I thought it would be a good idea to write my motivational post about avoiding distractions. Then I realized I was not in any way qualified to write such a post because I’m really easily distracted. I have the attention span of a five-year-old. Maybe an impatient six-year-old if we’re being generous.
I didn’t even make it through that last paragraph without taking a break to get a drink.
Sometimes I procrastinate under the guise of doing something useful. Like “I’ll write this chapter as soon as I’m done unclogging the shower drain” or “I’ll get these pages revised soon, but first I need to think of a good name for that sassy Tongan character who doesn’t appear until the next book.”
As a writer, you no doubt have all sorts of awesome ideas that you’re excited about. I do. They play out like movies in my brain. Naturally, I want to transfer them perfectly from my brain to the page. Somehow I get myself into this mindset of “I don’t know how to write this particular bit just yet. But maybe after five minutes of playing Tetris, I’ll have a better idea of how to write this bit.” This line of logic inevitably fails me, and my Tetris score ends up way higher than my word count.
Now that we’ve established a) that I am a major procrastinator and b) I have a working theory as to why I’m a major procrastinator, I guess we should talk about something actually useful. Namely, how does one avoid all the distractions and actually get some writing done? Here are a few things that help me.
Have a writing environment. I get so much more done when I work at the library. I think it’s partly because I assume people at the library will judge me if they see me playing Candy Crush. But it’s also just that I’ve trained my brain to understand that the library is writing space.
Bribery is not beneath me. I have a complex system of rewards established for when I reach my writing goals. It ranges from an episode of Gilmore Girls for every chapter written to a box of Star Crunch for completing 50,000 words. Unless the grocery story is out of Star Crunch, which is sort of a travesty. Sometimes, I use the very things attempting to distract me as bribes. Like if I want to lay Tetris, I’ll treat myself to a game when I finish the page I’m working on.
Be accountable. Few things prompt creativity in the way a deadline can. I’m somewhat more likely to get things done if people expect the things to be done by a certain time. This is mostly effective because I like people to think I’m professional and on top of things. Along this line of thought, I find it generally helps to make myself accountable to people who don’t already know that I am not professional an in no way on top of anything.
Use Internet tools. I love Write Or Die. It changed my life. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s basically a program where you have to keep typing. And if you stop typing for too long, the screen turns red and there are unpleasant noises and sometimes pictures of spiders. I also take advantage of any word sprints I can because I’m secretly sort of competitive. Twitter is a great place for finding other people to sprint with.
The other Internet tool I recommend is actually sort of an anti-Internet tool. Apps like Freedom will shut your Internet down for a while so that you can’t keep refreshing Twitter or whatever it was you were planning to do instead of write. Admittedly, I’ve never actually used one of these apps. But I’ve heard they’re useful. I imagine it would be like sitting in that corner of my room where the WiFi inexplicably doesn’t work, and I do get a lot done in that corner.
Write badly. Like really, really badly. Okay, so the goal isn’t to write badly. But sometimes you need to stop worrying about whether it’s good or not. I have the most fun writing when I stop caring and just start throwing things at the page. If I’m having fun, things that normally distract me aren’t even tempting.
That’s all I have to say on the matter. If you’re still reading this, it’s probably because you’re procrastinating writing. In which case, cut it out and get back to work.
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