I’ve come to my office to write. That’s the plan, but my actual behavior is often quite different from my intent:
- 9:30 AM Go upstairs to office
- 9:35 AM Tidy desk, clean up desktop, align folders.
- 9:45 AM Check emails (there might be a message from my agent or an editor, or even that contest I entered…oh, there’s the church bulletin, and that writers’ loop has some great topics. Better skim through before I delete. A sale at amazon.com?)
- 10:45 AM No way! Over an hour has passed since I got here? Forgot to check if we get that new mini series online…hey, I get HGTV
- 11:55 AM Lunchtime! May as well start supper too.
- 1:30 PM Feeling sleepy. Maybe a rousing game of Farkle…or three?
- 2:00 PM Yawn. Open the WIP folder. It’s in Scrivener. Maybe there’s an update.
- 2:30 PM Answer the phone without checking call display.
- 3:00 PM Time for a fresh cup of tea, then go in-depth on my WIP edit.
- 5:30PM Grrr. Finally got into the story. Going so well but I have to make supper
Maybe I’ve exaggerated. Just a little. But where do you think I got the ideas? How can we focus on our writing with so many distractions around us?
It’s really a question of commitment to our writing. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish our writing goals? Don’t have writing goals? Then make some. My father used to say, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll probably hit it.”
What are your main diversions, the things that keep you from writing or editing? Make a list, perhaps starting with an honest timeline of a typical day. If you work full-time or part-time away from home, it will be even more important to carve out your writing time from what’s left of each day. Create a schedule that suits you and stick to it for a week. Tweak where necessary. Be realistic, determined and flexible.
Here are a few of the most common diversions that may interfere with writing time:
- Telephone: I don’t particularly like phones, so I can ignore the ring. Use call display.
- Doorbell: Harder to block out than the phone. Some “intrusions” may be God-sent, so use discretion.
- Internet: A communication lifeline for solitary writers and an invaluable resource for research. Presents opportunities to connect with editors and agents, enables a writer to enter a contest or submit a manuscript instantly and with relative ease. Just plain interesting. Also a time-robber of the utmost degree, a deceiver of the undisciplined, de-sensitizer to the passage of time. How can we wisely use the world wide web without it controlling us?
- be especially sensitive to using the internet at work for private purposes. “An article on emarketer.com reported on the results of a survey conducted by Vault.com. According to the survey, 25% of employees use the Internet for personal use during office hours for at least ten minutes each day. Thirteen percent of workers use the Internet for at least two hours per day.”
- set a timer
- turn off incoming email notifications feature
- turn off phone and log out of internet
- programs exist for those addicted to the internet, but make sure this doesn’t add more downtime.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve come across is: “Put your butt in the chair and keep it there.” But make sure your time in the writing chair is spent in writing-related endeavors, not wasting time on the web or playing games or visiting via Facebook. A weekly glance at your written goals/schedule will help you to stay on course.
Janice Dick writes historical and contemporary fiction, inspirational articles and book reviews.
She also edits and presents writing workshops