Writing Distractions and how to Avoid Them

Do you ever sit down at your computer, then promptly get distracted from your writing goals? I know I do and many of the following writing distractions are familiar to me. I share them so that the next time you run into any of these distractions, you can try one of my tips!




1. Social Media

If you spend too much time browsing Instagram, scrolling through Facebook, watching YouTube, or Tweeting try some of my ideas!

  • Give yourself a set amount of time to get on social media (maybe 15 minutes) each day. Of course, this does not include the time you use social media as a marketing tool for your books.

  • Use one day a week to set up your social media posts for your author profiles; that way, you will not get distracted by social media every day of the week.

  • If you cannot keep yourself away, download an app that blocks social media for you, such as Freedom, SelfControl, or StayFocused. (This may be a last resort!)


2. Screaming, Hungry Children

For those of us who have children, we have no doubt experienced this writing distraction. Try some of these tips!

  • Move to a deserted island. (Just kidding . . . mostly.)

  • Make enough food for dinner that gives you a lot of leftovers so that your kids can reheat the food themselves in the microwave for snacks or other meals without bothering you.

  • Teach your kids how to make sandwiches (perhaps cut cheese and meat for them in advance, or buy pre-sliced cheese and ham).

  • Establish a schedule with your kids so they know what times they can bother you. They will prefer to talk to you during those times because they know you will listen to what they are saying, instead of just replying, "Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Yes . . ."


3. Falling Asleep

It happens—between writing, raising children, and even working a second job, there is little time for sleep. Maybe these tips will help you:

  • Go to bed an hour earlier each night to get more sleep, or take a nap halfway through the day, when not at work. Sometimes taking a quick 30-minute nap and coming back refreshed is better than staring at a screen for a couple hours, trying not to nod off.

  • Exercise before sitting down to work. This gets your blood pumping and wakes you up. Also, it is healthy, a short power walk or run will be enough.

  • Open the blinds or curtains. Sunlight is a great way to stay awake.

  • Ensure you get quality sleep at night. This means you need to avoid blue light in the evening, do not eat right before going to bed, do not drink caffeine to late in the day, and make sure you go to sleep and wake up around the same times every day.


4. People Knocking or Calling

When you work from home, you have to deal with everyone who comes to the door. On top of that, your family and friends know you work from home, so they may be tempted to call and chat during the day. Some of them may not even accept that your writing is a job. If these writing distractions happen to you, I have developed some ideas:

  • Explain to friends and family that you write and have a work schedule and will not answer the door or phone except for an emergency. No, you cannot babysit their children or run an errand. After you are finished your work, yes, but not during.

  • Do not answer the door or phone during your work hours. If you were working in an office, you would not be there to answer, so do not answer when you work at home.

  • Consider adding your office hours to your cell phone's voicemail. That way, anyone calling knows to call later, outside of your working hours.

  • Put your phone in do-not-disturb mode during your work time.


5. Losing Focus

Sometimes you begin writing and are doing fine, but start losing focus. Maybe it isdue to one of the reasons I have already mentioned, or maybe you have other thoughts on your mind, but it happens. Maybe my ideas here will help:

  • Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time-management technique that was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break work down into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro the Italian word for tomato, because Cirillo had a tomato-shaped kitchen timer as a university student.

  • Take a very short break to do something fun or interesting, then come back ready to work hard.

  • Try a creative writing exercise where you just write for 15 minutes and see what happens. This works as both a break and a way to get those creative juices flowing again.


6. Waiting for Inspiration

Do you have times when you want to write and are ready to write, but you cannot seem to get started? You sit there, waiting for inspiration to strike but nothing happens. In reality, this is another writing distraction.

  • Start brainstorming ideas. Anything goes. This can get you back into that writing space.

  • Turn off your screen and take 15 minutes to meditate and think about your book and what will happen in it. Do not touch your phone or your computer. Just think.

  • If you are really stuck, it may be time to try a new hobby. Trying something new opens up a world of writing possibilities.


7. Researching and Researching

Some authors hate researching; others love it and it is too easy to get carried away researching your novel and put off actually writing it. These tips may help you get past this writing distraction:

  • Set a research deadline. When you hit that date, your research is done, and it is time to start drafting.

  • Create an outline for your book so you can see where the research holes are, instead of committing too much time looking into something you do not need to research.

  • Start writing now. If you find an instance where you feel you need to do more research to write the scene correctly, take a break to research the needed elements. Then get back to writing.

  • If you are writing well and need a few research tidbits, but can finish the scene without them for now, just type a big XXX and a note to yourself in brackets [RESEARCH THIS] or [DOUBLE CHECK RESEARCH] and continue writing. Only stop writing if you feel you will end up rewriting more without the information. After you finish the book, there is plenty of time to make sure you have the correct points there to give your story authenticity.


8. Clutter

Clutter on your desk, in your office, or even in your home can be a huge writing distraction. Here are some ways I handle it:

  • Clean up your desk before writing every day. Throw out stuff you have not used in months.

  • Assign your children chores so the house can at least be kind of clean.

  • Go work in a cafe or a library or outside (when that is permitted) —that way, you do not have to even worry about the clutter in your home.

  • Minimize digital clutter by silencing your phone, closing your email, and even disconnecting from the Internet.


9. The Other Things That Need Done

You probably have a huge to-do list, just as I do, and that can easily be a writing distraction. Try out these tips that I have developed:

  • Write out your to-do's and prioritize what needs to get done that day. If something does not need to be done that day, put it out of your mind—you have written it down and can take care of it later.

  • Get your errands done early in the morning or last thing in the day, like you would if you worked in an office. This minimizes disruptions.

What writing distractions do you deal with and how do you handle them? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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