I’m not a natural motivator. I will never do an impersonation of an army drill instructor and yell at you to sit your butt in front of your computer or drop and give me twenty.
Why not? Because that’s not me. I’m not interested in having people yell at me, even if it’s online where I can flip them the bird without them knowing. I respond better to gentle, enthusiastic encouragement, and I found that the things (or *cough* husbands) that distract me from being productive also respond better to small changes than big ones.
This post, then, is to encourage you to figure out the little things that distract you from producing beautiful words and to find ways to manage those distractions.
And to encourage you to make those small changes, I’m giving away one of Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor novels to someone who leaves a comment. Hey – blatant bribery always works for me.
I asked on Monday what your ideal writing space would look like. Oddly enough, no one said “It’d be a really noisy place with the TV constantly on, kids running around screaming, loads of dirty dishes everywhere, and messages from friends leaping out of my computer screen every two seconds.”
But that’s often what we settle for when we write. I don’t know about you, but I can find it really difficult to block out all the responsibilities I have to other people and focus on my responsibility to myself – my responsibility to focus on the words I need to get on the screen to stay mentally balanced and happy.
Since establishing my daily writing habit a couple of years ago, I’ve learned how to block out some of my biggest distractions, but others are still almost impossible for me to ignore.
These are my four biggest distractions (notice they’re quite little things but they disturb me greatly) and the small actions I take to manage their hold over me.
1. Chitter chatter
Doesn’t matter if it’s on the radio, TV or right next to me. If people are talking near me, I feel morally obliged to listen.
There are three places I do most of my writing: at home, at a coffee shop, and at a library. When I’m at home, I make sure I’m in a quiet room to write. My husband respects the no-radio-when-I’m-writing rule. At the cafe, I make sure I sit far away from other people. Piped-in music I can deal with; nattering coffee-drinkers I can’t.
I am physically incapable of concentrating on anything if there’s yummy food around. Or if I’m hungry.
I manage this distraction by eating it.
Maybe not the healthiest thing to do, but what the hell.
3. A really good book
This is by far my biggest distraction. By. Far.
If I’m reading a book I love, I can’t fall asleep until I finish it. That means I sleep through my morning writing time, which is the most productive time for me.
I have to be really disciplined with my reading. I only let myself read a book I’m excited about on the weekend. During the week, I stick to re-reading passages of favorite books as I’m falling asleep. This way, I’m still enjoying my reading but don’t have the pull of “must discover what happens next!” to keep me awake.
4. Things to click on
When I’m working on one of my novels, I have to turn off TweetDeck. Maybe Twitter should fall under ‘Chitter chatter’, but I’m putting TweetDeck here because it pops up with things for me to click on. My eyes flick to the top corner of my screen and “Wow! A URL! Cool.” Often it doesn’t even matter what site the URL is for; if I’m struggling with a scene, then TweetDeck is like waving a shiny object in front of a magpie.
When I’m blogging, the urge to click on stuff is equally tempting. Sometimes I get to the end of a paragraph and think, “Hmm, it’s been three minutes since I’ve checked how many people visited today.” Then I play a guessing game with myself to see how closely I can guess the number.
Ironically, after I’d written this post, I got an email from WordPress saying they’d found ways to cut down on writing distractions. Glad to know WordPress had been reading my mind. (Hopefully they weren’t reading my unpublished post.) Turns out they’ve hugely improved the distraction-free editor. If you use WordPress.com, click on the full screen icon in your visual editor. You’ll get space to write without all the sexy links throwing you their come-hither looks.
Simple change, massive win!
Over to you:
What distracts you from your writing? How do you manage those distractions?
I broke my rule #3 this week. I started reading Jill Shalvis’s The Sweetest Thing (book 2 in her Lucky Harbor series) on Monday night, and I’ve found it impossible to put down. I knew that would happen because I read book 1 – Simply Irresistible – a few weeks ago and it immediately became one of my all-time favorites.
So now I pass the distraction on to you.
I’m giving away a copy of one of Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books to someone who leaves a comment on this post. You get to choose which one!
I’ll randomly draw the winner on Friday May 26. This is open internationally. You just have to live somewhere Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or Book Depository delivers to.
Here are the blurbs!
Maddie Moore’s whole life needs a makeover. In one fell swoop, Maddie loses her boyfriend (her decision) and her job (so not her decision) but rather than drowning her sorrows in bags of potato chips, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim the inheritance left by her free-spirited mother-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. Starting over won’t be easy. Yet Maddie sees the potential for a new home and a new career, if only she can convince her two half-sisters to join her in the adventure.
But convincing Tara and Chloe will be difficult because the inn needs a big makeover too. The contractor Maddie hires is a tall, dark-haired hottie whose eyes – and mouth – are making it hard for her to remember that she’s sworn off men. Even harder will be Maddie’s struggles to overcome the past, though she’s about to discover that there’s no better place to call home than Lucky Harbor.
The Sweetest Thing
Tara has a thousand good reasons not to return to the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington. Yet with her life doing a major crash-and-burn, anywhere away from her unfulfilled dreams will do. As Tara helps her two sisters get their newly-renovated inn up and running, she finally has a chance to get things under control and come up with a new plan for her life.
But sexy Ford Walker has his own ideas, such as keeping Tara hot, bothered . . . and in his bed. And when her ex wants Tara back, three is a crowd she can’t control—especially when her deepest secret reappears out of the blue. Now Tara must confront her past and discover what she really wants. If she’s lucky, she might just find that everything her heart desires is right here in Lucky Harbor.
Comment below for a chance to win one of these fantastic novels!