Do you ever get sidetracked when writing?
There is no writer I am aware of who could honestly answer "no" to that question!
Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, checking the news headlines, reading a few articles, responding to emails, or buying that book from Amazon that you had forgotten about, there are so many diversions available with a single click.
A piece of excellent news is that there are many activities you may engage in to help you improve your writing focus.
I have divided my recommendations into three areas to focus on limiting you the most (or whichever is most manageable for you to shift right now). They are as follows:
How to optimize your writing environment?
What to do before writing?
What to do while writing?
Additionally, I have added suggestions on something you may do after writing to improve your concentration over time progressively.
How to Optimize Your Writing Environment
Get Away From Home
If you usually write at home, consider writing at a nearby coffee shop, library shop. However, since there is a pandemic right now, you can find an area in your home where you can concentrate on writing. This eliminates the plethora of distractions, and a change of scenery may make creativity much simpler.
Eliminate Obtrusive Noise
When I'm in the mode of writing, I tune out almost everything. However, getting into that zone may be difficult if many distracting sounds are going on. Whatever the source of noise, a set of headphones will assist. It is wholly up to you what you listen to: some authors like ambient music, others prefer film soundtracks or a song that matches the atmosphere of their work-in-progress. Take whichever course of action is most beneficial to you.
Take a Seat at a Desk or a Table
If you usually write while sitting on the couch or lying in bed, a seat at a table or desk is more beneficial to your posture than hunching with your laptop on your lap or laying in bed with your laptop propped up on your knees. If you decide to remain on your couch or bed, you may want to consider something like a laptop bed tray to make writing simpler.
What To Do Before Writing
Create A Game Plan
Whatever you are about to write, you are going to need a strategy. This may be as simple as a few lines written on a sticky note or as comprehensive as a manuscript detailing your whole book. However, regardless of how your strategy appears, it is critical to keep you on track and motivated.
Without a strategy in place, it is all too simple to lose focus. You have no idea where you are heading next- and as soon as you reach the logical conclusion of one line of thought, you are likely to get sidetracked by anything unrelated to your work.
Establishing A Writing Goal for Your Session
What are the objectives for this writing session? If you are writing a blog post, for instance, you may want to go through your plan- but if you are working on a portion of a larger project, you may need to have a particular objective.
For example, if you are writing a book, your aim could be to write the first 1,000 words of a specific chapter. If you feel that establishing goals may be intimidating or off-putting rather than beneficial, you could consider defining a "minimum" and a "stretch" goal. For instance, "write 300 words" as a minimum and "write 1,000 words" as a stretch goal. Even if you do the bare minimum, you may congratulate yourself on the back.
Determine the Duration of Your Concentration
You do not need to work with complete concentration for the whole of your writing session. You may choose to concentrate for half an hour and then take a five-minute break. These time intervals are a component of the Pomodoro Technique, which you may find beneficial. Set a reminder to assist you in remaining on track while writing.
While the timer is running, your sole task is to write- you are not permitted to check email, Facebook, or other social media sites. It may seem not easy at first to maintain this level of concentration, but you will quickly discover that it becomes more natural.
If you are battling a long-standing distractibility habit, you may want to utilize an app to assist you- you can temporarily block certain websites or even the whole internet.
What To Do While Writing
Always Have a "Distractions" Notebook on Hand
A simple item that I find beneficial is a notepad, journal, or simply a piece of paper on which I may write down distractions. These are often on my to-do list. However, you can use a distracting list for more than to-do tasks; it may also be used to track impulsive behaviors. Things like "check what's new on…" or "research the next season of The Witcher" may also be added to your list! Once you reach a break, you may indulge in some of those diversions without feeling guilty.
Never Be Afraid To Look Things Up
How often do you find yourself writing a book or blog post ( a scene from a novel or a chapter from a book) and realizing that you need to look up a name, a fact, or a link? And how often do you pause to look something up, then spend the following minutes or hours falling into an online rabbit hole?
This occurs more frequently than I'd like to admit! However, I make a conscious effort to avoid looking things up as I write.
Avoid Editing While You Write
I am sure you have previously been told this, but it is a piece of advice that needs repeating: do not edit as you write.
Is it okay to sometimes backspace and correct a mistake or restart a phrase that came out incorrectly? Sure. (Though certain purists of the "do-not-edit" school of thought may disagree!) However, if you write a paragraph, then alter three phrases, then write another section, then delete all you have written so far and begin over. You will not succeed.
If you change your mind about anything while you are writing, italicize the part in question. Make a brief note of what you are considering altering, then continue as if the change had already been done.
This way, you maintain the momentum- and avoid wasting time changing something you may later decide to modify again.
What To Do After Writing
Keep A Journal of Your Writing Session
If you have never kept a writing diary before, I encourage you to give it a try. You may keep track of progress in a document on a computer, in a journal, etc.
Each time you complete a writing session, spend a time or two to reflect on what went well and what did not. For example, "started well but was diverted halfway through by an email" or "took a long time to get started but got really into the flow after a few lines."
If you maintain a diary for a few weeks, you will see trends emerge- and you will get a better understanding of what works and does not work for you.
All authors are capable of concentration, and often, being distractible is a poor habit. How might you improve the quality of your next writing session? Choose one- or several!- of the ideas above and let us know how you get on in the comments.