Saturday, February 11, 2017

Writing Distractions – Not All Bad

Most aspiring authors have real lives outside of writing. Even I do.  I often wonder if life gets in the way of writing, or if writing requires having a life, but that’s a much larger topic than what this post is about.

There are very few things I’d rather do than write. I find it relaxing, challenging, and satisfying. Yet, a number of distractions easily take me away from writing.  I’m not talking about time with family and friends.  They always take priority.  I’m referring to distractions I face while actually at my desk.
My office has an expansive window with long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I’m fortunate to have such a serene setting in which to think and compose.  I frequently gaze out this window, distracted by the natural beauty of the trees and faraway hills.  In the winter months, days pass without seeing another person, but rarely a day goes by without seeing a herd of deer wandering through my view.  It’s an interesting dichotomy.  The quiet and solitude which make this a great place to write often has me focusing elsewhere.
Research is a large part of writing, even for a fiction writer.  The internet puts sources of information at my fingertips. With one keystroke, I can switch from composing a novel on Microsoft Word to searching a range of topics on Google, Bing, or Yahoo. While this is infinitely more productive than going to the library and digging through periodicals, internet research also presents a risk.  The risk is never getting back to writing.  One minute, I’m verifying the location of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and the next minute, I’m buying a lawn trimmer off Home Depot’s website or reading my book reviews on Amazon.
I’ve concluded these distractions can actually be constructive.  While writing requires deep concentration to ensure continuity, consistency, and correctness, it also requires an inventive and open mind.  I am able to write head-down for an hour at most. Any longer, and I lose my imagination and my writing grows stale.  It’s at these times a cup of coffee is in order.  I’ll return to my desk to sip coffee and enjoy the views out my window, or maybe read an interesting article on my laptop.  These breaks often refresh my thoughts, enabling me to return for another period productive writing.
I must admit there are days when I stare out my window, never focusing on my writing, and that’s not all bad.  If my mind’s not into writing, I’d probably produce garbage anyway.  Oh, look!  My nephew just posted pictures of his new puppies on Facebook.  I’ll finish this post later.


  1. That kind of distraction is not limited to writers! While editing, I have found myself looking up a word definition or whether a hyphen belongs in a word or not, only to catch myself browsing Facebook or sidetracking on something that has been on my mind but never while I'm at a computer. It's all too easy, that's for sure. There are times when those distractions are a brain-refreshing diversion, but I still have to be cautious to not rely on that as my excuse for it.

  2. Ditto. (to the blog, and the comment.)

    I find that working on a laptop allows for so many distractions; I call it the "black hole of the internet". So useful, but so time-wasting. Hard to find a balance. A writer can't live in a void, as you mentioned -- research, blogging, emails, social media. I try to portion my time. It would be nice to write in notebooks and journals . . . but I find editing and revising so much slower on paper.

    I would like to point out that I find your blogs are preceptive, practical and pragmatic.
    Also, do you wonder who reads your blogs because few people comment? Another time-eater, but I do add my thoughts when something pithy stirs my thoughts.

    1. John, thanks for your comments.

      You're correct. I get little written feedback to my postings. I maintain a blog mainly in support of my writing. Statistics indicate about 100 to 150 page hits to each post. How many of these hits are actually people reading the entire post is hard to tell, but at least it's metric of traffic. Other than Twitter and Google+, I don't advertise my blog or my books. I do a few giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads, but my marketing budget is quite low. It's an investment that I contemplate regularly, but have yet to take that step.