‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’ Matthew 6:34 (NRSV)
It’s so easy to get distracted. We know this.
And it’s also easy to blame the distractions for not writing or not fulfilling our daily word count or writing work.
Doc Hensley, a prolific author and writing professor, made the comment that so often we distract ourselves.
No, it was the kids, the dog, the cats, they need to eat, they need clean clothes, I argued in my head.
However, the next time I sat down to type, I was only there a couple minutes before I decided I needed to check if the washing machine cycle had quit. A few minutes later, I thought it essential to remove items from the fridge for my kid’s lunch. I justified this by thinking it would save me time later by not having to tell them what to eat.
Then, I remembered that sitting too much is bad, so I moved to the standing table. The dog wanted to go out. I wondered if the cats had been fed and went to check.
I really was my own worst distraction.
So now, I have a new policy. Once I sit (or stand) and begin writing, I am not allowed to leave for a specified time. It may only be 20 minutes. But, it has to be a continuous (no interruptions) period of writing.
To make this work, try these three tactics for distraction-free writing.
- Do ten minutes of prep and check before you start. Wet clothes in the dryer? Dog out or in? Everybody have the food they need? Someone else designated to answer the phone?
- Keep scrap notes handy. If, while writing, a stray ‘must do’ thought pops into your head, jot it down quickly, push it aside, and keep going.
- Tell anyone else around that they cannot talk to you for the next 20 minutes. Once this is a habit, it is easier for everyone both to remember and to work around.
- Be mean – I mean nice – to yourself and make yourself write. No one else will.
Keep your mind only on what you write today.