Tricks help writers resist distractions

Let’s take a break from book publishing this week to talk a little about distractions. It’s the bane of every writer, especially if we work at home. We have so many distractions, so many things to do besides write. This morning, for example, I overslept, which gave me less time. Then the dog sought me out, scratching and shaking her head, and I discovered she has yet another ear infection. How it got so bad so quickly I don’t know, but we have to go to the vet, and I have to start dousing her ears with medicine, a procedure she resists with every ounce of her strength.

As a writer, I’m lucky I only have the dog to worry about. Husbands, kids and other dependents make it much more complicated. Been there, done that. I’m not the only one who has screamed at her loved ones to leave her alone unless there’s blood or fire.

Meanwhile, my house is a mess, I’ve got two writers’ groups and several upcoming events to prepare for, I need to pick up a prescription, and I’ve got this new book to promote, a task I dare not ignore. Yesterday, someone contacted me from a CBS TV show. It was very exciting. Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite what she’s looking for, but that definitely took my attention away from my work.

The biggest distraction is the Internet. But I found something the other day that I think is really going to help me. It’s a program called Freedom, and you can find it at I don’t want to do a sales pitch, but you can use it on a Mac or PC, and it’s only $10, with a free trial before you have to buy it. What it does is block your access to the Internet. Set it for an hour, and you can’t check e-mail, Facebook or anything else. It’s ironic that the Internet, something that is such a helpful tool, can be so addictive that we have to buy a product to keep us from using it, but that’s the way it is.

Another tool that really helps me is a kitchen timer. I set it for however long I want to write. I’m not sure why it works, but it does. Once I get started, I usually wind up going beyond the allotted time. The same day I found Freedom online (not a good writing day, obviously), I found several timer programs. I like (yes, with a dot after the e). It’s a real bonus if you don’t have a kitchen timer handy. An added advantage is that I can’t do anything else online without interrupting the timer, which is counting down the seconds in big black numbers.

We are surrounded by distractions, and it takes great willpower to resist them. Even with the timer and Freedom going, my dog could come seeking solace, someone could come to the door, or the phone could ring. I might ignore the phone, but not my dog or someone at my door. In the end, all we can do is keep going as long as we can, and if we’re interrupted, get right back to work as soon as possible, using whatever tools it takes to keep going.

Rewards are good, too. Food, a walk, finally being able to check Facebook can all be motivations for sticking to the task at hand long enough to get something done.

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Now I can have lunch.