This is a problem all writers have at one point or another. If you have never had a problem staying focused, you’re a robot or an alien. That, or I’m just really bad at staying focused compared to most people. Either way, I’ve decided to compile a list of ways to remained focused on the task at hand – writing your next amazing piece – so that the outside world doesn’t distract you so much that it takes weeks to write something that should only take an hour or two.
Silence Your Phone
This one is pretty important in the modern day. Cell phones are everywhere, and people are almost more attached to their phones than to any other possession. This is good and bad. It’s good because it’s a great way to stay connected. It’s bad because it’s one of the biggest distractions to anyone now. People spend more time checking their phones than anything else now, it seems. So one of the first ways to avoid distractions while you write is to silence your phone. Another thing you can do is turn it on airplane mode. I usually turn on airplane mode, but that stops all incoming calls and texts entirely, whereas silencing will still receive it all, just not alert you. If you are particularly bad for checking your phone constantly, leave it in another room, far out of reach. I realize this may be hard for some of you, but even if you just silence it and place it out of reach from your works space, it will help.
Turn Off your WiFi!
This is a given. It’s obvious. But it does make a huge difference in my productivity, especially when I’m working on a new story or one of my books. It stops email and social media notifications from pulling you away from your work and distracting you from what needs to be done. It will also stop you from “doing research” while you’re trying to write. We all know that the research we do while we are in the middle of writing is almost always just a way of taking a break from our actual writing, and that so-called research turns into watching cat videos and scrolling through your Facebook feed for an hour. Which leads me to my next tip.
Do All Of Your Research BEFORE You Write
If you know everything you need to before you start writing, you won’t have to stop to look something up, therefore avoiding the cat videos and the lure of social media, even if it’s “just for a minute”. By doing all of your research beforehand, you can still turn off that WiFi and get some real writing done. In some cases I will admit that there is something that will come up during the writing process that you forgot to research. At which point, you obviously have to look up what you need to know. But that brings up another problem.
Limit Your Online Time
If, by some chance, you do have to look up one more thing in the midst of your writing, give yourself a time limit. The amount of time is up to you, and will depend heavily on the information you need to find. You can even set an alarm or timer. Stick to your time limit – unless you have underestimated the amount of time it will take to learn what you need to know to keep writing. If you finish your research before the timer or alarm goes off, you can even treat yourself to a quick glace at your inbox or Twitter. Just make sure to heed the sound of that timer, and to obey the rules you’ve set for yourself.
Remove Yourself From Distractions
This one is easy in some ways, and very difficult in others. As writers, we are known for being able to get distracted by anything – staring out the window longingly, daydreaming in our own thoughts, funny YouTube videos, reading, the list goes on. The first step in removing yourself from those distractions is identifying them. Are you easily distracted by bad television shows? Or by roommates or significant others or children? Move to a room where you can be alone. Maybe familiar surroundings or your dirty kitchen are a distraction. Go somewhere new, or maybe just move to a coffee shop where you won’t have any of your own things to distract you. Make a space for yourself where anything that might distract you will only enhance your writing, not damage it.
Create A Space For Writing
This one is going to be more difficult for some than for others. I do not have a space here in my home for writing. I would love to, but there is no sufficient area that I can claim for my writing. Our house is not big enough for that. Instead, I have certain areas of my home in which writing flows a little easier. I make sure to be sitting in one of those places when I need to focus on a project. For those of you who do have the space, set up an office for yourself. Even if that office is just your kitchen table, it’s better than nothing. Make a space where you can get into the mood to write. It’s the same concept as having an office at work. When you are there, you know it’s time to work. If you have a spare room, put a desk and a comfortable chair in there, whatever works for you, decorate it in a way that will help you rather than hinder, and call it your office.
Shut The Door
Obviously this won’t work if you don’t have a room or office to work in, but you can also metaphorically shut the door by moving to a quiet area of the house, or only writing when no one else is home. You could also get up before the rest of the house wakes up and write while it’s still quiet, or maybe stay up past everyone else’s bedtimes to write then. No matter how you do it, find time alone to make that writing happen. Being alone lets you get lost in your thoughts so that you can communicate with your characters better and can hear them properly when they are trying to speak to you.
Create A Work Playlist
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Make yourself a playlist. Put any song on that list that inspires you, anything that gets your juices flowing. Then listen to nothing but that when you write. I can write in silence, but I prefer to have some sort of noise, and my playlist is the best thing I’ve been able to do in the way of that. It’s all music I’m familiar with, songs that I have tied to the story in one way or another, either through the emotion of the song or the story told in the lyrics. I find that even more than helping me focus, it’s great inspiration and helps me write even better than I do in silence. Having the right playlist can greatly improve your focus and can help get you into the right frame of mind for your story faster.
Get Into A Routine
The more your get into the habit of writing at a certain time of day, or in a certain place, the easier it will be to focus on what you’re doing. People build habits over time, good and bad, so if you can force yourself to build good habits for your writing, it will come naturally over time. Find out what works for you, and stick to it. If you find you are more inclined to write after a cup of tea or coffee, make that a part of your routine. If you write better at a certain time of day, try to do most of your important writing during that time.
It may take a while to get into a routine that works for you. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s best. It took me a while to get my routine set, and I will be the first to admit that I don’t always stick to it. I write blog posts like this better during the afternoon (it’s currently 3:09 PM as I write this, so this is around my prime time for this type of writing), but I can tell better stories either immediately after I wake up or during the night. My best storytelling tends to happen in the evenings, starting from around 8 PM and stretching far into the wee hours of the morning until 3 or 4 AM. How did I find this out? I tried writing at different times of day. I tried things until I found what worked.
Finding your routine, as well as following the other tips I’ve given you here in this post, will help you stay focused to complete whatever writing project you may be working on.
So go write! Go create some amazing work without all of the distractions that would normally cause you to take forever.