Your Ideas for Writing with More Focus

How do writers manage the tempting distractions and pervasive multitasking of 21st century life? Below are some more of the ideas you shared in comments to a previous post here. Please continue the conversation by sharing what has worked for you, and be sure to visit the commenters’ blogs and websites when you have a chance. Thanks for so many thoughtful and practical comments!

Capture Inspiration for Later

“I just started my first blog on Dec. 29 (new year’s 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 4:00 a.m.,  I will work on it and develop it further.” ~ John Archer

Portable Pen and Paper

“I find that if I have a big deadline to focus on, I have to write it all down 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.” ~ Emily, My Pajama Days

Use a Timer

“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).” ~ Alex, Gone for a Walk

Deep Diving into Single Tasks

“[I]t is hard to resist instant gratification. Surfing the web nibbles at your time and the next thing you know – hours have passed. 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.” ~ Olja, Apprenticecoder’s Blog

The Lure of the Open Browser

“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 browser open and a page loaded. And it’s not like in the days of dial-up where you paid for every minute you were logged in, so there is no real urgency to disconnect.” ~ Andrew

8 thoughts on “Your Ideas for Writing with More Focus

  1. I love to have my web browser “near by” for quick fact checking or figuring out what the heck a specific tool or trade is actually called, but it can be a major distraction on days when the writing isn’t going well! 🙂

    • Yes! I feel the same way. I love the handiness of information literally at my fingertips, but it comes at the cost of greater self-discipline on my part.

  2. I use notebook and pen for my university papers. Sometimes, I also use a timer. I happen own a very cute one, in the shape of a cat. Unfortunately, a couple of months ago, it slipped through my fingers while I was settinging it and the cat took a bath in my teacup (it looked DEFINITELY weird 😉 ).

    I also recoomend the NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), in which you try and write about 1667 words a day.
    It’s fun – and I’ve learned that I can really, really work like this. 🙂

    Also, I think it is important to know when your ‘writing-time’ is; mine, surprisingly, is early in the morning. 🙂

    • A cat bathing in a teacup–that has a short story ring to it. 😉

      I’ve been writing more in longhand, too, and it is definitely a slower, more thoughtful kind of writing (at least for me). Thanks for the NaNoWriMo reminder. I’ve never followed through with it, but I know so many people who say it jump-started their writing or a specific project.

  3. I do the same as John Archer: any time the pollen of an idea floats up, I jot down a note as a draft for a later post. The only drawback to this method is that I once jotted down a few words that made no sense to anyone but me, and hit “publish” instead of “save”. My subscribers got that “post”, and I later wrote another apologizing for putting the inner workings of my mind, the scaffolding of my writing, on display.
    I can laugh about it now, but at the time it felt excruciating.

    • While I understand how embarrassing you must have felt, it’s pretty cool to be able to see the workings of someone’s blogging mind! We should institute a national “post a draft” day, where we go to our blog drafts and post one without making any additions or revisions. 😉

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