Do you ever catch yourself writing two paragraphs in about twenty minutes because you stop to re-read the entire chunk every time you complete a sentence? Or maybe you're trying to edit and end up alt-tabbing over to Facebook / Twitter / Insta / Reddit/r/funny? Maybe you know you need to write a particular blog post (cough cough), and you held off until the end of the day because there were so many other
We can all be victims of our brain's inability to stay on task, but below are a few of the things I do to avoid getting distracted, or procrastinating on writing.
- Go to your writing place.
Much like you have a specific place to cook, eat, shower, poop, etc, you should have a place that is for writing. I know that can be really difficult when you live in an apartment/with your parents/have many roommates, or just not a lot of space in your home, but there are solutions for that too. If you can't physically go to your writing place, have a sit and meditate for a moment, 3-5 minutes should do. I know it might sound ridiculous, but it works. Sit, close your eyes, put headphones in if it's loud around you, and just clear your mind. Attempt not to think about anything at all. Then, keeping the headphones in, look down into your laptop or sheet of lined notebook paper, and tell yourself, "This is my world now." Anytime you feel the need to look elsewhere, or think about something other than the task at hand, meditate for another moment until you're clear again.
- Block websites / turn off your phone / write in offline mode.
If the social media distraction is real for you, get away from it. Turn your phone off and move it far away from you, write in offline mode or block websites. I would say set a timer, but then you might be inclined to check that timer every few minutes to see how much longer you have to go before getting your fix. Instead, I would say set a milestone, "I have to write 10 paragraphs, then I can check my [insert thing you need to check here]".
- Headphones all day ere'day.
I do not currently have a writing space, as my husband will sort of follow me around after 30 minutes of not knowing where I'm at. So, I've given up trying to find solitude, but I don't really like being away from him anyway. My solution, good sound blocking headphones. The $15 skullcandies do just fine with music blaring. I'm fighting the urge at this very moment to look up and watch him play MGS5, because flashing lights and colors and explosions! But, the good ole headphones are doing a fantastic job of keeping me on task.
- Have all the things you need near you.
Have the thirst of a thousand deserts and need to drink water all the time like me? Keep the bottle within arms reach, like not even far enough to have to lean over... leaning over might let you find something to distract yourself with, like dirty carpet that needs to be vacuumed (v_v)...
Sniffly nose? Keep tissues up your nostrils. There's no time for blowing, only writing.
- Stop going back to edit what you just wrote!
Sometimes your own writing is the distraction. You didn't like the way that sentence flowed, or how it pairs with the next paragraph. You used the same word four times in three sentences, or didn't use appropriate punctuation. MOVE ON! Do not stop, do not go back. This isn't Iraq, you can leave a man behind and come back for him later. This is the #1 thing I do that slows me down. I re-read, a million friggen times before I'm even done writing the thing. I have successfully resisted the urge to do that in this entire post, huzzah! And of course I just went back and changed the exclamation point in the sentence before last to a period because there was one in the last sentence... I've already failed.
- Make a checklist.
If you're anything like me, having a checklist of the stuff makes it more tangible. If you start your day, and writing is at the bottom of your list... then that's exactly the priority you've put on it. If you feel like that's unfair, reevaluate the things above it. If you've put it higher on your list for the day, and either get it done last, or not at all, then you've perhaps put it too high on your list and it needs to get demoted. Either way, if you're unhappy about how things went at the end of the day, reevaluate the list, and evaluate what you actually did throughout the day. You probably ended up spending a lot of time doing something that was not on your list at all.
- Checklists aren't for everyone... Set a reminder.
Set a specific time in the day where you will do nothing but write; right before bed, when you wake up, immediately after lunch, etc.
- Reward yourself.
Everyone likes to get a gold star. I prefer a bright orange star, but whatever. Not just with writing, with anything really, but when you do the thing you said you were going to do, give yourself a little treat of some kind. Maybe you really wanted to walk the dog, play an hour of video games, eat a whole snickers bar (I don't advocate this... simply because I'm also on a fitness journey), have wild sex, buy that really cool shirt from the FiXT Store... Depending on how heavily you want to reward yourself, be careful where you set the bar for something as small as "getting two paragraphs done".
I said it was going to be short, and I made it more like medium... and now I have no time left for my new novella T_T. That's the procrastination price you pay... I'm outta here kiddies. Have a great week.