Fiction, Musings, Opinion, Publishing, Writing

Distractions: What’s taking you away from your writing and when is a distraction a good thing?

What’s distracting me from writing today

Distractions are everywhere. Let’s face it, as writers we’re with them, most in the form of work offers or job responsibilities. But are all distractions bad? And when is it a good time to let a distraction pull you away from your writing? Recently while working on my novel, I became distracted by the promise of work. While my heart was in the pages of Sunlight on an Empty Room, my mind for finance said, “take it, you fool!” And thus began my latest distraction from what I truly want to do. Admittedly, most distractions are bad for us. Phones ringing, text messages coming through, or the next episode of Scandal beginning in the background, whatever, it distracts us. Bad distractions are those outside forces, which we allow to hinder our inner voice. While your inner voice is saying write, the outside distraction may seem urgent. Other distractions can come in the form of friends or family; someone’s having a crisis, somebody forgot to do something for somebody else, and for some reason all these people need to share their something with you. It really doesn’t matter from where the distraction hails; the end result is the same, non-productive writing time. Essentially they are hindering our true progress. There are a few good ways to mitigate distractions. One of my favorites comes from Carol Gagnoux (ADD Insights). Ms. Gagnoux suggests jotting down the distraction on a notepad or paper as they occur and tossing them aside. She refers to this as your “capture pad”. You can always return to the pad later and determine what’s important and what can wait. Another tool is blocking or unplugging. This works with your surroundings, your equipment, or your friends. This can also be harder to do than capture padding. To ensure you’re getting the most productivity out of your writing time, turn off the electronics, stay off the Internet, and blow off your friends and family. I happen to be doing that right now. I find the quiet very inspiring. On the contrary, a good distraction can come in the form of inspiration. Sometimes when we’re writing, another idea may pop into our minds. It’s perfectly OK to stop what you’re doing to jot down an idea for a new manuscript or other project. Just keep convenient Moleskin nearby and remember to return to work in progress. Another distraction could be a much-needed mental hygiene break. Some days we take in and process way too much information to be creative. You may need to take a step back from your writing in order to progress forward. I often think writer’s block is primarily fueled by information overload. It is possible to research a project to death. Also, the editing process can spawn burnout. Get distracted; go for some exercise or anything else that doesn’t require “throwing out your babies”. Real writers will know to I am referring. Whatever the distraction, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Letting a distraction become the focus of your energy is its own punishment and its own reward. Is there something you do to lessen distractions? Hit me up via this blog or on Facebook at:


11 thoughts on “Distractions: What’s taking you away from your writing and when is a distraction a good thing?”

  1. Dear Shereese,

    I find that my most distracting activity is Twitter. For some reason, I find it difficult to stop twittering with some woefully hopeless people in the city of Baltimore. Even though I live in Florida and would not live in Baltimore if it was the only habitable place remaining on Earth, I have developed an interest in these people and the events of their daily lives, as they record them in their twits. Sort of like watching ants in their little ant hills, I guess.

    Any suggestions?

    Dave R

    1. Dave, I have the same problem. Baltimore, the sea of corruption that it is, is like watching a train wreck; I just can’t look away. As far as those you tweet with, they probably are good distractions. I would suggest you tweet in moderation as I do. In my case, some of the inspiration fr my posts comes from the tweets I encounter. Carry On!

  2. Hi Reese,

    The first type of distraction that you wrote about: a job offer, is one that must be let through the distraction wall. Even if you decide to forego the opportunity, it merits consideration. The family distractions (especially with our siblings) can easily devour large chunks of time, if we let them. I’ve become pretty good at staying out of those situations.

    Often, the distraction to my writing is internal. We can shut off our phones and the Internet, but we can’t shut off our minds. Thinking can be it’s own distraction.

    I had never heard of the “capture pad” term, but I do jot down ideas on any piece of paper that’s handy. It’s not a very organized way to do it, but it works okay for me most of the time.

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