For Writers, Distractions Are Essential

Writing with Distractions

Distractions are impossible to avoid.

This is a fact I’ve learned to live with—especially when it comes to writing time. Whether it’s my cats getting into a fight, a fantasy football injury update, or even getting up for the bathroom, it’s all the same thing: distraction. It happens to the best of us. It happens to all of us.

If you’re a writer, you might fear distraction. You might wish you could sit down and write and not be bothered until you’re done. But distraction really isn’t that bad. In fact, it can actually be helpful.

Imagine you’ve sat down in your favorite chair in front of your computer, your notebook, or whatever it is that you write in or on. Imagine that between your butt and that seat, there’s a layer of super glue. And between the legs of the chair and the floor, there’s more superglue. You’re literally stuck there for the day. (I mean, I suppose you could keep pulling until your pants tear, but in this hypothetical situation, you’re wearing your favorite pair of pants. Would you really do that to your favorite pair of pants?)

Doesn’t this situation sound kind of terrible? This is what you’re doing when you say you’re not going to get up or get distracted—you’re stifling you’re creativity without even knowing it.

Distractions are good for productivity because they give you some distance from your work. Which we all often need, because sometimes when you’ve been working on the same thing for too long, we get tired of it. For writers, that’s especially bad because it’ll come through in our writing. If you’re bored by what you’re working on, why should anyone be excited by it?

Furthermore, when we step away from our writing, our unconscious mind works on it for us. That plot hole you just discovered might be filled by the time you come back, without you even consciously thinking about it. The mind is a powerful thing—especially when you give it a little rest.

But not too much rest, of course. Distractions must be used sparingly. Unless you’re a dedicated multitasker, it’s probably best not to listen to music while checking your Twitter feed while cooking dinner while also trying to write. Something bad is probably going to happen.

For us writers, sometimes it’s best to do one thing at a time, whether that’s writing or getting distracted. Concentrate on your work, but don’t be afraid to step away from it every once in a while. You’ll be amazed at the results.

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