Writer, Interrupted

“I wasted time by reading emails whenever they came into my inbox. I noticed that once I had started reading the name of the sender, I read the first line of the text. Once I mastered that, I continued reading the entire message, and once I got to that point, I felt compelled to respond because there was no point in leaving an already half-finished task. Then sometimes I needed extra information to answer the message, so had to add other tasks… [I] often wasn’t making any progress with what I was originally working on – and in the end felt quite breathless and exhausted. I thought I couldn’t be the only person struggling with this.” ~ Ulrich Weger, quoted by Lucy Tobin

The recent Guardian article “How To Beat Technology Addiction,” by Lucy Tobin, is one I nearly missed. I don’t really think of myself as addicted to technology. I don’t have a smart phone or a texting plan or even, for that matter, a microwave oven or an automatic dishwasher.

photo of busy womanAfter reading the article (a reading which, by the way, was punctuated by a trip to the kitchen to toast a bagel, a search on my bookshelf for a couple of books that recently came to mind, and a Google search for “Writer, Interrupted,” to make sure the title hasn’t been overused, which led to some interesting blogs by writers), I realized that its message about the interrupted life is as important as technology addiction.

For me, technology has fed what seems to be my innate tendency to follow the next new thought. Sometimes this is a good thing. More and more often recently, I find that it’s not. Over the past few months I’ve been slowly trying to retrain myself to pay sustained attention to my reading and writing, often offline (or at least with only one tab open), trying to learn new habits and unlearn old ones.

It’s not easy, but I can definitely say I am making progress. My experiment last fall with writing for an hour before going online showed me how important my early morning hours are, and in the end led to my doing longhand morning pages for 20 minutes before checking email, just as a way to set the tone for the day. I continue to work on giving myself time limits and specific “appointments” during the day for checking and answering email. I’m more successful some days than others, but, like psychologist and researcher Ulrich Weger, quoted above, I’m definitely more “breathless and exhausted” on interrupted days.

In the end, that’s what matters: How I want to feel. If more productivity is a byproduct, that’s great, but my main goal is to feel calmer, more whole, and less scattered.

Weger offers hope for the chronically interrupted with a simple exercise:

“As soon as you notice that you have diverted to another thought, pull yourself away from the intrusive thought and turn back to the image straight away. After practice, you get more competent at shielding yourself against the countless tempting stimuli in our world of information overload.”

What works for you? Let’s pool our ideas.

150 thoughts on “Writer, Interrupted

  1. In this age of instant gratification, I think even our brains have somehow become accustomed to gaining “gratification” through trying to complete multiple tasks without focus. Seems counter intuitive (I’d sure think completion of one good task would trump many), but with the info overload to which we’re constantly exposed, I think this is our method of adaptation.

    I for one love your writing suggestions in this post. Thank you!

    • Ugh! I can not tell you how many times I have felt those words in the beginning to be true. I have just started to learn the beauty of the delete button. I refuse to be enslaved by tech anymore!

  2. That is interesting. I find myself at the computer out of inertia more than anything else. But like you I start at one thing and move on to another. I really have to have a list of things to do AND follow that list to really be productive.

  3. What works for me? I have been writing as a discipline since last April. Before that I was writing when I felt like it instead of daily and on a schedule. Last April I decided to attempt the National Poetry Month 30 poems in 30 days. This forced me to write every day.In November I attempted the Write a novel in a month challenge and ended up with a daily writing practice. I have found that the later hours work better for me. Good music and food available help me from getting distracted. A set time every day hasn’t worked yet because of my schedule. I do make sure that for at least an hour and sometimes up to three I sit down and work on something. Creating a workspace has helped as well.

  4. I also get easily distracted by the speed and myriad of directions that technology can take us in. Whilst, reading your article my cell phone was beeping to alert of an incoming email, but I resisted the temptation to read it and carried on with the task in hand. The main way I overcome distraction is to use an old-fashioned diary and tick off each task by completing them one at a time. We’ve also designated 2011 as the year for finishing off everything we’ve started, since having too many things on the go at the same time is too stressful and far from productive.

  5. I once wrote daily, pages and pages, 30 years ago. That was in a small town. I owned little and had a lot of time in which to think. I moved to a huge city, had an absorbing career and never wrote. Eventually I tired of the noise, traffic and data density.

    Now I’m in an even smaller town than the first one. I work part time and live 10 minutes from work. I blog, but am also working on some longer things for the first time. My social networking is conducted face-to-face, though I do have email and shop online.

    Technology has made self-publishing easy. I also have more control over music I own or listen to and films I watch on TV/DVD. I don’t text either, though.

    I think writing requires enough space in your life for the process of your intent to transfer from contemplation to the page.

    I enjoyed reading your article and thinking about the topic.

  6. Nice article Lisa. I just started my first blog on Dec 29 (new years resolution). I’m finding that I can be doing almost anything and an inspiration will come into my head from the other end of the universe. I’ve learned to immediately open a “Word” file and jot it down – even if it is just one sentence. Later when I have more time, like 4:00am I will work on it and develop it further.

  7. Great article! And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I like your line, “technology has fed what seems to be my innate tendency to follow the next new thought.” What a solid explanation for the drive to channel surf through the internet. Keep up that writing. Thanks for posting! (And if you want a great site for writers, check out http://weekendnovelist.com.)

  8. Thank you! I find that if I have a big deadline to focus on, I have to write it all done with a mere pen and paper. That keeps me from using the internet to get distracted or procrastinate. It also makes more of my work portable and able to have readily available while waiting for kids at soccer practice, gymnastics practice, etc. It’s always great to find usable advice.

    – Emily

  9. Thanks for the post. I can see that in myself. I used to be able to sit down and read for hours or watch a movie. Anymore I have a computer going too. Definitely something to think about…

  10. I have slowly but surely gotten back into writing and while it’s hard to set a specific time for writing each day, I’ve been working on getting this “one post a day” thing down. I also think we are at an age where it is too easy to get hooked on technology, it’s just so easy sometimes!

  11. Thank you so much for the article!
    It’s amazing to read this, because it’s exactly what I am trying to, too.

    Usually, I’m online when I am at home. All day long, if we have a term brake and I do not have to attend lectures and seminars.

    Now for three(!) months or so, there are traces of “I don’t want that” in my diary entries and sketches.

    So by now, I start doing exactly what you do – turn the computer off, write, write, write.

    What shall I say? “I feel good!” 😉

  12. This is a really interesting point – one I should definitely take into consideration as I use this post as a procrastination from what I’m actually working on right now. In university, I found that timers helped me – I’d set a timer for X time, and say to myself, ‘when the timer goes off, I can stop this work and do something else for a few minutes’. The key to this working, though, was I couldn’t check the time or the timer (because that, in itself became the distraction from work).

  13. Interesting post. I agree with Mikalee’s comment – it is hard to resist instant gratification. Surfing the web nibbles at your time and next thing you know – hours have past. Everything now days happens so quickly, which leads to fragmentation and distraction. I’m trying to allow myself to dive deeper into single tasks and topics, give myself time for longer cycles of reflection before saying or publishing something, prefer books to blogs. But it’s not easy. Good luck!

  14. I found this post extremely relevant, as I was reading it while struggling to compose a post of my own. I need to develop a pattern or habit, as well.

  15. Recently I’ve been commissioned to ghost a book for somebody and while this is a great step in the right direction for my career (starting a career, that is) I’ve also realised just how interrupting this, how you say, Inter-net actually is.

    The temptation is usually stronger when I have my broswer open and a page loaded. And it’s not like in the days of dial-up were you paid for every minute you were logged in, so there is no real urgency to disconnect.

    And now I’m just making excuses when I have work to be doing…

  16. Nicely put. It’s so easy to be distracted!

    I like the idea of making a schedule & time appointments with myself – and have even included the scheduling of time to read & browse – which is where I found posts like this one. There can be value in spending time floating about – following the thought & absorbing the environment.

    I have found that the trick is to do this CONSCIOUSLY and not let it be my standard M.O. but rather a treat in a contained time & space.

  17. I personally find, that even though I do not think of myself as being addicted to technology in any way, I seem to be easily distracted by it. if i go to my comuter and “quickly” check emails and a few websites I have been meaning to… suddenly its 2 hours later and I have developed some sort ot web ADD where I bounce from one website to another…and…have gotten absolutely no writing done…I try to now save those web surfing sessions to a time when I have no deadlines to meet…lol…

  18. When I’m writing I try to let nothing interrupt me…I enjoy the act of the writing so much, also I have a short enough attention span, I need to stay centered…I stay in the moment…after then I go off on tangents…

  19. This is a huge issue for me, as well. There have been many times when I have sat down to write, only to end up using my precious time to play on the Internet. Sometimes I discipline myself to check facts after I’ve completed writing for the day. I’ll highlight the areas that need to be checked and then look them all up at once. This works about half the time (because it does require discipline and that “e” is just sitting right there on my desktop). On occasion I will take my laptop to a coffee shop or a park, with no wi-fi. But then I find myself “people watching” or chatting with a stranger or texting someone…more interruptions!

  20. This is great! I noticed my own interruptions to my way of writing, and I made a resolution this yeart to put an end to it. I even wrote about my resolution. Needless to say, it only works half the time. But, I am more pleased with myself on the days when I choose to write first instead of going online. A much more pleasant experience.

  21. It is like swimming alone under water in a backyard pool or swimming under water in the Sea World aquatic tank. You have to find a happy medium between the peaceful quiet calm of a pool and the brightly colored chaotic cyber fish tank.

  22. It is so easy to get lost in the world with Twitter and Facebook and the vast world of the internet, however you just need to bring it down to a certain level. I’ve noticed, as a writer and someone who likes to play video games, that I have to limit my own access to get everything finished. It is too easy to end up reading information online and then BOOM, next thing you know, all your writing time has been lost. Control is the name of the game.

  23. Great advice. I too find myself sitting down at the computer with an idea, and the next thing you know I have 8 tabs open, all with different purposes. I still love the old pad of paper and pen as well. I’ll have to make a point of using them more!

  24. I’m listing my goals and the steps in order to reach those goals. Completing those and moving on to another set. I also made up a schedule for what I do eachday including the non-writing things. It makes it harder to have a non-writing day. I check e-mails and other stuff twice a day. On days off I respond to the e-mails and phone calls, if it is not an emergency. I’m also finding on my days off I still find myself writing and figuring out what happens next. I update the blog with ideas and goals, so it is a personal reference that keeps me on track and I can see where I have been, including all the little things I’ve forgotten.

    I think today maybe an exception because I have a massive sinus headache, but ideas keep popping up so I’m jotting them down. That’s a bit amusing, even sick I can’t stop myself. *shrugs*

  25. This is very true for me. I find myself in the morning with my coffee and breakfast checking blogs and news, not writing. I feel tapped out throughout the day with my writing because I haven’t even started. I think setting a routine up like as soon as I wake up, just writing for 20 minutes to an hour will definitely help me. And I totally agree with Gilliad, control is definitely the name of the game.

  26. Add to this all the other distractions life has to offer and I’ve found the best way to concentrate on writing is to take my notebook and pen, and get out of the house!

    I used to be massively addicted to using the internet. To force myself to cut down on hours spent checking emails and forums, I dropped out of all the groups I’d joined. Now, I can still check my emails, but I don’t receive as many as previously so it only takes a few seconds.

    I rarely use Facebook and Twitter as I prefer to email anyway.

    I’ve even found that writing short pieces in Notepad rather than Word saves time. I don’t get so distracted by making things pretty.

  27. As I continue to find refuge in the company of others thoughts across the internet, I find my own are lost, another day gone, and progress yet to be made. Thank you for the reminder.

  28. There’s some program that turns your internet off in order to increase your productivity for any period of time you want it to. However, I think that wouldn’t work for me because I would just turn it off to check my email. Or check it on my phone. Or go on Facebook on my phone. Or go to the kitchen for a snack. You get the point. You’re not alone.

  29. This resonates with me. Often I sit down at my laptop with all sorts of good intentions to get some writing out, or some planning done, and all I end up doing is finding new interesting things to read. In fact, that is what happened right this very moment!

    On one hand I coudl restrict myself, on the other, I may miss out on interesting articles or new discoveries.

    I have yet to find the balance.

  30. Coffee. That is my motivation. I can’t be creative unless I have coffee in me each morning.

    I was always wondering what it meant when it said “loading java” each time I booted up my computer now I realize my computer is like me, it needs morning coffee just to function!



  31. As a professional writer, I completely understand the “breathless and exhausted” feeling. I cannot let that little IM screen or email icon blink. I’m instantly distracted and then let myself be led down the spiral of time waste. I found that setting the BRB on my IM didn’t even work because people still IMed me.
    And I cannot have one tab open at a time.
    One good tip is to put work-time blocks into your calendar like an appointment.
    Here I am wasting time again when I should be writing! Ugh 🙂

  32. I clicked on my wordpress bookmark with the intention to write, but Freshly Pressed is my favourite source for distractions and it brought me to your post! ironic.

  33. I did a similar blog http://nicolamcdonald.wordpress.com/ just recently because this is a problem I have also. it is quite difficult remaining focused when internet in available. It is quite an addiction because i’ll check my email unlimited times a day sometimes logging on to find that no changed has occurred since my last check.

    i haven’t quite mastered how to handle the situation, but I do try not to check the internet first. I try to turn on the computer and get straight to writing.

  34. I totally love this post!! I started my blog (a cocktail of history and prose, fiction style) to help develop my writing…and save my family from the crazy tales that run through my head. However, now that I am knee deep in the thing (the blog that is) I feel like it has taken over my life. I have neglected my manuscript and have become obsessed by the stats counter. I really should be working on my manuscript…but instead, I’ve just created more work for myself. What the heck????

  35. I’m like you. I don’t have a smart phone or a texting plan, a microwave oven or an automatic dishwasher and my computer is nearly a decade old…
    When I am working and doing research online, I often find I get distracted– so I usually have a open Word file set up next to whatever I’m doing. That way, if I find something interesting I want to come back to later, I just write it up in a list in the Word document and return to it when I have free time.
    I also set myself “working hours” and schedule appointments for specific tasks and try to stick within them so that I can leave the clutter behind at the end of the day and relax.
    Thanks for the post.

  36. Reading your article was quick and painless–besides, of course, the pain of recognizing one’s own issues being played out in the lives of others.

    This is something I have to get over, too.

  37. Yeah, I’ve been learning more about meditation, and it helps you focus and not jump onto the next thought with lightening speed. It’s hard to just calm down and enjoy the moment and since we are moving so fast, it feels like time is moving faster as well…

  38. I agree with Sherrygreens and Kimberly! I logged out of wordpress to move on to my next task and found your blog catching my eyes!

    I have started blogging recently and I love your post. I had been feeling that I get distracted by technology by checking e-mails often and browsing. I browsed the internet for some solutions which also worked for others, again browsing! Got some tips by the way! I then decided to do the following

    create a todo list everyday in notepad and assign how many hours each task will take

    I then know how long I have got to spend away from the assigned tasks

    I will check my mail first thing in the morning and answer only important ones then logout (remember)

    After finishing each task I would go back to my todo list and tick it

    I would do little browsing & answer some mails inbetween the tasks to refresh myself.

    Now it is better, no procrastination. I still want to make improvements.

  39. This post on distractions made me realize how true that “breathless and exhausted” feeling is – sometimes I feel like that on days when I’ve done little actual writing but have read and answered a zillion e-mails. I blame my editors and PR contacts! Some days it seems like every thought and question engenders a separate e-mail, each minutes apart, which I of course have to read and answer as soon as it comes in, while the actual article or blog post I’m writing continues to languish…Closing my e-mail is best way to get in a few solid hours of actual work.

  40. This was so appropriate for my life. I find myself being pulled in a thousand directions and this doesn’t even include Facebook and Twitter. After this comment I even intend to click the link that you have in your post to get a better insight into this procrastinating. While I’m not ‘a writer’ this can also be applied to any endeavor. Thanks for this post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed

  41. What if you can’t control the interruption? That is the problem I have. But then again, my full time job isn’t writing. My kids do have to go to school. There’s something interesting on TV right now about monkeys. Cool…now there’s a commercial on that is pretty interesting and funny. Oh, my phone just rang. I have to answer it. Wait a minute! Life is one big giant interruption!

  42. Your post takes me back to a phrase from the sixties that would so fit here, “Let it burn baby”. Now I get it. After 40ish years it finally makes sense. Thanks sorta.

  43. Thanks for bringing an important point forward. I find that the net is good for information. BUT, if I want a little depth and insights to my thinking there’s nothing like a good old notebook, pencil or a book. You can dig your soul deep into the subject in way you love it, in the relaxed position you love, at the pace you love and with a focus whether you love it or not.

    And once the paperwork is over I transfer that into technology. I know that technology can change @ per day. But I always feel that it doesn’t matter as long as you have your idea written. Technology then becomes a mere cyber post-man in its various forms. I feel I can always get stuff done on technology through someone who knows it, even if I don’t. I find the combination of old and new more enhancing than a mono-restriction.

  44. I’m in total agreement; if I simply start writing on Word before doing anything else except for thesaurus.com, I’ll type on for hours and hours without interruption. However, if I log on to Facebook and everything BEFORE starting writing, I’m constantly interrupted by *pops* from chatty friends and impulsive distractions from that little ‘1 new message’ bubble whenever I jump to the thesaurus…Nonetheless, sometimes I still succumb to the temptations. Bloody IM. It’s worse than crack, I tell you…

  45. Interesting… It is true that technology assaults almost every waking moment. That’s why I find the best time to write, if you can manage, is late at night without your laptop. Just a simple pencil and page, and listen to the way the sound of the pencil across the page actually sounds like a whisper. It really gets you into a writing mood, and there’s no interruptions.

  46. I enjoyed this post very much. I think this kind of fragmented attention does tend to spill over into other aspects of our lives, and I’m fighting to find my way back into a regular writing schedule myself. Writing snippets during stolen moments at work helps, but I’m missing the sense of cohesiveness I had when I could take a block of time out to write.

  47. Beautiful. I just can’t find the time in my day to sit down and write. Countless projects abandoned because of my procrastination habits. Thank you so much for the article! It helped me to realize how much I rely on technology these days, and how I need to back away from that and give myself over to writing. This blog is an inspiration!

  48. Absolutely agree! I can hardly go through a chapter of reading without a thought popping in my head that I have to Google to better understand. It’s a positive thing that we want to absorb as much knowledge as possible but not when it means disrupting other productive actions. Thanks for the great article!

  49. Facebook is my nemesis when it comes to interruptions. I seem to check it about every 30 seconds!
    I like the idea of setting time-limits, and scheduling appointments for when I can check Facebook/email etc…

  50. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    I was actually just going to the postaday posts pages to check out random blogs and got interrupted by the title of your post, so here I am. 🙂

    The number of responses to your post seem to indicate that many of us face the same challenges on an ongoing basis.

    Maybe we’re all technology addicted or just can’t face that we have ADD. 🙂

  51. Totally empathise with this post.

    I’ve recently resorted to putting my out of office on, downloading emails, then working on them offline so as to prevent the temptation of techno-wandering.

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  52. When I do write, which has become very seldom now, I always turn off the internet connection on my iPad or the computer to lessen the likelihood that I will be distracted. It helps!

  53. I’m going to have to try this at my office. I find I am very diverted. By the end of the day I often feel that I haven’t done anything because I haven’t managed to finish anything I originally intended to work on all at once. Good luck to you.


  54. Great post, Lisa (as always). I love the quotes. The biggest change I’ve made lately is to stop obsessing about stats, that lowers my distraction time down quite a bit. But, you’re freshly pressed today, so you get to stare at stats all day — it’s fun!

    It’s been a real struggle, though to NOT check emails before I sit down to write. If I can avoid emails and Twitter, even for just a bit, I get much more accomplished in a day.

    Thanks for all the food for thought!

  55. The trick I use to get me through the awful temptation is to consider, when I go to bed tonight, am I going to be happier I checked my inbox or that I wrote just one more page? My brain instantly shoots back “check your email,” but then I tell it to check itself and just keep on writing.

  56. Thanks for the post and thoughts. I definitely struggle with staying on the same thought process for an adequate amount of time these days, especially with all the avenues that new information can come to me (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, StumbleUpon, etc). Like you said, setting the tone in the morning is one of the best ways to stay focused and feel calm and relaxed throughout the other hours of the day.
    Looking forward to reading more!

  57. Considering I read this while also playing a game, reading a book, and watching television, I completely understand the feeling of chasing the next idea. It’s just too tempting to see something and get distracted by it, especially on the computer.

    I may just have to follow some of these suggestions in the comments to make my own days more productive…

    ~Casey Kay~

  58. My favorite tricks to get writing done are starting earlier, going longer with coffee and most of all, I use the AlphaSmart Neo. It’s a cheap, dumb electric typewriter with 700 hours of battery life (just 3 AAs.)It doesn’t surf so no email or other delicious web traffic distractions.

    Here’s more about the Neo: http://chazzwrites.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/writing-at-starbucks-and-the-alphasmart-neo/

    (I do still struggle with hyperconnectivity, even so.)

    Nice blog!

  59. Getting off-task is so easy with the amount of technology we have. Often I find myself working on my laptop while I catch up on shows on my DVR. Then I text in between commericials! I need to set aside some time before I get on the computer to get some things done. Otherwise, like you, I get caught up in answering emails and other tasks that aren’t necessary!

    • Congratulations on being freshly pressed, that was a well written, relevant topic! I haven’t had time to read all the comments, so please excuse me if this duplicates anyone.

      I read from another writer once that he writes on a computer that does not have an internet conection, that way he’s not interrupted by all the “you’ve got mail” dings. Not everyone has the luxury of two computers, so turning off the computers sound or not even opening email helps, too. I have to make rules for myself, too. Connie

  60. Honestly, I have tried all day to not be distracted by your blog, but your post title stuck in my head. I obviously couldn’t help myself. Recently, I have found that while I’m writing, I have become more and more distracted by new thoughts, writing ideas, sentences, and stories that seem to rush into my mind. When I have tried writing myself a short note, to look at later, I couldn’t stop writing and there you go—distracted and off course. My new method is to use a voice recorder. I just say what the idea is and try to forget about it until a later time. It’s working! Sad to say, I have no advice for email intrusion. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

  61. Nice post, it’s very hard to focus on just writing these days. No matter where you are, someone or something is going off!

  62. This is an awesome post!!! And a lot of great ideas!
    I’m always getting caught up with checking e-mail or other things online. I have to force myself to turn the computer off – usually a hour or two before bed (since I try to complete my school work in the morning). I have even pretty much given up TV at night(except for my all time favorite shows, like Castle). Instead, I read or write in my journal. Or, more recently, I’m trying to meditate for about twenty minutes.
    Again, awesome post, Lisa! 😀

  63. That was an interesting post.
    I like to write poetry and shorter things (for example, blog posts) because I have shorter patience with longer writing and just end up not finishing the writing of it. I wish I had more patience. I guess I’ll just have to keep working on it!

  64. I am completely blown away by the response to this post so far! Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions and BTDTs and generous comments.

    I wish I had the time right now to reply to each comment individually, but this is the last week of the quarter where I teach, and I’m also preparing for a speaking trip on Friday (not that I’m complaining about being Freshly Pressed, lol! what a delightful surprise). Please know, however, that I’m reading and learning from everything that is written here, and I look forward to visiting your blogs and interacting more in the coming days…

    I’m thinking of collecting all of your suggestions and ideas for a future post, so we all have more anti-interruption tools to use.

    With fondness and gratitude,

  65. Thanks for this great post! Unfortunately I don’t have any words of wisdom to add. I am just now trying to become more disciplined as a writer. Terrible, isn’t it? Especially since I’ve loved writing my whole life. Never been a big fan of discipline, though. Guess that’s why I’ve put it off. But I’m finding it a necessary part of doing the writing I love.

  66. This is an excellent post, and so very true. It’s also kind of a funny coincidence that I came across your blog today because I wrote a post with similar subject matter this very morning (except I wrote about how social networking distracts from and complicates the blogging experience). You have a great blog here, and I’ll be adding this site to my RSS feed reader. Great work!

  67. I broke technology’s grasp by buying a laptop to do my writing on and setting it up in a room with no Internet connectivity. I write, uninterrupted, for 3 – 4 hours a day (I’ve never been tempted to play the games that come with the OS, so that’s not an issue). If I need to do some research, choose to read email, or check a favourite blog or web site during the day, I am forced to walk to the other end of the house to use my ‘net connected desktop computer. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ works for me – I can’t believe how much (more) I am getting accomplished with all the distractions removed.

  68. The crazy thing for me – as a writer – is that I will sit down in front of my computer with every intention of doing some honest to goodness research… And the next thing I know – ten minutes later – I’m reading about the probability of a New World Order or something of the like.
    The internet is a great tool & a heavy curse.

  69. Great post!
    I never thought of the instant gratification of technology as a problem because of the way it causes so SO many interruptions (not that I didn’t think it was a problem…) I also especially like the quote at the end; it reminded me a lot of a form of meditation, which I feel that almost anyone would benefit from in some form or another, even if it is just concentrating on one thing for a few moments at a time. I once had a professor who said that, in our culture, beginners of meditation can’t think about nothing for more than a second at a time. That’s ludicrous!

  70. More and more I question the need to be so connected. A large portion of my non-writing related work communication comes through email tho, since so much of my work is a collaboration between people with very hectic schedules, our smartphone, email enabled telephonic devices tend to be our fastest, easiest means of communication.

    Sometimes I wonder how my job was done even 25 years ago.

    I occasionally try to “unplugged” weekends, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes because work demands attention, and sometimes just because I lack the willpower.


  71. Nothing that I know of works for me, except scary deadlines… I would waste whole days in front of the computer, on facebook, on youtube, on google, on wikipedia and every other site that will somehow tempt me to waste more of my time. You gotta love the internet.. 🙂

  72. I write everyday, 2000 words a day, either on my blog, on my book, in my journal or a poem. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning with my cup of coffee and sometimes I do some writing at bedtime. I’m fumbly at technology so that helps cause then I can’t be so easily distracted.

  73. I like your suggestions. I’m a big picture person so I have to see all of the writing on one page. Writing online fragments my thoughts too much. I over-correct through the piece without reflecting on the effect that point could have on the end of the blog.

  74. My first thought is to check my e-mail when I wake up, but you’ve totally changed that. I’m often running off to classes early in the morning, but maybe I need to start getting up earlier and writing. I think you’re onto something pretty big.

  75. Where I work you need to be on the internet checking your emails all day long for updates from people all around the world–otherwise you get ‘scolded’. It’s especially annoying/distracting as I get double notifications from my Blackberry and my computer. Good thing about being so absorbed with work emails though is that I don’t have time to get more distracted with other websites!
    But I do find that plugging in some good music to block outside noise, jotting down a checklist of things to do by order of importance and even taking a step away from the keyboard and writing the good old fashioned way definitely helps to make a difference 🙂 Great post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  76. My sister had just walked into my room today, and joked that she has never witnessed a moment when I was not on my laptop. It always seems that I open up my web browser with a certain purpose, and every new thing I see as I’m researching leads to me to something else, and this goes on until I forget what I sat down at my laptop for. I definitely need to apply some of the suggestions in this post. Thanks!

  77. For me – as a writer – the web is both blessing a curse. A blessing because of the wealth of information – if you have due critical mind-set. And a curse, because – as you say – there is so much to distract. And I think the web also trains us to be distracted. Bad move.

    It worries me that our lives are being reduced to evanescent snippets of dialogue; eight-syllable ‘word bites’ delivered to us by Explorer, Opera, Safari – name your browser. There is more depth to the mind, more to life and morte to humanity than this. And it seems to me that the book remains a valuable asset in this increasingly webified world. One of the few places where a long and concentrated argument can be produced. The problem is writing one on that bothersome, distraction-filled computer.

    My technique? Back when I learned writing, it involved a typewriter, pen and ink. I guess I still use the computer like one. I use Word. The web stays off – unless I need to fish for information. Deadlines help. The impecunious pressing of editors is difficult to ignore. At the end of the day, I guess it’s a matter of discipline and building up the right habits.

    And taking time out, every so often, to go and read a book – take a walk in the fresh air. Something to get focus back.

    Matthew Wright

  78. Wow! I can totally relate to that. I admit, I am a slave to technology…I L.O.V.E. my iPhone, my Mac, my iPod. I check my emails all day long. I even post to my WP blog and facebook via the iPhone. I have to agree though…it is a bit overwhelming. There are times when I wonder if I could actually go an entire day without using any of those. I really doubt it. I remember wanting to write years ago and learning about the idea of morning pages…I think I’ll try to start that again. Thanks for the reminder!

  79. Thanks so much for posting about this! I’m really struggling with moving past all of the distractions on the Internet, especially when I’m trying to do any kind of research. At least we’re all in this together! 🙂

  80. “…my main goal is to feel calmer, more whole, and less scattered.” A very valid goal, one I aspire to as well. I have also been trying to focus my attention and not get distracted by technology. For me, jotting down a quick note to myself to refer to later works great. The distraction is immediately off my chest, but not forgotten, so I can move on quickly.

    Thanks for the thoughtful, well-timed post.

  81. Thanks, Lisa! You were my favorite distraction of the day. I’ve been shifting away from Incoming–canceling newsletter subscriptions and setting e-mail notifications to chime only for certain people–while scheduling Outgoing. So I check in at SheWrites or Freshly Pressed or Twitter for an inspiration break, but I set the time. Now I need to set a timer and quit sooner!

  82. what a great post. I have discovered that I write better late at night, but lack of sleep will sometimes cause rambling so I will always edit in the morning. If I start to lose focus during the day I have a deck of affirmations that help clear the static from my mind and once I have one affirmation to keep my focus all the tendrils of distraction fall away… if you don’t have a deck of cards like this, I like this website: my favorite place to pick an affirmation online

  83. I got my iPhone about a year ago and I’ve become addicted to checking my emails. I do it every 5 minutes and trust me, I’m not that important that I get new emails in the space of 5 minutes. But I just can’t stop checking.
    I love your post! Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  84. I like the post. How many times have I sat down to write, and thought “I’ll just check my emails first”.
    That looks after a while, then something else might catch my eye.
    The answer for me is NOT to check emails before I have done the writing I have in my heart or mind to do.
    Generally that helps, but it is an ongoing problem.

    Technology can be a blessing or a curse! It can own us, or we can own it.

  85. The hardest part is when your main form of writing is blogging. If you write a blog, you also have to read other blogs, and comment on them, and respond to people’s comments on your blog. It’s an endless stream of interruptions! At least it’s a fun stream.

  86. E-mails are such a huge work. The quote by Lucy really defines how we are kept busy throughout the day simply checking and replying on emails whether they are at office or personal ones. Multi-tasking actually interrupts often and thanks for giving all this your words…Great post!!!

  87. So true; and breaking my addiction has been the focus of my life since 1 jan this year. Like you, I re-instigated a 20 minute longhand morning pages session, and until this is completed, I am not allowed to even lift the lid of my laptop!Good link to the Guardian article. Thanks.

  88. Countless are the times when I’ve sat down to write, but decided to either check my mail or see how the blog site is going instead, and finding, three hours later, that I’ve spent the entire time promoting the books that I’ve altready written, but added not one word to my current manuscript. Do I have a cure for this? In one word – no.

  89. Great article. I too am a distracted writer who blogs about perseverance. Although I now realize I take my reliance on technology for granted, I also very much appreciate the importance writing long-hand. Keep up the good work; it is encouraging.

  90. I’ve been trying to find the discipline within myself to work on my writing and spend an hour reading a book before doing anything online. It’s 6:30 am and I’m commenting on this blog… not doing so well so far.

  91. I have 2 desks, one for writing and one for checking email, Facebook, etc. Occasionally, I “accidentally” log onto the internet when I’m at my writing desk but I’m trying to be really disciplined about it. Great post!

  92. I find facebook a total distraction; I love it and hate it both at the same time. “Leave me alone facebook,” I say and then I find myself logging on, again. Sigh 🙂

  93. Fortunately – and I didn’t realize this at the time – I have to connect my phone to my computer for internet access, which usually leads to web-free writing. Although, I often justify going online so that I have the electronic OED on hand.

    This fellow recommends setting up an old computer – sans internet – just for writing: http://www.tuaw.com/2009/09/09/setting-up-a-writing-mac/. It’s a fool-proof plan for those of us who cannot manage to avoid wasting precious time online.

  94. Thanks for a great post — I’m currently struggling with writer’s block, but it’s not simply writer’s block — it’s an inability to structure my time so that I can deal with it. There are so many other things in my life at the moment requiring my attention that I’ve totally let writing and time for the process that writing requires slide. I can’t seem to figure out how to get back to it. I feel guilty and empty but I don’t care to do anything to change that. I am truly interrupted.

  95. It is simple really. No matter how you feel, set aside time for writing. I work 4 hours a day in two sessions of two hours. I threatened to put a Don’t Disturb notice on my study door but encountered feminine resistance. Of course you will have to re-write. I go through 4 or five re-writes and it painful to press the delete button. But once down you have something pinned.

  96. Consider yourself fortunate if you still have a life that is not totally dominated and consumed by all our so called technology.

    Your at least in control of your own destiny instead of the mega hype machine taking control of it for you.

  97. I thoroughly enjoyed this post AND the comments above. Plus, the blog itself is quite stimulating. In fact,I’ve been entertained and informed for the past 13-15 minutes and really need to get back to work.

    From Stephen King (I think), I learned that the closed door is the writer’s best friend.

  98. This looked like a cool article, but I didn’t finish it because I had to check my email and respond to a skype message.

    Not really, but ugh, this is so true! My writing process is as scattered as my brain, which is as scattered as the paper-strewn thoughts that surround my physical space. It’s unfortunate, but somehow it also works, lending itself to a new style of writing for a new style of readers.

  99. I have a lot of people vying for my attention (small people) and an easily distracted mind to start. Usually, I turn into a Luddite for the purpose of writing. (Stories written in journals get finished, I find.)

    The trouble comes when I try to type. I get a nasty case of the linky-clicky-itis. So, I’m biting the bullet and installing the Stay Focused thing from Google. We’ll see if it works.

    Good luck in your search for focus 🙂

  100. This is so true! With all the stimuli we get, I feel like I’m eternally multi-tasking which seems to be less productive than just concentrating on one task at a time. Thanks for the exercise tips.

  101. Great ideas, perhaps people were never as focussed as we believe that they were. The fact that we’re blogging about all this is a little bit of an oxymoron!

  102. Ok, so I´m a little bit late but I just discovered this post today. I´ve found I suffer from this more and more. 🙂 I don´t find it easy to focus, in the first place, with the internet world at my fingertips, it´s even harder! It´s definitely something I´ve begun to work on.

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