Treat your writing time as sacred. Turn off your phone as it’s too easy to pick it up and take a glance. When it is off, it’s off, and a hassle to turn back on.
If you can’t bring yourself to turn off your phone, turn off data and wifi and put it into silent or airplane mode. Switch off the notifications on your laptop. Any time spent on it during your writing session is losing you words (no matter how much you justify it).
But I need to research something…
Separate your writing and research time. Whenever you need to go outside your manuscripts to look something up, use a unique placeholder that you can easily find with a search later one.
Use a unique placeholder like ‘XXX’ as a marker to search for later. Keep writing and keep those words flowing. Never jump on the Internet whilst you are writing. If you do, it isn’t just that time you are losing but also the time it takes to get your creativity back in the flow.
Here are a few examples:
- John picked up the ancient Egyptian vase (XXX - look up the name of this) and placed it back on the pedestal
- It was written there in black and white. Scrawled on the page in the journal was the date (XXX - look up date in Chapter 1), 1930.
- The world record hadn’t been broken in over 50 years (XXX - is there actually a world record for this?)
Think of your phone, browser and the Internet as the main antagonist in your story as an author. If you have them in your writing space, you are bringing the protagonist into the writing room. Why take that risk? The protagonist’s aim is to stop you finishing your quest. Will you overcome the distractions and reach your goal?
- Let your family/flatmates know that this is your writing time and you can only be disturbed in the event of a fire or zombie apocalypse.
It doesn’t have to be at home. Some writers love the buzz they get from writing in a café, library or a pub. Others write in breaks at work, or on their commute.Look at your daily routine: where is there space to write? If you’re hitting 200 words a day, you should only need 15-20 minutes, but get more if you can. If you’re on Twitter, you’ll see the hashtag #5amwritersclub where armies of writers all over the world get up before the rest of us to write those words.
VIDEO: Mark Stay tells how he would block distractions on his commute: white noise apps, Post-it notes on his headphones at work etc: