Friday, January 27, 2012

How Writers Deal With Distraction

Distractions are a fact of life. Learning how to effectively channel the countless interruptions and distractions into something positive is a critical skill for a writer to master. I admit, I struggle with this. 

The thought of chocolate can divert my attention, or how there's a missing coach light on the front porch or suddenly how much the dogs need a bath. It doesn't take much. Oh, how to get back to writing...

Prerequisite to Writing

Being unfocused isn't a bad thing as long as it can be controlled. It is usually a prerequisite to writing, a period of time in which the mind floats, searching for a place to land. That unfocused, intentional drift is an incredibly valuable time in which to gather ideas and choose a topic or a poem's direction. 

Thornton Wilder (1897 - 1975, author of Our Town) touches on this sensory ride in his quote, "The stuff of which masterpieces are made drifts about the world waiting to be clothed in words."

Writers: Find Your Focus

Clarity is that place where all writers suddenly feel as though a veil has been lifted and pure intention is harnessed. This is where ideas are lined up like horses at the track, ready to blaze straight out of the gates. Once focus takes hold, the writing journey begins in earnest. George Lucas said it so succinctly, "Your focus determines your reality."

Writing Distractions

Most writers suffer from the same group of everyday, common distractions:

  • phones ringing
  • email overload
  • home and yard work
  • pets and child (or elder) care
  • exercise for health 

If writing is what you love to do, what's the problem? Most likely, the problem comes from not setting boundaries for yourself.

Writers — Get Organized and Set Boundaries

When setting boundaries this includes where and when to write. Writing from a central room in a house with pets and children running around is asking for trouble. Turning off a phone does not make you a bad person.

Simple steps to create order :

  • set up a writing space where interruptions will be minimal
  • turn off the phone (let voice mail take over)
  • allow yourself a set amount of time to read emails, check the news, exercise
  • make lunch time a special time for eating, talking, being playful

Once you take yourself seriously as a writer, so will everyone else. Creating order is simply creating a space in each day for writing to come first. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, "At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction." Now there's a way to regain focus!

Use Everything as Inspiration for Writing

Viewing distractions as inspiration in some way can help alleviate the feelings of annoyance and impatience. Stephen King said it so well here: "In truth, I've found that any day's routine interruptions and distractions don't much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl." I love that, Stephen!

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