If you want to be productive or even prolific in your craft, one of the many things you must do is identify and eliminate your biggest distractions. This is a lot easier said than done since you may have distractions that you aren’t even aware of. The easiest way to track them down is to pay attention to where your time goes.
Often times my friends and family would ask me what I did over the weekend or the night before. Anything fun? It would take some serious brain power to remember what exactly I was doing over the weekend. Where did the time go? Granted, my life isn’t super interesting but I knew I did more than stare at my SO. The cogs in my brain started turning…what do I do?
I started paying more attention to what I did when I wasn’t at work. Besides general home maintenance and errands, I came up with five things that were taking up most of my time and found ways to handle them.
1. Cleaning and Reorganizing
Throughout the years I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning out cabinets, reorganizing them or rearranging furniture in an effort to make my writing environment less cluttered and more peaceful. The problem is, this stuff never really ends unless you just stop owning “stuff.” Which is eventually what I started doing.
I followed my instinct and became a minimalist in 2015. (Check out my first blog post about minimalism here.) Now it takes me all of 15 minutes to clean our entire home. No excuses. I’m not saying you have to become a minimalist but minimizing what you have can greatly decrease cleaning time. I once dated a guy who said, “You’re always cleaning all the time but I guess that’s why your place always looks nice.” Well, yea but once I realized that the “stuff” I was constantly reorganizing and cleaning didn’t really mean anything to me or had no purpose but to collect dust or take up space…I ditched it. Now keeping an orderly home is no longer a deterrent or an excuse.
2. Social Media, YouTube and Video Games
I never realized how much time I spent on the internet until the power went out during a hurricane and I (out of habit) kept walking to the computer… Social media can be especially tough to stay away from when you’ve used it to help build an author platform. In order to keep fans and readers engaged, you’re expected to be a constant online presence.
We have forsaken the idea of cable and network television and instead, joined the Hulu/Netflix crowd. Even that can have its downsides because the show you want to watch may not be on either…it’s on HBO plus or Acorns. Before I knew it, we were signed up to 5-6 different streaming sites. While still cheaper than cable, it’s annoying. For a time, we canceled all of our subscriptions to see if we could do without. We could…but then we just spent more time on YouTube. The best solution here is to cut the internet off during scheduled writing time.
That brings me to video games. I used to be a big time WoW player (World of Warcraft) not to mention Diablo, SWTOR, Fable and a bunch of random games on Steam, PS and Nintendo. Video games can be enjoyable. They have great story lines and can consume you. They can also be filled with characters and elements to fuel your writing but sometimes it’s time to step away. If you’re struggling, some games allow parental controls that limit how long you can play or what times you can play. When all else fails, unplug the system and stuff it in a closet (especially if you’re taking part in something like NaNoWriMo).
This is the book that started it all for me with NaNoWriMo: No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have allowed my research to take me off on a tangent. It can create a huge dent in productivity when you stop in the middle of your writing to look up one topic…which leads to another…and another…and before you know it, you’ve wasted two hours learning about random crap. Schedule time for research and stick to that schedule. If there is something that pops into your mind during a writing session, write it down or highlight that section/topic to come back to later.
4. Reading about writing
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy reading books about the craft of writing. I have dozens on my kindle. Have they taught me anything I didn’t learn on my own by actually writing? No. Have they taught me anything that I couldn’t find for free in a blog? No. Were most of them a waste of money? Yes. There are very few books about writing that I’d recommend but that is a post for another day. Stop wasting your time reading about what you want to do and just do it! That’s the best way to learn how and what works for you. Just write!
Yes, I pretty much just told you to stop reading this blog…
If you have yet to discover fanfiction, you’re missing out. Some of it is fantastic, some of it sucks but ultimately it’s a huge distraction and guilty pleasure of mine. I go through phases of reading it. I don’t write it like I used to in high school. Instead, I focus on my personal projects.
What’s fanfiction? Oh, it’s when you can make whatever you want happen with characters that already exist in fiction with no repercussions. Meaning you won’t get sued for writing a story where Frodo never makes it to Mordor or where Katniss chooses Gale instead of Peeta.
So how do you just say no to fanfiction? One, you can cut the internet off as stated before or two, you can take your idea and make it original or somehow incorporate what you want to happen into your own story. Perhaps, have one of your characters write fanfiction as a hobby? Personally, I just stay away from the main site. Fanfiction.net…you didn’t get that from me!
In the end, I hope these tips help you stay on target with your writing goals. If you have any more tips or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below and share your ideas. You never know how a simple idea may really help someone!
Suggested Reading: 9 Ways to Increase Productivity as a Writer
Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.