Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dealing With Distractions; or, Of Course I Can Write With A Video Of Goats Singing 'The Blue Danube Waltz' Playing In The Background!

Sometimes, it's just hard to focus on writing.

Whether we like it or not, Real Life™ can raise its ugly head when we least expect it. And at least for those of us for whom writing is not our sole means of income, it's okay to set aside the writing for a time while we deal with the curves life throws us. The story will be there waiting for us when we come back to it. We might even find that we've discovered new insights into plot or character problems in the meantime.

But sometimes it isn't the big, life-shattering crises that keep us from channeling our best energies into our work. Sometimes it's the guy two tables over in the coffee shop, with the obnoxious ring-tone and the near-constant, over-loud cell phone conversations. Sometimes it's the television playing in the background while the dishwasher's running and the kids are either about to kill each other, or they just did. Or maybe it's just too quiet you can hear the faucet in the downstairs bathroom going drip ... drip ... drip ...

I'm trying to learn to work through these kinds of distractions, but it isn't easy. It doesn't help that some days, I have the attention span of a gnat to begin with. Nor, sad to say, does it help that I share my office with my Beloved Husband. I love him dearly. Really, I do. But it's really hard to stay focused on a story amidst intermittent snorts of laughter as he pages through the day's LOL_Cats. Or watches the occasional goat video*. The fact that, when I'm trying to visualize a scene, I will either stare off into space (in hopes that the scene is written there), or close my eyes (because someone might have posted the key to my scene on the insides of my eyelids) only contributes to the problem. Because if I'm staring off into space, I'm obviously not writing. Right?

There are ways of dealing with distractions, of course.

  • While my headphones are not the noise-canceling kind, with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtrack blasting through them, I'm not certain it makes a lot of difference.
  • At times in the past, I've designated a certain hat to be my "writing hat," a portable "do not disturb" sign that says, "Please don't bother me just now."
  • It's also nice that our sleep cycles are not quite in synch. Bedtime for him is usually around 10:00 pm, while I'm more of a night-owl and usually can't get to sleep anytime before midnight. Those two hours? They're mine! {insert evil mad scientist laugh here}
  • If I find that I keep stopping to check e-mail, Live Journal, Facebook, or Twitter, I'll either shut my browser, or give myself limits: Can't check Facebook until I finish this chapter, can't open e-mail until I've met my word count for the day.
  • And sometimes...well, sometimes, I just let the distractions happen. As Beloved Husband points out, "You need some breaks. You can't just work straight through." (Though he also claims that he only distracts me "a little bit," a statistic that has yet to be proven!)

These methods aren't always successful, of course. But they're the best I've come up with so far.

What are other people's strategies for dealing with distractions?

* What? You thought I was kidding about the goats? I wasn't. I swear. There I was, trying to write, when Beloved Husband discovered this:

I couldn't make that up if I tried!