By Hollywood Connect
Here’s a recurring conversation I have with myself as I settle down to write each day: Computer fired up? Check. Outline and notes handy? Check. Cup of coffee? Check. Great! I am so ready to write… and I wonder if I’ve gotten anything new on Facebook?
I like to think I’m pretty diligent, but I’m often surprised by my appetite for distraction – all those little things that pull me away from the creative process. Even as I sit here writing this, there’s something in the back of my mind that coolly demands that I surf the Internet, wander around the office, or see if something new magically has materialized in the refrigerator since the last time I looked (which was about five minutes ago) – anything other than what I am supposed to do: create.
What is it with such mass distraction? Those little habits – and let’s be honest with ourselves: they are habits – typically aren’t things that are intrinsically bad. In fact, usually (but not always) these little actions have a positive side to them, otherwise we wouldn’t constantly be drawn back to them, and that’s what keeps us justifying our indulgence in them. Yes, our pet distractions can be good, but the old quote bears repeating: Good is the enemy of Great.
The funny thing is that many of these distractions are things that we would procrastinate over any other time – like washing dishes or cleaning the patio. But when we’re supposed to be creating, we end up wasting our valuable creative energy and time chasing our favorite distractions. So how do you avoid doing that? Here are a few things you might try:
1) Make a list of the things that you know distract you. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? Recognize what your particular distractions are, and you’ll be that much closer to avoiding them.
2) Neutralize your creative environment. If you’re distracted by email, turn off the program so you don’t hear that tantalizing sound for new mail. If it is a particular website, remove it from your browser’s toolbar so it isn’t as easy to access. Close the blinds, remove the television, silence the cell phone, kick out your office buddy – whatever it takes.
3) Make a schedule for your creative time – and stick to it. As you plan your day, set definite starting and stopping times and write them into your schedule. You can also set aside a particular amount of time for those things that distract you, so when your creative time rolls around, it’s easier to remind yourself that you have another time for those activities, but at the moment, creativity is your only responsibility.
4) Begin to recognize what triggers the temptation toward distraction. For me, it is when I hit the end of a plot point or a major thought as I write. In fact, I’ll probably be tempted to get distracted at the end of this paragraph… but I promise to fight through it.
5) See? I made it here without getting distracted, but that leads to my next point: Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms. Breaking the habit of distraction doesn’t come easily, so at first you’re going to have to work particularly hard to fight off that little voice that tells you that you deserve a break, that you need a break.
6) Keep a pencil and paper handy to jot down those extraneous tasks that pop into your mind. You can return to them later without fear of forgetting them.
7) Have what you need on hand before you enter your creative time: artistic supplies, a glass of water, a snack – whatever you truly need to keep yourself going.
8) Know when to take a real break, especially in those longer creative sessions. Sometimes your best inspiration comes in the middle of a good break. Just don’t confuse a distraction with a break. One interrupts your creativity; the other strengthens it.
I’m sure you probably can think of a few other tips too. If so, I’d love to hear them, so leave a comment below. But, please… wait until you’re done your creative time.
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