Writing is tough for a number of reasons. It’s mentally taxing to produce passable work and form sentences out of ideas, it’s time-consuming to write and perfect, and it can potentially drive you insane to try to ignore 100% of the stuff you’d rather be doing. So yeah, pretty tough.
If you’re like the rest of the world (well, most of the rest of the world) you don’t write full-time for cash. Only a few lucky individuals are able to do that, but the common folk do not. When you write, you write when you could be playing video games, watching YouTube, browsing Netflix, or perusing social media. Hence the meme.
But to go from zero to hero, you’re gonna need to ignore all the things you’d rather be doing. Back home from work late? Well, the writing schedule waits for no man or woman. You got waylaid on the sidewalk and so you only made it home at 2:00 AM? Sorry, chum! Let’s have those 1,000 words!
But I’m serious: it’s no easy feat to take most of your down time and push it into more work–work that is potentially less rewarding, more frustrating, and harder than what you actually do for money. Even if you find time to sit down for writing for a third of an hour each day, I commend you. You’re going beyond what’s expected of you.
But the hard truth is that being okay is not okay. Do you want to write for a living? Well then, that twenty minutes a day ain’t gonna cut it. That’s the hard truth. The world requires more from you, even when you don’t want to give any more of it. This makes every second that you have time to write all the more precious.
Now, I’m a huge fan of video games. I’m not trying to bash leisure activities in any way: they have their uses, and I’m a firm believer that time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. But, saith the preacher, there’s a time to put down the controller, and a time to pick up the pen. (not quite a couplet, but you get my drift) Video game time is video game time, but writing is writing time. Mark my words: the two do not intersect.
So here are three of my most useful tactics in not getting distracted by writing. The best tool you can have coming into this is the following mindset: I am going to achieve X goal today, and I won’t do anything else before I get it done. After doing so, I won’t write until tomorrow. This attitude, especially if you are distracted easily, is very helpful.
Tip #1: Hide the clickables! Our world is obsessed with buttons: tabs on an internet browser, apps on a hotbar, links, subscribe buttons, like icons, upvotes, downvotes, dislikes, and many, many others. If you’re like me and always like to keep all your tabs or apps in a row, this could really help you.
Let’s start with your phone. If you have trouble writing, create a category to put all the distractions in and label it “fun”. Then put the category on another page of your phone. Just not having those clickables will give you a second to reconsider whether or not you should actually click them.
If you’re distracted by computer tabs, fullscreen your document to prevent you from clicking on the hotbar. Remember, simply not having the buttons you can click on forces you to return to your base mindset. You’re not going to do anything else until you’re done, remember? And when you’re done, you’re done. Feel free to play all the Elden Ring you’d like.
Tip #2: Every time your mind flits to something else, shut it down ASAP. A single stray thought can ignite a frenzied internet search over five hundred tabs and, before you know it, it’s four hours before you have to get up in the morning to go to work. I’m not even joking: even a small bit of leeway can lead to countless hours wasted. Oh, what’s that? You want to know where the Moonveil Katana is? No, we’re not thinking about that right now. We’re thinking about the story.
Tip #3: Do. Not. Take. Breaks. Breaks are for people who work full-time. If you only have two hours or so you commit to writing per day, you’re not working full time. No matter how taxed you’re feeling, don’t take a break. Many’s the time I’ve been feeling good about my writing, only to click away to my YouTube tab and get caught in a rabbit hole that takes me half an hour to run through.
By the time I get back, however, I’m already screwed: all my “warming up” that took an hour and a half to get started has gone to naught, and I have effectively wasted two hours’ work. When you’re on fire, you need to write more, not less. I get pausing to take a break, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the writing will be just the same when you get back. Warming up to your work is a powerful thing, so don’t waste it.
The stuff of writing is discipline, tenacity, and the ability to learn from one’s mistakes. Focus is only one facet of that, and it’s harder than ever in a world where we’re intent on amusing ourselves endlessly. If you want to be a writer, you have to be better. It’s tough, but people like Luisa May Alcott, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robert Jordan took it upon themselves to do something greater than the 9-5 work grind. Gives you something to shoot for, eh?
Anyway, that’s all.
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!