Distractions All the Way

One of the hardest aspects of writing is the fact that there are so many damnably attractive alternatives. You sit at the desk and try to focus on the day ahead. That involves thinking about the coming scenes, planning, plotting, getting the mind into the right frame for envisioning bloody murder or a battle scene, and all the while, from the corner of the eye, you can see the bright sunlight playing over the buildings opposite.

Today I sat down filled with good intentions. I wrote my to do list on the whiteboard, where I could see it from my desk. Then I turned on the computer.

Many hours later, I have achieved a lot. I’ve made coffee for the postman, I’ve spoken twice to the artist opposite who was promised that the parcel delivery firm had correctly delivered her box to me (nope), I’ve spoken to my daughter and wife, I’ve tucked in the hound when she complained about the cold, I’ve made myself two cups of tea…

Yes. Her.

Yes. Her.

I have also written several emails, updated Twitter, I’ve selected the seven books I need for research for my next book, and I’ve spent some time on the web. I have thought through a website redesign I need, and done a little mental dabbling with paints, planning a picture I want to paint, and chosen a book as a gift.

There are days like that. Generally they mean that I’ll end up feeling dissatisfied. However, all the bits and pieces are important. All the conversations were important, the dabbling with paints could well end up with a profitable sideline, my thoughts about the website could be crucial for the future, and even the chat to the postman and the artist opposite have given me ideas. Okay, so tucking the hound into her bed is perhaps less directly business related, but all I can say to that is, that if I don’t tuck her in, she’ll give me hell and stare at me meaningfully, and unless you’ve had a Ridgeback staring meaningfully at you, you cannot understand just how disruptive to logical thoughts that can be!

However, the real distraction today is, that I’m waiting for a new dog. We are to rehome a lovely Dalmatian, a pooch we’ve known for several years, and whose owners find themselves with too little time, since taking on new work commitments, to be able to cope with the exercise the dog needs. She gets on well with our hound, and she will be a spur to me to get out more, which is all to the good as far as I’m concerned. Except, of course, that means another daily distraction.

So, how do you cope with distractions?

I have the same rules as I do for breaking writer’s block. Basically, crack on! If you’re distracted, you need to either absorb the distraction or work. When I say absorb the distraction, I mean that it may be work-specific and work-justified. If you have to put in place a new business plan, or have to write some emails, or need to read a book for research, then set time aside to do those things. When my wife became self-employed, some years ago, she was advised to plan for marketing. Her business plan had to allocate time for admin and selling her services. That should be one-third of her work time. The other two-thirds should be enough to do her job, but had to pay for the one-third as well. Whether that third is spent every day, or is accounted for by some mornings each week, is entirely up to you. But if you aren’t in those sections of the week, you have to sit down and work. Writing is only another form of work, after all. So, work-specific tasks can be built into the working week, and those distractions that are nothing to do with work, well, they have to be set aside until you have time to deal with them.

That means, no web-surfing, no reading that latest thriller you’ve been trying to get to, no chatting with a postman over a coffee, and no daydreaming about a new Dalmatian …

Hey ho.history, medieval, writing, writer, novelist, Q&A, hints and tips, questions and answers, medievalist, historian, author, blogger, scribbler, novelist, writing, book writing, questions, Devon, Dartmoor, Michael Jecks, Templar Series, knights templar, Knight Templar, fiction, fiction writing, library, story, stories,

15 Responses to “Distractions All the Way”
  1. jashrader says:

    Thank you! IMO this is one of your best posts! Perhaps because it hits home with me! I’m up to date with Baldwin and Simon, waiting for the next Jack, and currently in Fields of Glory. You are amazing! Thanks for the inspiration! -JAS


  2. Top tip. Don’t post photos of a Ridgeback if you want people to read your words …

    Well, not people who have lived with them anyway. What’s interesting is the stance in that first pic. I’ve currently got a Podenco as one of our dogs, and as a hound he sits exactly the same way.

    See I told you. Dogs take precedence over words. Much more interesting :)


  3. Paul says:

    You chat with your postman? I don’t even know who mine is.


  4. A slight deviation from the theme to start, but I’ll get back around to the theme — I think it’s hard for anyone who works at home, no matter the profession (even stay-at-home parents). Those who have “normal”, go-to-the-office jobs have a hard time comprehending that real work is being done, even if it’s hard to see. Especially for someone who is actively writing, yet has nothing published (as if that somehow makes it less legitimate?). My husband loves to (teasingly) give me a hard time when he sees that I’ve posted something on Facebook during the day. I come right back with hey, how many times to you just drop in to your colleague’s office to chat? Or stand by the copy machine to chat? Facebook is my copy machine, so to speak. So coming back to the distraction theme, I think sometimes we have to not be so hard on ourselves, realizing that we don’t have to take time out to commute, we don’t have companions around us physically who provide distractions. Distractions exist in every work place. Ours just look different.


    • I agree wholeheartedly. And part of my day is providing therapeutic conversation for a postman, too. Therapy for him and me! Happy writing, Stephanie, and good luck!


      • Well, SOMEONE has to provide therapy for the poor postman! (She says, as she munches on leftover Easter candy while contemplating making a cup of tea after another load of laundry is tossed into the washing machine which requires walking by the computer…)


      • Good luck with that washing! I’m not allowed near the machine in case all the clothes end up suitably sized for infants!


      • Something about my husband needing CLEAN dress shirts for work every day. *mutter mutter*. And then those darn kids who insist on eating every day. EVERY DAY!!! As if I didn’t just feed them YESTERDAY???? [insert more mutterings here along with hand gestures that grow more agitated]


      • I know those feelings! Then the “I don’t want to interrupt, dad, but …” because he needs a tyre pumped, or a ball retrieved, or a sweet, or …well, anything, really.


  5. Mmmm…distractions. Like thinking I absolutely must play with the kitty right now. Or update my blog. Or tweet. Or work on this other thing. Or clean house. Yes, I most want to clean house when I need to write. Sad but true. The rest of the time it’s a chore I loathe, but put me in front of a computer and suddenly I MUST dust those shelves immediately.

    Gotta love it. Thanks so much for sharing!


    • I must confess, even I have been hit by an urgent need to dust my desk or bookshelves when in the middle of a difficult page or seven! Happy writing and thanks for the comment, Amalie!


  6. Lindsey Russell says:

    And I missed this one too. A new dog – can’t wait to see a pici of her. I’ll be looking for a new dog myself once I’ve sold up and found a new house.


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