Some days, it seems like there are more things that distract writers than there are things that help them focus on … you know, writing.
The internet (specifically, social media).
Always trying to write the perfect first draft.
Basically anything that moves or makes a sound. Seriously. Weren’t you just writing five seconds ago? What happened?
The obvious distractions are frustrating, sure. You know you need to get to work and it definitely does not feel like what you’re doing to procrastinate is helping you accomplish anything.
But there are some writing distractions you don’t even realize are distractions because you THINK they’re helping you in the long-term … when really, they aren’t.
Before I go on, let me make one thing clear: Reading is important. Reading is essential for all people who want to tell stories for a living (whatever form that may take). As a creator, you will — and should — spend significant amounts of time reading other people’s work. Studying it. Learning from it.
But it cannot — and should not — take the place of actively telling your own stories.
In other words, don’t spend your entire weekend — the one you specifically set aside for writing — reading a book for the sole purpose of “getting inspired to get writing done.”
To me, this falls into the same category as inspirational quote collages and go-to motivational tweeters. They can be helpful sometimes. But definitely not all the time. And they should never take the place of actual writing time.
Why do you keep doing this — spending so much time studying someone else’s work that there’s barely enough time left to focus on your own?
Or is that the point — “productively” procrastinating so you don’t actually have to write anything that might turn out imperfect or get ripped to pieces by a critic whose opinion you technically didn’t ask for?
Yes. Procrastinations can easily take the form of subtle distractions. Especially when we’re trying to use them as excuses to hold off on writing just a little bit longer. To justify our true lack of productivity, even if we honestly believe we’re benefiting our future writing somehow.
It is so important to read others’ work, to learn from them — and of course, to enjoy their words. But don’t let it keep you away from your own writing too long. You need to give your own readers a chance to experience and enjoy YOUR work. That can’t happen if you don’t write!
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.