Ah, the New Year. A time to start over, to make promises to ourselves we may or may not keep, to beat our heads against the blank page of a new project.
I like to call this state of being before the outline is completed “stuckityness.” (So it’s not really a word; shut up, Spellchecker. I meant to type that.) I’m always stuck at first; it takes time to get into the mindset of a new world and wrap my thoughts in the fog of a new set of characters. In order to do that, I have to eliminate distractions. You know what they are.
- The TV. When I’m working it’s usually on but muted, because for some reason I can concentrate better if I have something to ignore. I’m sure that comes from multitasking at work. Receptionists and admins rarely get the luxury of closing an office door.
Usually I listen to music while writing, but since the TV is on all the time when I’m home, things just don’t seem quite right when it’s not. But I park it on a rerun-heavy channel like Nick at Nite, so I don’t get distracted by a hot guy or exciting reenactment.
- The Internet. This is so hard for me; I love the Internet. I’m on it all the time. If I can’t get online, I freak as though I’ve lost a limb. God forbid I can’t get my email, read Cracked.com or Consumerist, or message my peeps. The Web brings its own set of distractions, especially chat and videos. One feeds off the other and there goes three hours or more.
I set a limit of 45 minutes to an hour to surf and check all the sites I regularly haunt. Then I must work for at least two hours before I can go back online, even to look something up. When it’s going well, I often work longer. Chat is limited to a quick greeting and a check back at the end of the session.
- The phone. It never fails; as soon as I sit down with my laptop and headphones, someone calls me. I just have to remember to bring the cordless handset with me in case a call is a welcome respite. I hate getting up once I’m settled.
I can and do ignore the phone, so I tell people to leave a message. I usually check it and call back the first time I get up to take a break.
- Neighbors or solicitors banging on the door. I can’t do much about the former, but I dealt with the latter by posting a sign that says “NO SOLICITORS; NO PROSELYTIZING; NO LEAFLETS; NOW GET OFF MY LAWN.”
A guy knocked earlier this fall and said “I know you mean it on your sign, but I was wondering if I could pick up your brush pile for $5.” Hell, yes. That’s a great deal. Just keep the candy, magazines and preaching far, far away. I don’t need any of that.
Discipline is the watchword. Without it, no book would ever be written because it takes time and effort to do it. If you want to write, you have to realize that it is work and you are the boss. No one will make you sit your tookus in the chair and do it except you.
What tactics do you use to eliminate distractions? Tell us about it in the comments.