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I don’t like being interrupted.
When I’m deeply focusing on something, or when I’m experiencing an above-average level of motivation and am feeling excited to start working on something, I don’t particularly enjoy having to deal with interruptions of any type or size.
I don’t like being interrupted. But it happens all the time.
The fact that I don’t live alone (other humans occupy my space) and that I am responsible for the happiness and overall well-being of a child (puppy) pretty much means I don’t get many long stretches of uninterrupted time to dive so deep into what I’m writing that I forget where I am and what I’m doing.
Of course, this does mean that when I do stumble upon these moments, there so much more special than they would be otherwise.
But all the noise, the notifications, the unpredictable nature of the real world and the one we live in online — it’s often what makes “doing writing” so hard.
Are there ways to write despite these often uncontrollable distractions? Absolutely. They’re just not always going to work. And that’s OK.
Peak productivity hours are ideal, but not always available. “Peak productivity hours” are those windows throughout the day where you’re typically the most productive. I’m usually pretty useless until about 7am, between the hours of 11am and 2pm, and anytime after 6pm. So I do the best I can to get as much work done as possible during my most productive hours.
As you probably already know, though, getting writing done at specific times of the day doesn’t always happen. You just sort of have to come to expect that this will happen. Having a plan is important — at the very least, it can help remind you that you intend to write at some point today. But you’re not always going to be able to start writing at 7am and stop at 11. Your dog might just randomly decide 9:00 is the perfect time to want to go outside and refuse to come back in.
If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to learn to be flexible. Admittedly, this is still something I struggle with even now. But this is a continuous learning experience for all of us, beginner, expert, or otherwise.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to work around interruptions. Because the truth is, they’re not just going to stop. You can learn to become a night owl, write while exhausted, and buy noise-canceling headphones (10/10 would still recommend), but people (and fur babies) are still going to demand your attention at the most inconvenient moments of your work time.
This isn’t just about being flexible with your time, though. It’s also about setting realistic expectations for yourself and your writing. Your reach goal might be to write 1,000 words every day this week, but if your furnace suddenly decides to stop working, the internet goes out, and someone forgets to tell you someone is coming to spray the lawn at the exact moment you let the dog out, you’re probably not going to be able to write 1,000 words every day this week.
Does that make you a failure? No. It just makes you a writer trying to survive in a world not built for writers.
(To answer your question, yes, all of these things have happened to me in the span of three consecutive days. And people wonder why I still haven’t published a book …) :)
Don’t let this be an excuse to stop writing. There have been plenty of moments over the past few years that I’ve seriously considered quitting just because it would be easier than trying to work around other people’s unpredictable schedules. But I always come back to the fact that it would be pretty ridiculous to look back on why I gave up and realize it was because I let other people control my life.
So I figured out how to adapt. I learned to write during work breaks, late at night, and instead of doing the things I would typically much rather be doing — like re-watching yet another Marvel movie or mindlessly scrolling through Twitter (does anyone actually WANT to do that, or is it just inevitable?). I identified interruptions as an excuse and refused to let that excuse stop me from doing what I wanted (and in many cases needed) to do.
You’ll encounter enough excuses throughout your time as a writer. Don’t let someone else’s routines (or lack thereof) be the one thing that ends up blocking your path.
If I can write a blog post while the robot vacuum is running two feet away, with the dog barking at it, the TV blasting at full volume two rooms over, and someone’s phone going off every 10 seconds (I wish I were exaggerating this scenario, but trust me, I’m not), you can write all the things today.
Well, maybe not all of them. How about starting with just one?
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.