Reading your readers’ comments/messages/emails/tweets
You know how it goes. You get a notification in the middle of writing something amazing … and you just have to break the flow to check (and probably respond) to the interruption. You let yourself do it because writers need to interact — right?
Interacting with your readers is extremely important. But set aside time separate from writing to read and respond. It’s a great place to go to generate ideas for new content, which you probably don’t want to do in the middle of trying to finish something else.
Brainstorming ideas for things you’re not supposed to be doing right now
Hey. You’re supposed to be finishing that blog post, not starting another one just because another idea popped into your head. That’s neither efficient nor necessary, no matter how urgent this second idea seems to be.
Quickly jot down a headline or a few bullet points to refer back to later. Whatever you do, do not open a new tab. I said don’t do it!
Looking up how to spell that word you’ve probably already misspelled 40 times
It’s tempting. I know. You can’t concentrate on writing even the next sentence until you’ve looked up how to spell that word. But try training yourself not to. Once you get into a flow and it’s harder to stop writing than start again, anything that interrupts that might destroy your productivity. Get this thing written so you can eat chocolate or whatever your reward for finishing might be.
Rereading what you’ve already written
This only really applies to longer works of prose, obviously — but if you’re sitting down to write, don’t scroll up (and up and up and up) to reread too much of what you’ve already written. Yes, you need to reread enough to give yourself some context and align your mind with what’s happening in your story. But I can’t be the only one who’s guilty of reading entire chapters unnecessarily because who needs to actually get some writing done anyway?
Here’s what’s not as distracting as you might think, though …
- Getting up and walking around
- Listening to your favorite song
- Watching a quick YouTube video
- Walking the dog
- Playing with your cat
- Reading a few chapters of a book
You get the idea.
There’s a difference between a distraction and a break. Distractions aren’t deliberate, are disruptive, last a long time, and are very difficult to pull yourself away from. Breaks are purposeful, refreshing, last a short amount of time, and end up giving you just enough breathing room before you are ready to jump back into your work.
Take a lot of breaks. Never get distracted again.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.