Tips on How to Write without Getting Distracted

Whether you’ve procrastinated in writing a paper or just writing creatively, there are times when you just don’t feel like writing. For me, I will stare at a blank Word document and tell myself that it’s time to get serious and write already, but then I’ll find myself down the internet black hole of watching music videos or googling some random fact that popped into my head. Twenty minutes later, I can’t remember why I wasn’t writing anymore. And even though I may want to write a particular scene for my chosen story, my brain is not in the mood. So in order to force myself to begin writing, I’ve developed ways on how to trick myself into typing those first few words. After that, it’s all about staying focused enough to maintain my new momentum.

First, identify what is distracting you. Like most people, simply having access to the internet is more than enough to become sidetracked. An easy fix for this is to disconnect from the wifi. It also works well to stop you from researching – even though you already have pages of material to look off of – and just write that paper already. If you feel like you’re going to need a snack sometime in the duration of your writing, then make sure you keep it nearby. This way, you don’t use hunger (or any other task) as an excuse to get up from your chair and wander around instead of working.

Perhaps it’s other people who keep interrupting you from your work. Heading to a library is an obvious choice, especially if you can snag a cubicle. Nothing like being surrounded by box walls to prevent you from glancing around the room. But if you’ve procrastinated too long and it’s after library hours, you have no choice but to write at home. Is the fact that your bed sits a few feet behind you enough to tempt you instead of writing? Then head to the kitchen. Is there a time when everyone in your household (or dorm) is guaranteed to be sleeping or out of your home? For me, my family settles down after 10:00pm. After that, I know that I can write uninterrupted. Of course, there are some people out there who struggle being awake after midnight. I am not one of those people, but caffeine is your friend if you’re desperate enough.

To actually start writing, music helps me. It’s best to have an album or two lined up before you begin writing. This way, you’re not clicking around, changing the song once the one before it finishes. The goal is to not distract you any further. (May I suggest Jess’s instrumental playlists?) I usually sit and just listen to one song before I begin writing so I can refocus my mind at the task ahead.

amandaSo now you have a quiet place to write, your favorite musicians ready to motivate you, but you’re still having difficulty writing beyond that first paragraph? Reinforcements are always good. For some people, taking short breaks after a certain amount of words or pages written is sufficient. However, I tend to sometimes take too long of a break and I’m back to being distracted again. Instead, I like to make it into a game for myself. Right before I begin typing, I record the time and then try to write as many words as I can in as little amount of time as possible. Seriously, I set records for myself (if I reach at least 900 words in an hour, then I feel super successful).

But by the end of the day, no matter which tactic you attempt to try and force yourself to write, it’s all a battle of wills. If you can’t convince yourself how serious you are at achieving that deadline or goal, then it’s probably not going to get accomplished. Nonetheless, if you really do desire to write (or at least don’t want to fail your assignment), I hope my suggestions may have been the push you needed.

– Amanda Matkowski

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