For a writer, concentration is extremely important. No matter what you’re writing, if you find your mind wondering from the topic or scene, either your writing gets loose and less engaging or it stops altogether.
This is a serious conundrum for me because I do get VERY easily distracted, but also I tend to work best when I have multiple things going on at once – focus is something I rarely have.
For this reason, I have historically had multiple writing projects on the go at the same time, but of course – none of them have ever actually been completed!
It has only been in the last year that I have finally forced myself to focus on a single WIP and try to write only on either that or this blog – any other ideas or inspiration I get is written down quickly in Evernote and left at that. Sure, I now have whole scenes and passages of dialogue for other WIPs in Evernote, but I’m not returning to it, working on it, revising it or trying to plug it into a coherent story UNLESS it’s from Bifrost.
Yes, I used to get BADLY distracted by my own non-current WIPs, not to mention computer games, reading books, reading comics, building Lego, chatting on Twitter, doing my actual full-time job & all of the other things which go along with being part of a family and co-running a household. No wonder I never finished anything!
These days, though I still struggle finding time to write (see my post about Writing Tips for People with No Time), the time I do get is now dedicated to finishing Bifrost (OK or writing for this blog) and I have started to employ some tricks which either stop me getting distracted or (because I can’t avoid it) get me UNdistracted.
So…my top-5 tips for avoiding distractions or getting undistracted (in no particular order):
- Routine – get into one. If you can schedule the same time every day to write, the world has more of a tendency to leave you alone (note that children do not count under the banner of “the world”, so schedule that time for when they’re asleep or at school/daycare)
- When it’s time to write, leave your phone in another room where you can’t hear it vibrate & do not open social media!!
- If you DO open social media (bad writer!) make it a rule that the first thing you tweet or post is from the scene or section you’re writing (if it’s not written yet, at least that’s social media working FOR you)
- If you do lose focus, try to write the next part of your scene or section incorporating something from whatever is distracting you. Sure, you may have to delete everything after you got distracted, but it will force you to keep writing and might even help move you forward (it’s not like not-writing was getting you any closer)!
- DO NOT wait until you are “inspired” to write. This is the #1 killer of WIPs. Inspiration happens at 3am, it happens in the shower, on the toilet, when you are supposed to be doing chores or doing your day-job or (occasionally) after you’ve had a particularly strong coffee – inspiration rarely happens when you’re sitting conveniently in front of a computer. Inspiration is not something which gets books finished, writing when it’s the last thing you want to do is what gets books finished.
- Don’t quit until you absolutely have to. You may think the scene you just completed is rubbish, you may be really stuck for ideas, you may have noticed that you have ended up with a character in two places at once* (or some other massive plot hole) – DON’T STOP. Keep writing, finish the chapter ANY WAY YOU CAN – it doesn’t matter if its tripe, just finish it. Then finish the next one, then the next one until you’ve finished the book. The only thing which can’t be fixed in revisions is a first draft that isn’t finished.
*Bifrost still has this exact problem in Chapters 16-18 and I’ll be fixing it in revisions.