This is another post in my “Writing and _____” series in which I examine an issue or a stereotype that pervades the world of writers. Today, I’d like to talk about writing and distractions.
Staying on track with a long-term project the size of a novel is tough, especially when you work full-time on top of a hobby that requires so much of your self and time to go into it. But, many of us soldier on through, with varying degrees of successful completion.
I’ve now completed three novels (four if you count the one I wrote in high school that nobody’s read). But, I find myself getting out of the habit of writing so easily. More than this, I find myself presented with distractions that keep me from making progress and I fall into these traps just as easily, particularly after a rough day or week at the office.
You may be wondering what sort of distractions I’m talking about. The internet. Netflix and Hulu. Getting together with friends (okay this isn’t a bad distraction, but sometimes I schedule myself too thin and I leave no time for writing). The biggest culprit though? My phone.
I’ll admit it. I play games on my phone. They eat up time during my lunch hour, give me something to do while I’m sitting on the couch and more. Having my phone in my hand has become second nature even though I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t be one of those people. Well, confession time. I am one of those people.
Mobile phones are really an addiction (at least for me). I use it to keep myself from thinking about things. I’m one of those people whose minds go a mile a minute and if you ever have a conversation with me, you’ll see what I mean. If I’m not careful, I’ll jump topics without thinking about it and leave you totally confused. But to write and create, I have to think about things. I need rich stories and poetry, experiences and conversation to fuel my creativity. Lately, I’ve done nothing to stoke that flame. Instead, I’ve basked in the glow of my smart phone.
Yes, I am sort of in that in between phase right now. My written project is with beta readers and I’m sort of researching for my next. But the key phrase there is ‘sort of.’ I’ve been reading the same book for three weeks. Even reading something to study it shouldn’t take me that long. But, I’ve barely made it half way through the book.
Right now, the research I’m doing happens to coincide with something I love. Mythology. It also gets my mind cranking and encourages me to have interesting conversations about the world and the world I’m studying. The language is interesting. The images are rich and there are lots of things to analyze and think about as I decide the paths and stories that will influence the story I want to tell. But my phone seems to be standing in th way.
In Nov. 2017, the New York Post published an article that stated American check their phones more than 80 times a day (https://nypost.com/2017/11/08/americans-check-their-phones-80-times-a-day-study/)! That’s crazy. I’ve never counted how many times I pick up my phone, but I certainly hope it’s not that high.
Now, I can’t be in tune with my writing and creating something all the time. That’s just not realistic. Using my phone on occasion is okay (and so is indulging in other distractions). But, things have really gotten out of control and it’s time to do something about it. Everyone deserves a break now and again. But, it’s figuring out how to balance all of these things that’s key.
So now that I’ve identified this issue, what am I going to do about? Well, first of all, I’m going to take my research to the office with me. During my lunch hour, instead of playing on my phone, I’m going to work on my project for at least 30 minutes. Right now, it’s easy. My books and notebooks are light and easy to transport. As I move into the writing phase, I’ll be a little less mobile (well until I buy a new laptop, which I plan to do before I begin the writing phase).
When I am on my phone, I know I miss out on things (and I’m not even a parent). I miss out on watching the world go by, which can be relaxing AND a source of inspiration. Getting back in the groove and prepping for this next project are important. I want to do this project as it’s one that has been living inside my head and my heart for a long time. Now all that’s left is to cut the ties and do it.
Are there distractions that keep you from making progress on your writing? How do you combat them? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments if you’re so inclined!