Overcoming Hurdles: Distraction

Distractions are like hurdles. Overcoming them takes practice and focus.
Distractions are like hurdles. Overcoming them takes practice and focus.

by Sarah Tun

My first goal in writing for the Authors Community is to enable writers to overcome hurdles. There are all sorts of hurdles to writing… Usually, they’re internal because writing doesn’t necessarily require a lot of equipment (yes, in the very old days, there were no computers or typewriters and folks wrote with quill, ink, and paper! Most of the hurdles boil down to focus – or the lack of it.

To start, writers are often isolated and so, as a writer, you may not realise that there are certain quirks most of us have. To identify these, to bring them out in the open, will help you to feel affirmed rather than guilty! Guilt can be a huge distraction and distraction is the first hurdle we’ll address because if you’re too distracted to sit down and write, you’re not going to get a lot of work done on any given day.

Writers, I think, are easily distracted. Preoccupied, we’re drawn away from writing. Oh, not usually once we’re in writing mode, but to get into writing mode requires serious focus, and focus requires attention, passion, and clarity. That in turn, requires patience.


If you’re like me, you do most of your writing at home. And at home, aren’t there infinite distractions? People.


Communication devices

… are the main three, and of course, these could all be subcategorised. But that would be a diversion from helping you to help yourself overcome the hurdle of distraction.

Suffice to say, here you are reading this because you’ve got a hurdle you want to overcome. Getting down to work is the first hurdle you face consistently and must overcome it consistently if you want to complete your project efficiently.

For example, writers love to avoid getting down to the work they love to do, because it requires mental energy and commitment. If that resonates with you, I’m so glad. You’re not alone and there’s nothing to feel guilty about. And knowing/recognising the tendency helps us to face it and overcome it.

Being aware of an issue is the first step towards overcoming it.


Next, you’ll want to consider what is distracting around you and eliminate it from your life – at least while you’re writing. Physical distractions such as dirty dishes or laundry, broken windows or fences, can be ignored, but the mental distractions are harder to eliminate. Well, rather than trying to not think about them, why not think instead about your project? Simply make the positive choice to think about your work.

Writing by hand can help your focus. Personally, my drafts are almost always hand-written first. If you are using technology, I recommend you ensure all notifications are switched off.

To help me buckle down to the job at hand, I have the habit of putting on instrumental music which helps me to focus and to create. Trial and error might be needed for you to discern what music will work for you, but once you’ve found it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly time flies and how productive that time has been.

Be warm and comfortable. Have water or some other beverage handy. Be indoors without the sights and sounds around you taking away your attention, unless you absolutely can work out of doors (I can’t).

Now you’re ready to write. Assuming you’re in the middle of a project, you may already know the content stream you want to focus on for the day. I’ll address focus in detail in another post.

Maintaining Attention:

But how do you keep your intention clear in your head as you write, so you don’t digress and cause yourself complex editing and more drafts than might otherwise be necessary?

I think it’s very simple: Have your end point and the theme of your project in clear sight. Literally: post it, memorise it, recite it.

 Writing is a very personal occupation.

If your mind wanders, and you begin to flag in confidence, recall why you are a writer. It may sound obvious, but we can – in our isolation – actually forget what our purpose is. Knowing why you have chosen to do what you do will spur you on when a corner of your mind is aching for attention that is not about you as a writer or about your writing project.

Distraction is a hurdle to writing. We all face it. We all can overcome it. Getting down to the business of writing isn’t easy one day to the next, but it’s got to be done. Recognising the particular things that provoke us and finding keys to help us avoid them will make us more productive.

Next time, we’ll talk about Writer’s Block: Is it a myth? Is it real? How do we overcome it?


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