A Writing Distraction-Fix that Works All the Time, 25% of the Time
It slices. It dices. A centering solution to increase your writing productivity
If you’re anything like me, it takes about five seconds to derail my writing session if I’m not careful. Show me something shiny and I’m off like a squirrel with half an ice cream cone. I joke around in the title of this piece, but distraction can smash your writing output.
When I’m in the zone I have laser-focus, but if I’m a little stuck in a certain section it’s easy to get distracted. My mind wanders and its 30 minutes later.
Distracted writing ruins productivity.
If we can write 1,000 words in thirty minutes while in flow-state, we’re lucky to squeeze 100 words from the same session while distracted. Sure, it’s easy to talk about. But distractions are everywhere we go. But even an empty room can distract an introvert.
Distracted writing is also a blow to our egos. When we lose productivity we feel less-than. We compare ourselves to prolific writers and the self-talk starts coming in. Now, not only do we have trouble with distraction, but we also question ourselves as writers.
What can we do to flip-off distractions like a light switch?
While I don’t have the perfect cure, I do have a little bunny in my hat. It’s not a cute bunny like the magicians use. This bunny has a ratty coat and lived a solid life — it’s a useful trick to keep writing, nonetheless (no idea why I went so long about the damn bunny metaphor, but here we are).
What kind of distractee are you?
First step, you’ve got to figure out your distraction triggers. For some, the distractions are internal (loud mind with negative voices), so we write in loud places, like coffee shops to drown the noise in our melons. It’s like a white noise generator.
Or maybe you’re an externally-triggered writer. A mouse drops a pin three blocks down and you can’t write for a week. You like a triple-locked door and double-decker noise-cancelling headphones. Peace and silence are your thing.
Whatever kind of distractee you are it’s important you find your triggers first.
You know the old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and says “doc it hurts when I move my arm like this.” He swings his arm. The doctor says, “well, stop moving your arm like that.”
Writing distraction is similar.
I know how simple this sounds, but we crave habits and routines. How often do you get frustrated and distracted in your writing environment? Maybe you write in the main room of the house, with people all around. Then we snap at their insensitivity to our creative process — I mean how dare they.
Tomorrow we plop ourselves down in the same spot for the same result.
We get little done. We get mad at our loved ones (to no fault of their own). And our productivity is nill. So, well start with the simplest distraction solution and go deeper in a minute.
Maybe your spot’s too quiet. Maybe it’s too familiar. Maybe you’ve sat so long your brain is donuts. Remember, our minds do their best creatively when they’re in motion.
Stand-up. Go for a walk. Re-group. The ideas will come.
If you can’t change locations — maybe there’s no privacy in your home, or there’s something on your mind that won’t go away — keep reading for a quick solution to re-focus.
Make it portable
If we can’t take our distraction fix with us, the cure won’t be helpful. I’m about to show you a quick centering exercise to get you back on track. This works well for both internal and external distractions.
Whether there’s room noise or brain noise, we’ve got to write. The story won’t write itself. We need a way to quiet the conscious mind so our more-powerful, subconscious ideas have room to squeak through.
We need a way to re-group, center ourselves, and snap back to our writing world. Try this method next time you’re frustrated, distracted, or overwhelmed during a writing sesh.
I’ve got a three-step process for you and it won’t take but 30 seconds:
- Shock the distraction — with the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand, squeeze the triangular web between your thumb and index finger. This is a valuable pressure-point. Squeeze this spot until it hurts a little. For a moment your brain will forget all the distractions and focus all it’s might on the pressure-point. (Note: this works well if you’re fatigued while running too. It helps give you a second wind)
- Pause — let go of all the garbage in your head. Whether it’s internal noise or external noise, let the pain in your hand be your sole focus. For ten seconds or so, think of nothing else but the pain in your hand. If your mind wanders during these few seconds, squeeze harder. I want you to tell your mind who’s boss. It’s not in charge today. You are. And you’ve got work to do.
- Take three deep breaths from your diaphragm — Keep squeezing. Breathe from your belly, not your chest (we breathe too shallow in the west). If you breathe correctly your whole body should feel goosebumps from the well-oxygenated blood.
You’ve centered yourself for a moment.
Now it’s time to get back to writing. If you get distracted again, pinch your hand, pause, and take three breaths. This takes practice. It’s a form of mindfulness, but not the relaxing kind,
We shock our distractions with a physical focus.
Over time we can train our minds to anticipate the shock. Like rats pressing levers for food. We won’t have to shock ourselves to re-set as often. But the process takes repetition.
Don’t squeeze too hard.
If this doesn’t work the first time, try again later. Distractions will NEVER go away. They’ll only get worse. We’ve got to make the decision whether or not they’ll ruin our writing. The choice is ours.
The best writing mode is to be able to write in any conditions: on a moving bus, while standing in line, in a crowded room, in a silent museum — if we train our minds to re-center on the work we can get closer to mega-writer status.
Here’s a story I wrote about a Navy Seal named David Goggins. He developed a method to create an alter-ego for yourself if there are things you need to change. This method may help with your distractions too. Read it here:
Don’t Like Who You Are Right Now? Cool. Build an Alter-Ego Instead
How one Navy Seal taught me to overcome my B.S. and be a better person
We want more of your writing, but we can’t read it if you don’t finish. Removing or ignoring distraction is armor for writers. It’s time to put on yours.
We’re waiting for you.