How to Minimize Writing Distractions

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Don’t lie. You’re one of those writers. The “I’m watching this YouTube video because it somehow relates to my novel I promise” kind.

It’s okay. We’ve all done it. No Writing Excuses Anonymous enrollment necessary.

Now that we’ve all silently admitted we’re prone to distractions—because let’s be honest, it’s hard not to get distracted with so many things accessible on your laptop besides Microsoft Word—how can we minimize them?

Here are three things you can try. First, let’s talk “networking,” and not the kind you might be thinking of.

Turn Off the Internet

Whether literally or figuratively, the World Wide Web and your writing schedule can’t fit into the same time slot. You’re probably listing off ten reasons why this isn’t true. We probably know exactly what you’re thinking.

“But I need to do research—”

Nope. No you don’t. You can designate separate time for researching topics related to the story you’re working on.

“But I need background noise—”

Pretty much whichever form of streaming you’re tempted to access on your computer, you can do through your phone. Turn on whichever station, video playlist or album you want to listen to. Turn the volume up, place your phone across the room, and get to writing. No Internet required.

We could go on. But that would be distracting.

Download Freedom, which will allow you to temporarily disable your Internet connection for the sake of productivity for a certain amount of time. Or, better yet, take your laptop somewhere that doesn’t have free wi-fi.

Hmm. We smell a segue.

Designate a Writing Nook

Some write in coffee shops. Some are lucky enough to have their own offices. Each writer writes in a different place, but those who designate that space solely for their art are the ones who get their “stuff” done.

Create your own writing nook. This space should be your writing space. Not your writing, sometimes checking email, sometimes doodling, phone-is-always-chirping space. The same way psychologists suggest you should only use your bed for sleeping (instead of reading, texting, binge-watching “Friends” … ), the place you choose to work your word-fueled magic should be reserved just for that purpose.

Check back for our upcoming article, “Three Ways to Optimize (and Personalize) Your Writing Space.”

Keep Pen and Paper Handy

In your writing “zone,” your thoughts travel at top speed. Often, these thoughts might stem from, and interfere with, the story you’re trying to work on. You might write one angry exchange between your MCs, a page, maybe two, and then remember you have to buy oranges, because your significant other gets angry when there aren’t any oranges in your kitchen.

Refractory rhymes aside, there are several things that can happen here. That one thought—I need to put oranges on my grocery list—might bounce around in your head until your thought process has completely derailed from the productivity track. The need to buy oranges might somehow end up in your story, which could work out, or take away from the main idea.

Then there’s the worst possibility of all: you might actually get up from your chair to make a note on your grocery list, literally ripping yourself out of your creative mentality and increasing the likelihood that you won’t get anything else written anytime soon.

Keeping a pen and paper next to you will rescue your literary productivity before it has a chance to collapse. As soon as that thought about groceries pops into your head, finish the sentence you’re typing, pick up your pen and jot it down. That way it’s out of your head, on paper and ready for your attention when you’re done writing.

No more excuses, writers. Now that we’ve distracted you for an extended period of time (oops), get back to writing. Eat an orange. Write about oranges. Etcetera.

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