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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Distracted Writer

It's a malady with which every writer is well acquainted. Distraction. Whether it's writer's block or plain ol' lack of motivation, anyone who has tried to live by their pen has run up against this obstacle.

I'm just going to do the dishes first.
My car
does need a tune-up.
Someone has to make dinner.
I just need this one little nap and then I'll be good to go.
Oh look, something shiny!

It's different for everyone, but the result is the same, not producing. Not producing, especially in this economic climate, is equivalent to being unemployed because not producing means having no product (duh!) and having no product means having nothing to sell and having nothing to sell means not getting paid. Not gluing yourself to your chair is commensurate with not showing up to work. Is that something you would do, just not show up? Of course not, so why do we think it's okay when we do it to ourselves? The reality is that it's not okay. Whether you write full-time or in conjunction with another job, it seems far too easy to put your writing tasks on the back burner, but nothing is more important than NOT doing that! We here at HFR have devised a list of ways to avoid distractions.

1. Make a space.
This doesn't have to be your own private library and you don't need a cherrywood writing desk from Robb&Stucky to get down to business. Think of your most comfortable place. Try and simulate that environment every time you sit down to write. Most importantly, be sure that the only thing you do in your space is writing. You sleep in your bed. You drive in your car. You watch TV on the couch. Write in your space, and only write.

2. Get everything you need before you sit down.
Need coffee? Need tea? Need music? Need silence? Take care of all of that before coming to your space. Make sure the temperature is right. Make sure you want for nothing.

3. Set boundaries
Unfortunately, this is probably the hardest one to live by. Sometimes our loved ones simply don't understand how important it is not to be interrupted at all while we're writing, not even for questions. If your space is a room, post your hours of operation outside and lay down the law that you're not to be disturbed during those times. If it's somewhere else, turn off your phone and set your IM status to "away." If these measures seem too cold or harsh, your loved ones are not the only ones who need to start taking your role as a writer more seriously.

4. Turn off your internet
The internet is the most insidious of all distractions because you don't even have to get up to use it. In fact, you should take it a step further and uninstall all those pre-loaded games too. You will survive even if you can't top your last score in Minesweeper or Solitaire (my personal demons) and your Facebook friends will not feel slighted in the least if you don't comment on their status as soon as it's posted. In fact, I can almost guarantee that they won't even notice.

5. Just sit down and write
No one can make you do it but you. Chances are, that kind of independence is part of what drew you to being a writer in the first place. Whether it's with a computer or a pen and paper, you are ultimately the only one responsible for approaching and completing the task at hand.

As writers, we tend to think of ourselves as artists and this is by no means untrue. But we're more than artists. We're entrepreneurs, too. It is our business to write and we have to treat it like one, which means clearing away the distractions and actually doing our job. For another perspective on distraction, check this out.

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