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10 Ways to Avoid Distraction While You Write

Too distracted to write

by Jennifer on June 22, 2011

This is a guest post by Mariana Ashley of OnlineColleges.net

Jonathan Franzen, author of the bestselling novel Freedom, famously told TIME Magazine that he had actually disabled the Internet connection on his writing laptop by literally sticking a cable into the Ethernet port, sealing it with crazy glue, and then cutting off the cable so that the plug effectively plugged up the laptop.

Why did he do this? Well, because, according to Franzen: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Those of you who would rather not destroy your computer in order to avoid distractions should consider other methods as you sit down to write.

The following is a list of steps I take when I begin writing in order to help keep myself focused. Hopefully they can be of some use to you; and, of course, please share you own in the comments in case I’ve missed any!

1. Write by Hand
If you can write by hand, then you won’t need to worry about the distractions you’d have on your computer. Have a nice writing notebook and pen with which to do your writing; that way you won’t have to deal with the temptation of the Internet or Solitaire or whatever other applications you’ve got on your computer.

2. Use an Internet-Freezing App
If you must write on the computer and you’re susceptible to the distractions that go along with it, then download a free application that only allows you to write. Some of these also block the Internet. You can set them to be active for a certain amount of time, which guarantees that you’ll stay on task. I recommend Freedom and JDarkRoom. Search around and see what works best for you!

3. Turn Off Your Cell Phone
Nowadays, cell phones are like mini-computers and we’re always connected. However, writing is, by its very nature, a lonely activity and it needs solitude in order to be done well. You do yourself a large favor if you turn off your cell phone for the hour or so that you write. You’ll find that it’s nice to be unplugged for a few hours every day.

4. Go to Your Writing Place
I know one of my friends who cannot write unless she drives her car to a certain parking lot and scribbles on her notepad. Of course, she is an extreme example of this point, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Many times, location is very important to our writing, so it makes sense to try to find that happy place, literally, that is all your own.

5. Prep Your Body/Mind
Likewise, you should also put your body and mind in a happy place: take a shower, eat a good meal, meditate, go for a run. Depending on your personality, all or some of these things could do wonders for getting you to that physical and mental space that is important to write. Sure, we often make up excuses, like “I’m not in the mood to write,” so this tip will take that excuse away from you!

6. Take Care of the Necessities First
If you’re not prepared to write, then you’ll spend your time organizing and worrying over your writing materials. Make sure you have good pens and paper, a working computer, enough printer ink, and so on. Make sure you keep your desk organized so you don’t procrastinate by organizing your desk every day. If you have all of this in order and ready, then you’ll simply have no excuse but to sit down and write.

7. Write Every Morning
Writing first thing in the morning allows you to get it out of the way. It makes it your number one priority. If you write every morning no matter what, then you won’t ever let another task, such as doing the dishes or mowing the lawn, supplant your writing.

8. Leave an Unfinished Sentence
One tip I’ve heard works well, but haven’t used myself, is to leave an unfinished sentence at the end of your writing session. This will allow you to jump right in the next time you start writing. My friend swears by this tip, but she also writes in her parked car, so she’s a little crazy!

9. Listen to Music or White Noise
I personally like to listen to music when I write; I have to have something going on in the background to make me feel less lonely. However, it’s important that the music isn’t new to me, otherwise, I’ll get caught up in the lyrics. I listen to my favorite songs because I know them by heart, which comforts my mind and frees it to focus on the words I’m typing.

10. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Finally, it’s important not to get caught up in comparing yourself to others. So what if another author wrote four novels before he was thirty! There are plenty of other writers who didn’t get their break until they were much older. What’s most important is that you believe in yourself and let the words flow honestly.

About The Author: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online college. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to: mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

Note: I’m on a blogging break until September. Each week throughout the summer I’ll be sharing guest posts from a different writers. If you’d like to guest post for this blog, send your idea to: jennifer@procrastinatingwriters.com.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marvin June 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hi Mariana,
Thanks for the useful tips. I can never read enough of these.

2 Sharon June 22, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Hi Mariana, this tip is just perfect! I am turning off my wifi on my laptop so I can write. =)

3 Saf June 23, 2011 at 2:53 am

Loves these tips.Thanks!

4 Emerald Barnes June 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

I loved these tips! They are so useful! I wrote a post about finding your writing voice when you think you’ve lost it a few days ago on my blog. I mentioned that I had to write in a notebook to keep myself from getting distracted by the internet on my computer! Whenever I tend to get stuck, I get online. I don’t try hard enough to work through my problem. So, I think that is a great tip! I, however, don’t turn off my cell which I probably should. Great post!

5 Vincent June 24, 2011 at 4:38 am

You spoke about the location that is so correct. Although most of us (writers) write at home, but a place where you feel quite pleasant and at peace is the perfect reasonable sit-down. This is a great way of emptying oneself on the pages…!

I also liked what you wrote about priority. Waking up at mornings and doing your write ups can be quite helpful. Morning is my queen; I do most of my reading/writing assignments at mornings, in fact I prefer doing them that time – one feels fresh and do not get caught up in day’s chores.

6 the writer June 27, 2011 at 4:55 am

jennifer, I am missing you regular posts but this post by Mariana was worth reading. Most of these tips are very useful, but when you are trying to procrastinate, nothing can bind you. Writing, to me, is a sort of worship and if you do not enjoy it, you do not get the worth for it. Just like Emerald Barnes, turning my cell off is almost impossible for me even when i am writing, but at times, an unwanted call can ruin your mood and severely affect your write ups. Yet, I can follow all the steps mentioned above but writing by hand is really a tough row to hoe for me. Since our acedamic institutes have replaced writing with typing, writing something by hand isn’t as easy as it used to be :S

7 Cinette June 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I had better put some of these tips to work and get writing. Thanks for the helpful post!

8 Lauren @ Pure Text June 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Oh am I ever downloading those apps! I’ve been needing a way to disconnect from the Internet while I write, I just didn’t think there was one. Yes!

9 Nyasha July 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

You can also use iFreeFace http://ifreeface.com and I Free Time For http://ifreetimefor.com to block distractions. Unlike Freedom and the other app, these apps allow you to block your distractions but still access the sites you need for research.

10 sidney beckwith August 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

Thank you!

11 sidney beckwith August 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

Have a great day!

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