Do you have lots of great writing intentions … only to find your day filling up with all sorts of other things?
When you do sit down to write, are you easily distracted?
Hey, me too!
I’ve come to realise that this isn’t a weakness in myself: it’s more about the nature of writing. There’s often a lot of resistance associated with getting started … and even once you do get going, it can be very hard to get into flow.
For years, I used to imagine that I would – somehow – become able to effortlessly focus for hours at a time.
And, in fact, I can!
But not when I’m at home.
Is Your Writing Environment Killing Your Writing?
Most writers work at home. It’s a useful perk of the job (or a necessary part of the hobby) – and I certainly wouldn’t want to commute to an office every day, like I once did.
Home can be a very distracting place. I’ve got a four year old and a two year old, so our house often looks like someone did a mad sweep of a toy shop and scattered the contents liberally around every room. The rooms the kids don’t go in (primarily the master bedroom and the study) are always right at the bottom of my priority list for tidying.
There are always things to be done at home, too. Laundry to put on; dishes to wash; bits of paper to file (now that we have one child in school, we’re generating even larger quantities of paperwork than before).
Is it any wonder it’s hard to focus on writing?
If your home life looks remotely similar, please don’t beat yourself up for struggling to focus!
Instead, try to have occasional writing sessions away from home (or away from your usual writing environment). My favourite places for this are:
- Our local library (free, air conditioned, and full of books – what’s not to like?!)
- One of our local independent coffee shops, Pride & Produce (great cappuchinos).
- A small, good value local hotel (brilliant for occasional overnight writing retreats).
At home, two blog posts (say, 2000 words total) plus 500 or so words of my novel would be a great writing day. In my hotel room, I can often knock off 7,000 + words between 2pm and bedtime. I normally go there once every 2 – 3 months: it’s always a wonderful chance to really immerse myself in my fiction-writing.
Of course, if you can’t get away from home, or can only do so occasionally, you can still improve your writing space.
Here are six things to try (wherever you write):
#1: Turn Off Your Internet Connection During Writing Sessions
I’m embarrassed to admit what a difference this makes to me! The internet is a world of distractions a single click away – if you turn off your wifi, or physically unplug your Ethernet cable, you might be surprised just how much easier it is to focus.
#2: Play Music (or Ambient Noise) Through Noise-Cancelling Headphones
This really helps me focus if I’m in a noisy environment: while I was planning this post, I was upstairs in our local library, next to a small coffee shop and the always-busy children’s area. My trusty headphones drowned out all the background noise!
#3: Tidy Up … but Don’t Procrastinate
Visual clutter can be very distracting, even if you don’t realise that it’s a drag on your attention and focus. Be careful not to let tidying become yet another tool for procrastination, though — just do a quick 5 minute tidy before you start your writing session.
#4: Get Physically Comfortable
I’m sure this is advice that you’ve heard over and over again … but are you acting on it? Make sure your writing setup is as comfortable as possible. That might mean adjusting your monitor height (pop a few books underneath) or using a laptop stand so that your screen is at eye level. Think, too, about seating – I like to sit on an exercise ball, which prevents me slouching back and nodding off!
#5: Remove Things that Distract You
If you’ve got your phone on the desk next to the thriller you’re currently reading, it’s not much surprise if you end up getting distracted as soon as you hit a tricky bit of writing. By keeping distractions in a different room, you’ll make your natural inertia work in your favour…
#6: Consider Using Scents or Aromas
Some writers like to burn incense or scented candles as they write: it may not be your thing, but it’s worth trying – scents can be very evocative and may help you switch into the writing mood. Last time I was at my hotel room, it had only just been cleaned before I checked in, and it smelt strongly of cleaning stuff … which made me realise how distracting the “wrong” smell can be!
You may not be able to have the writing room of your dreams, but a few little tweaks can definitely make it easier to sit down and concentrate during your writing sessions. If you can get away from home, even only occasionally, do: a different, distraction-free environment helps so much … and so does that sense of having put aside a couple of hours, or even a full day, for your writing.
I’d love to hear about where you write, and how it’s working (or not!) for you – just drop a comment below.