What I Do When I Should be Writing

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I often wonder if Charlotte Brontë would have written Jane Eyre if she had lived in a time that had the Internet and cute animal videos. I’m sure writers have always had to fight distractions, but I think living in the age of the Internet takes distraction to a whole new level. When all it takes is a simple click to open up a browser window, it is easy to be lulled into checking Facebook or rewatching an episode of Charlie the Unicorn. Although, I think I am being too hard on the Internet. There are plenty of other distractions out there.

It is not that I do not want to write. When I get in the zone, I quite enjoy the writing process. It is just that it can often be hard to get those first few sentences written. And sometimes the story feels stuck in my head to the point that it paralyzes my fingertips at the keyboard. These are the worst moments for distraction to creep in and remind you that you should clean your closet or reorganize your sock drawer. It was amazing how tidy my sock drawer was back when I was writing my master’s thesis. My place is never cleaner than when I am in writing mode.

Of course distraction has its advantages. When I am struggling with words, I have often closed my computer and suddenly realized I really need to go for a walk or head to the gym to workout. Unfortunately any health benefits from the extra exercise are probably canceled out by the snacking I do while writing.

Distraction is probably something most of us deal with regardless of the type of work we do. It often seems that there is something better to do when we have to sit down to work. But I think distraction is a particular problem for the writer. But maybe distraction is not actually a “problem.” Thinking is a big part of the writing process. When I am working on mundane tasks (such as sock drawer organizing), my mind is usually involved in more than what my hands are busy with. I am thinking of characters and how they might work through whatever dilemma I have presented them with or how I will write myself out of a seemingly impossible plot. Perhaps distraction is the writer’s way of giving the mind the chance to sort through the story before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

I have heard a lot of writers talk about going for walks while writing. I have resorted to walking quite a few times when I get stuck on an idea, and I realized it is precisely the kind of distraction that brings about some of my best thinking. It gets me away from my computer and things like Facebook, YouTube and other sites that don’t fuel creativity. Walking is a distraction that is part of the process rather than being a problem. This holds true whether I am working on my creative writing or my HR/workplace writing. Perhaps it is really a matter of finding the right kind of distraction.

But today it is raining outside, so I don’t really want to go for a walk, and I noticed that my closet could use some organizing, so I better finish up this blog.

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3 thoughts on “What I Do When I Should be Writing

  1. There’s definitely two types of distraction: the productive kind (where you, for example, clean your bathroom whilst simultaneously brainstorming to plot ideas) and the destructive kind (where you end up staring mindlessly at Buzzfeed quizzes without multitasking.) If I’m in the mood for something destructively distracting, I usually just grab a book. All good writers have to read, after all, so technically I’m don’t something vaguely productive, even if it’s not directly related to the writing process.

  2. Pingback: Committing to being a Writer | Book & Me

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