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Distraction Free Writing

November 24, 2010

Good writing demands focus.

Those four  words are hardly a surprise, though we writers insist on piling our desks sky high with paperwork, have two PCs open, our cell phones running hot, have forgotten to eat or drink, have music blaring and then get frustrated when a story won’t appear.

Last week I wrote about keeping your level of passion up as you write.  Just as there isn’t a one size fits all solution to writers apathy or writers block there isn’t an easy fix for a lack of commitment to your writing either.  Interestingly, one of the main ingredients, common to each of these conditions, is distraction.

The secluded writer crouched over their wooden desk tucked high up in the mountains has alot going for it when compared to the maddening variety of distractions on offer in our modern life. Whilst I have written a number of flash fiction and articles in the most “interesting” spaces and environments, it comes as no surprise the easiest and most satisfying are products from calm, undistracted times.

Don’t let distraction lead you down the path to writers apathy and depression. Use some of these quick tips to create a distraction free environment in order for you to work productively.

Turn off the internet

Whilst the internet affords many writers an invaluable service for research and connectivity, its seductive call has the ability to lure the most steadfast into hours of unproductive distractions.  Its so easy to write a few sentences, then check the email, twitter a funny quote, check whats happening on facebook, get involved in a forum discussion and then return to your page to find two hours has been sucked away.

Use a simple wordprocessor

Strip away all the bells and whistles on your wordprocessor. Its too easy to write a paragraph and then spend time ensuring that the  font is correct and formatted correctly before going on.

Use a text editor: Use a basic program which will save the words you write without any formatting, layout, or other options to distract you.

Use specialized tools: There are a number of free or inexpensive writing tools available which offer clutter free, distraction free writing space

Writeroom has been developed for macs and even has an iphone app.   JDarkRoom is a similar concept for PCs . There is an online application called Writer.

Most of these will run full screen and have very little options other than to save your work.  All three run in full-screen and offer few options other than saving what you write.

Another great package for writing is “Scrivener”, which has been a Mac program for a long time and is now available for Windows in a beta form.

Get comfortable.

Pulling short of redecorating your writing space with a fluffy sofa, you need to ensure your space is physically comfortable for you to work.  Your chair, as boring and sensible as it sounds, needs to be ergonomically set up, lighting bright enough and set so there are no shadows over your screen, temperature to your comfort levels and adequate water is in your drink bottle.  Your body will complain and distract you from your work, if its not comfortable.

Chunk your time.

Work in concentrated chunks of time specifically focused on achieving one simple goal. Ensure you completely step away from that project for five mins before either continuing or starting a new project. using the technique will give you a sense of achievement immediately as its apparent how much work is being done with tasks ticked off as you go.  Look at Pomodoro as a way to enhance your focus and concentration. ( and yes there is an iphone app)

Even with all of these achieved, if you have no passion for the topic or theme of your writing, you will fail to be as productive as you may be if you are connected to your work.  Find your heart, clear your mind and space and love what you write. Distractions will be hard pressed to come between you and the page then.

What are some of your techniques to ensure you have a distraction free writing session?

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Annie Evett would like to get distracted by some dumb online game; but has so many writing projects to juggle, she can’t see over the to do lists…Follow Annie’s shameless self promotions here on Twitter  or here on Audio Boo and start your escape into her world  here
  1. November 25, 2010 12:59 am

    A great set of suggestions! Some of the things I do to prevent myself from becoming distracted are:
    Brainstorm first with pencil and paper so I have lots of ideas to work with; work offline (no email and no browser on); turn off the music; if family members are being noisy, I close my office door; if anyone is in the room with me, I tell him/her not to talk to me. My problems are more with finding time to write and actually getting started. Once I sit down to write, I am usually able to focus well.

  2. December 6, 2010 11:49 am

    Writing without distractions is my biggest problem. I am easily distracted by the simpliest things. I have found that doing word sprints helps me write and not lose focus. For me short sprints of ten minutes work the best. Sprints allow me to not only write but do other stuff so that writing doesn’t seem like a burden. Therefore elimiting distractions.

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