book into a movie script — here’s how.)



Guest column by Anne Lyle, author of THE ALCHEMIST OF SOULS
(Angry Robot, March 2012). Publishers Weekly said of the book,
“”Impressive … With an effective mix of espionage, backstage drama, and
mystery, Lyle provides compelling drama in an intriguing setting.”
Visit Ann’s website or find her on Twitter.

1. Put your computer aside and write the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. Sure you’ll have to type it up afterwards, but you can edit the prose as you go, so it’s not wasted time. Also, you can take your notepad anywhere, and you never have to worry about recharging batteries (though it’s wise to carry a spare pen!).

2. If you’re a committed typist, try using a non-internet-capable device. You might be able to get hold of an old, wifi-less laptop for next to nothing, or you can buy a dedicated word-processor. I wrote the first drafts of my two completed novels on my Alphasmart (www.neo-direct.com) – a full-sized keyboard with built-in storage that syncs to your computer via USB. The LCD screen is just large enough to show a few lines of text, reducing the temptation to edit, and its impressive 700-hour battery life means you never have to worry about being near a power socket.

(Chapter 1 cliches and overused beginnings — see them all here.)

3. If you can’t afford new hardware, how about turning off your computer’s WiFi connection? It is admittedly rather easy to turn back on with a couple of mouse clicks, but you at least have to make the active choice to do so.

4. If you need the internet for research whilst writing, or are tempted by games, there are software applications that will limit your computer activity in ways that you define. I use Concentrate, a Mac program that will allow me to access the web but block certain websites (such as facebook.com) and also disable Twitter programs and email. You just set up a profile and then activate it when you want to focus on your work. Concentrate includes the ability to set a default time limit – I usually set mine to 30 minutes, which is enough to get some work done without feeling itchy about checking my email!

5. If you’ve tried all of these and you’re still having trouble focusing, consider whether there might be a good reason underlying your restlessness. Maybe you’re just too tired or ill, or have niggling non-writing worries, in which case you need to give yourself permission to take a break from writing to sort yourself out. Or maybe you’re burned out from constant writing. That age-old advice to write every day? Not written in stone. Even if you’re working to a contracted deadline, you need to schedule days off to recharge your batteries now and then. Take a day trip, curl up with a good book, or spend time on that neglected but satisfying hobby. Remember, all work and no play makes Jackie a dull writer!


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6 thoughts on “5 Tips For Avoiding Distractions and Getting More Writing Done

  1. busymama

    I would love to have an alphasmart on hand! I may add that to my wish list soon. I’ve found leechblock for firefox has been very effective for limiting online distractions. I can choose what I want to block and when and also set different levels of security to prevent myself from just overriding the add-on and wasting time anyway. You can set it to require a password to make changes during ‘off’ times, or even lock it down entirely with no access to the settings.

    It’s been helpful for working from home as well as for writing.

  2. Bop

    #5 is so true. I had to give myself permission not to write for 3 years — twice — when my children were very young. There was just no time until they were 3 years old. I still read, I still scratched out notes; and when they were old enough to entertain themselves a bit, I started again. If you are born to write, you will always write, but sometimes you have to take care of life, too.

  3. KarenLange

    These are good tips, thank you for sharing! I find that the internet is the biggest distraction to my writing. Working on being more disciplined. I am not opposed to using rewards, such as chocolate, to keep me focused sometimes. 🙂

  4. Curmudgeon

    I like your suggestion to use a word processor. I have an old Smith Corona typewriter, and I use it for writing everything but poetry (there’s just so much on-the-spot editing with poetry that I like the computer). Nothing can match the satisfaction of watching the pages pile up on the table!


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