The Writer Versus Distractions

Pen and paper

Every day I wage a battle against distractions. I have to fight them constantly before I can get any writing done. Distractions besiege me on two fronts: the first internal, the second external. Internally, there are my daydreams, regrets, disappointments, hopes, and idle thoughts, which flicker through my mind one after another and, if I do not put a check on them, can, before I know it, eat up minutes and hours of my time. Externally, there’s technology, the Internet, the wealth of interesting content out there, social media, people, and life itself as well.

In our day and age it is easier than ever to be distracted, because of smartphones, tablets, interconnectedness, and the wealth of information and of things ready for us to consume. There are millions of sites out there, millions of apps, millions of people to ‘connect with’, and so many stores, so many things to buy, so many things to do. I am both confused and overwhelmed by so many possibilities. And you know what? It’s enough toturn on your WiFi for all these to flood you.

I wish I could write well with my Internet on, but then something crosses my mind and I have to check it, and then that leads to something else, and so on in a vicious circle. Next thing I know hours have passed and I am confused because I have assimilated more information than I can process. But let’s not blame the Internet alone. Hobbies, friends, and even family, all of these can be distractions for the aspiring writer.

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for contructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” ~Rollo May

There’s a lot of content out there that can help us write better and get published, a lot of inspirational examples. But it’s so much easier to start your day online than to get some writing work done, isn’t it?

Reading, too, can be a distraction. Reading helps us expand our vocabulary and assimilate information, and has a positive subconscious effect on our writing ability, but the fact of the matter is that reading a lot doesn’t necessarily make one a great writer.

I try to write in the morning with my Internet off, and refrain from going online until the afternoon. I read in the evening, when it’s quiet. While I write, I keep my phone turned off, and my tablet out of sight. And as to relatives, they can’t get past the locked door. But there’s a danger to this, of course…

“Talent develops in solitude, character develops in the stream of life.” ~ Goethe

Are you easily distracted? Is it hard for you to find the time to write when there are so many things to do online and offline?

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34 thoughts on “The Writer Versus Distractions

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I usually blame the kids for the distraction but if I’m honest I waste far more time on the internet than their interruptions ever cost me.

  2. Good blog posting today! I think we all face the challenge in modern life of endless distractions and temptations. I love this quote that you included: “Talent develops in solitude, character develops in the stream of life.” ~ Goethe. I believe in that completely. All good wishes, Mary

  3. If I come across an article online that I would like to read, I’ll save it offline and then read it at night which is when I do most of my reading. That way I don’t lose things that I wanted to but couldn’t check out earlier.
    Fortunately, when I feel like writing, that’s all I really want to do and so I’m not really distracted easily. But when I am doing other things, boy, it’s so tough to reign the time in!

  4. If I’m really distracted, I go on Twitter and announce that I’m going to #unplug4hours. I feel busted if I go on social media before my 4 hours are up. It works!
    I also make a list of goals for the day. If I don’t, I tend to keep rewriting the same passages over and over. Must start on page 13 tomorrow….

      1. I probably should. I’ll do it here!
        Finish rewrite of first book and start third. Have a rough draft by the end of April.
        Start querying agents.
        Rewrite screenplay. Bam! I’ll let you know how it goes….The road to hell is lined with good intentions. 🙂

  5. I start my day with a half hour of solitude and journal writing; it keeps me sane. Were I to devote myself full time to writing, I would definitely need to operate as you do, unplugged and locked away…

  6. I am so easily distracted by all the bright and shiny things inside and out. Sometimes, it’s hard to not be. I’m glad I’m not the only one that gets tugged along by the chains of my own thoughts and pulled away from my original destination.

      1. In a way. It makes me feel like less of an anomaly and more like a human to know that others suffer the same as I do. Some of us more than others.

  7. I am so glad to see that other people struggle with getting too much information…. I have the attention span of a gnat and find myself flitting here, there, and everywhere. So, I started getting up 2 hours early in the morning to write. Sometimes it works- frequently it doesn’t. The struggle is real-

      1. Noise. Quiet. Me wondering why it is noisy or quiet. Seriously- time distracts me. I have to write fast or I will never finish anything. If I look up, or scratch my nose, my train of thought is lost: sometimes forever. Sometimes I can get it back. I just have to work really hard at it.

  8. Thank you for this post! I am definitely one that is easily distracted by the internet vortex. Sometimes in the midst of writing, I’ll think of a social media I want to check even though I know there will be no new notifications. I have no idea why. Sometimes it is hard to find time to write with all of the distractions, but I have a routine that help me. Around noon, I’ll go to my writing place, put my headphones on to cut out the world and just write. That usually keeps me focused for at least an hour or two. Maybe more if I’ve hit my writing stride.

  9. I feel like not only am I distracted when I’m trying to write, but I’m constantly distracted when I try to do other tasks as well. I definitely attribute it to the distractions of technology and social media. I remember the days before smartphones and laptops, when I was clacking away on my dad’s old type-writer and I was able to write for hours on end without being distracted. Now the slightest pause in my writing or reading and I have a sudden urge to check Facebook! It’s much more of an effort for me nowadays to focus on the task on hand whether it’s writing or preparing my classes…

  10. I am just now beginning to write, so I’m trying to develop efficient habits. Something I realized this weekend is that I cannot write in public. I tried to do the coffee shop thing, and there is just too much going on. I find myself watching everyone as they walk around, inadvertently listening to their conversations, and rarely looking at my computer. At least at home I have control over my surroundings, with the exception of the cats. No one can control cats.

  11. you are still more fortunate than me,
    I am just new writing learner , my basic in English is still weak ( grammar, choice of words, sentence fluency and idea ), English is not my mother language,
    but I keep writing,,,
    basically, I like your writing

  12. I write even when there are distractions all around me…with a baby and a toddler you cannot escape it…But that’s okay..it is better than not writing at all. Thank you, lovely post!!

  13. I wish I agreed with Goethe but I don’t. Distraction is necessary – variation in focus is a little organ of self-critical function which tells you if it is boring you it will also bore your readers; so follow your inclinations for a while and return with your mind refreshed and a smidgen of new experience to pump air into the pipes…at least, that’s what I do.

  14. You couldn’t be more right! Over the years I must have let at least 3 to 4 blogs of mine die because of this very reason. I am more determined now and reading this post gives me some sorta confidence 🙂

  15. I have this problem. I have always wanted to be a writer but distractions have gotten in the way, both internal and external. I might try turning off my internet, that is a great idea.

  16. Writing takes a great deal of discipline, because it’s easier to start a sentence than it is to finish writ…

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