This is no way to write. Writing requires focus. It requires a direct connection between the logical thoughts in your head and the transference of those thoughts into a physical form that can be read by someone at a future time, even if that future time is in about 14 seconds. It’s magical if you think about it. I think about something in my mind, my brain tells my fingers what to type, I upload the finished product to my blog, and you, my friend, read it. I don’t know where (or when) you are, but we probably have a lot in common. But the only way we’re going to communicate, is if I avoid distractions.
Here’s the thing: we all have important things to communicate, and we have the means for communicating them. But because we’re using the internet for writing, we get so distracted that our writing isn’t as good as it could be. Instead of doing the hard work of revising, we scan our favorite food blogs. Instead of creating a real editorial schedule and sticking to it, we observe the political fights of our relatives on Facebook--and maybe throw a comment in here or there.
What can we do to produce quality writing in the age of distraction?
As you can tell from the very real and detailed examples I’ve included in the kinds of distractions out there, this is a problem for me. But I’m working on it.
The following are some strategies I have used or am currently using to continue to produce articles, blog posts, ebooks, and books in the age of distraction:
Use Your Distractions as Motivation
Have you ever tried this? After I write 500 words, I can read the news for 15 minutes. After I finish the long chapter that’s causing me problems, I’ll watch an episode of Boys Over Flowers (I take full responsibility for your addiction if I’m the reason you start watching Korean TV dramas). Using your distractions as motivation (okay, bribes) can be helpful to your productivity if you can be disciplined enough to abide by your own rules.
Use Paper for Outlining
Outlining requires real concentration for me, and for some reason I concentrate better with paper in front of me. Once I have a solid outline, it’s easier to sit down and pound out the flesh. But the bones--well, they need me to step away from the distractions completely.
For fiction, I like to get a big piece of paper and draw out the arc of the plot with a line. I write details about the plot along the line, showing where the peaks and valleys should occur. This is really hard to do on a computer, but it’s downright invigorating on paper. Give it a try sometime, and let me know how it goes.
Find a Writing Buddy
Making a commitment to someone else is often more powerful than making a commitment to yourself (as sad as that is). If you have a writing friend, consider helping each other to set and reach goals. Here’s an example:
Rachel: Okay, Joann, I’m going to finish 2,500 words of this story by Friday. What are you going to do?
Joann: I’m going to finish Chapter 9 and find a good image for the cover by Friday.
Rachel: Good idea. If you finish all that, I’ll make you my famous gluten-free brownies.
Joann: Okay. If you don’t finish your 2,500 words, I’ll put pop-its under your toilet seat.
That would be pretty effective. You can see how some people work better with food bribes and others work better from threats of bathroom terrorism. Finding your motivation is key. ;)
Keep a Writing Log
Nurses write down everything they do for their patients. Teachers create lesson plans and enter grades. Police officers write reports of how many speeding tickets they write. They can look back at the end of their workday and see what they accomplished. Writers can do this too!
Consider keeping a log of what you’ve accomplished. It can help you to see how much you’re really doing and motivate you to do more (and leave your distractions pining for your attention all alone on Twitter).
Here’s an example:
March 7, 2017
Ghostwrote blog post: 646 words
Worked on cover art for Six Flights: 25 minutes
Created Canva image for website: 20 minutes
Wrote copy for Tolman Hall guide: 415 words
Hey! I actually did something with that 3 hours!
If you keep your log handy, it can be the motivation you need to keep you away from the news or whatever else ails you.
What are your best strategies for writing in the age of distraction? Please share. I need all the help I can get.