Self Expression Magazine

Distractions When Writing

Posted on the 05 July 2013 by Michael Joseph

Distraction. Most authors have experienced it. You sit down, fire up your laptop, and start writing, fully intent on producing a sizeable piece of quality literature that day. Then what happens? The doorbell rings, an interesting news item appears on television, or you get a text message. Before you know it, hours have passed in a blur and you’ve written nothing. Staring back at you is the same blank computer screen you started with. Now, where did the time go?

Ten ways to get no writing done whatsoever:

Answering the front door. If you weren’t writing, the knock at the door would just be the little old lady from two doors down asking if the postman has been seen yet today. A thirty second conversation and goodbye. But when you are writing, you can guarantee the caller is a persistent salesman selling dodgy wares, or a religious nut wanting to spread his highly-dubious ideology. Both are impossible to shift. They plant a sneaky foot in your doorway and chatter away in that monotonous but friendly tone you find impossible to interrupt. On and on they go, wasting your time and theirs. Excuses such as I’m busy/I’m not interested/ I’ve got to go because my kitchen is on fire are met only with a patient smile and further rhetoric about double glazing or the second coming of Christ. Don’t answer the door in the first place. You will only end up with a headache, an urgent desire to inflict violence on somebody, and a Gideon bible.

Drinking alcohol. While this doesn’t necessarily halt the writing process, drinking liquor is a certain way of lowering the quality of your work. What appears to be a classic piece of written work after a few drinks turns out to be the most horrendous, incomprehensible drivel imaginable the next morning. Keep a clear head. It’s not so much fun, but far more productive.

Taking a quick nap. Easily done. Your eyes are getting tired and your brain’s exhausted. You persuade yourself that five minutes won’t hurt, then regret it two hours later when you wake up with a cricked neck, dead legs, and a feeling of disorientation so strong you are unable to concentrate on anything other than why you fell asleep for so long. If drowsiness is taking its toll, go in the garden for some fresh air. Find a matchstick to prop up your eye-lids. Stick your head in a bucket of ice-cold water, if necessary.

Reading the newspaper. I can spare two minutes to flick through the paper, can’t I? Yes, of course you can, and in no time at all that harmless intention has turned to dust as you become strangely enticed by the problem page, horoscopes or TV listings. The kind of trivial baloney you wouldn’t normally give a second glance. When you start doing the crossword, you know you’re in trouble. Don’t buy any reading matter. If you already have, burn it.

Using your mobile phone. A little device with a myriad of enticing delights. Calls, texts, games. If you take a call while writing, then fate says expect a two-and-a-half hour conversation with your best friend, listening to sordid tales of their partner’s recent infidelity. Highly entertaining at any other time, but not helpful towards constructing your masterpiece right now. Turn the phone off before you start writing. Take the battery out. If your really struggling, swallow the sim card.

Daydreaming. Not an obvious choice, perhaps, but it’s surprising how easy musing over the next scene/character description/general plot in your work can transform into thoughts of what to have for dinner tonight or where to go on your next holiday. Of course you’ve got to think about your work, but stay focused. Remind yourself your next vacation will consist of camping in your own back garden due to lack of funds unless you get this best-seller finished.

Watching television. You’ve innocently switched the television on for background noise when an news item catches your eye. Then another. In fact, it’s turning out to be an incredibly newsworthy day. Watch the box for long enough and you’ll find yourself drawn into a highly-seductive world of tacky adverts and repeated trailers. It gets worse. After a bout of channel-surfing, your fingers become inexplicably glued to the remote control, while your mind becomes pre-occupied with catch-up TV and programmes you recorded six weeks ago. It’s a downward spiral that requires drastic action. Don’t just turn the television off. Unplug it and stash it away in the attic. Better still, take it to a second-hand shop and sell it.

Continuous eating and drinking. Now, I’m not advocating you go on hunger strike here. Trying to write while lying in an intensive care unit attached to a drip is seriously counter-productive. However, there is a difference between eating properly at meal-times and wandering into the kitchen every five minutes looking for snacks. How are you going to get any work done if you’re constantly raiding the fridge? Think about it, if only for the sake of your health. You’re already engaged in an occupation offering the least physical exercise possible, without constantly stuffing your face. Don’t be so greedy. If you’re permanently starving or dehydrated, see a doctor. Or place a bottle of water and a bag of carrots next to you.

Playing on a games console. If you decide to have a fleeting game of something or other on the Playstation to break your day up, you may as well hang an enormous banner outside your house proclaiming you are bored with writing and will be doing no more such nonsense that day. That brief game you started will mutate into an all-day FIFA session complete with less-motivated friends, copious amounts of food and drink, and hilariously infantile chatter. Admittedly, all more attractive options than trying to grind out that particularly troublesome scene description, but no good for the pretensions of a serious artist. Best to throw the console out with the television.

Surfing the internet. I’ve saved the most devious distraction for last. You already have the world wide web right in front of you, just a fingertip away. In a moment of weakness, you check your Facebook page. As you’re already on the internet, you decide to flick through your emails as well. A link in one of those takes you to an interesting blog with entertaining comments at the bottom of the page. You post a comment. Click another link. Go to another site. Suddenly, you’re immersed in an endless, addictive viral world where time has no meaning. The worst part is you don’t even realise it’s happening to you. You have been sucked in, and the word-processing document has been long forgotten. Prevention of this scenario is almost impossible. Breaking your own arms or slamming your laptop against the wall are admirable but futile tactics for combating this evil distraction. For obvious reasons.

If the above distractions overwhelm you on a regular basis, may I suggest becoming a hippy, taking a vow of silence, and moving to an extremely isolated commune to continue your writing. Or cut your losses and give up altogether. If you do take heed of the above and follow my humble advice, I should point out there is a small possibility you will end up emaciated, bereft of possessions, shunned by family and friends, and totally unaware a nuclear war is raging throughout the world. But the chances are you will have written a bloody good book.

Related Articles

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics