When my younger brother was little our family went out to a new restaurant in town. My Dad was tasked with reading my little brother the menu and showing him his choices. As Dad slowly made his way through the ridiculously long list of choices, he pointed to each word as he read it. It was actually something of a Kodak moment. Until halfway through the menu, my brother glanced out the window. “Look, Dad! A butterfly!”
This story pretty well sums up my attention span when it comes to writing and, while I was researching this post, I found out I’m not alone. In our hectic lives we have to scrounge for every spare minute we can devote to writing. It’s not surprising that, when we finally do sit down to write, we either can’t summon our muse or can’t focus long enough to give the muse a chance to show up. There are the obvious ways to get the creative juices flowing such as writing prompts and freewriting, but there are many other ways to get yourself into the writing zone.
First, create a dedicated writing workspace and guard it with your life. Don’t let yourself pay bills, eat, sleep or binge watch the latest season of Scandal here. Simply creating a place where you always write will, in time, train your brain to focus on writing when you’re in that space.
So you’ve got an adorable writing space complete with a comfy chair, notebooks, pencils and whatever else inspires you to write. What now? Time to get rid of those pesky distractions. Leave your phone in another room and turn off your computer’s wifi. One great tip I found was to listen to instrumental music. It drowns out the noises of the world around you without distracting you with lyrics. Although, I have to admit, I find that blues music works just as well.
Still not in the writing state of mind? Try a couple of these tips.
- Start your writing time with a few minutes of quiet time to think or run through a few yoga stretches to get your mind in the right place and to put away the troubles (or triumphs) happening outside of your writing life.
- Once you’ve cleared the proverbial clutter from your mind, set a timer. Make yourself write for five minutes without stopping. It’s amazing how fast the creative vibes begin flowing once you force yourself to start. To jumpstart this, try stopping in the middle of a sentence the day before. You’ll have the first few words practically given to you.
- Give yourself some incentive. If you hit your writing goals this week, reward yourself with a special treat. For me, it’s splurging on some Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge ice cream. Say you really want a new DVD or book that’s just come out. Whatever it is that will make you want to work harder, make that your reward.
- Switch mediums. Do you prefer handwriting or typing? Whichever you prefer, try switching it up. If you prefer typing, try to handwrite for a few minutes or talk into a dictation app. Try out the fast pace of typing or switch notebooks. It’s amazing what a change in pace can do to get your brain firing on all cylinders.
- Check out your inspiration boards. Yes, open up that social media tab. One of the coolest things about Pinterest is your ability to create boards devoted to your story. You can find writing prompts that remind you of where you want your story to go, character inspirations, settings, and so much more. Don’t create your board during your writing time- this is a great task for while you’re watching TV or a movie. Just visit and scroll through your inspiration picks to get right into your story in a very visual way.
- Don’t trust yourself not to get sucked in by social media? Again, during your nonwriting time, create an actual inspiration board, or folder, or drawer, or whatever happens to be available. You can use pictures you find in magazines, newspaper stories, Pinterest pins that have been printed out, anything really. The point is to have something to go to for inspiration for your story. Whether it be a series of pictures, a bundle of quotes, or a playlist on your IPod anything is fine so long as it inspires you.
- Absolutely nothing working? No need to fret, everyone has those days. Just take a break and step away from the computer. Set a timer for 15 minutes and leave your workspace. I’ve heard that doing the dishes is a great way to find your muse. The point is to step away and not think about your story for a minute. Take a bath, play with your dog, reorganize the pantry, whatever you feel like doing, then sit back down and write.
I hope you find some of these strategies useful for putting away the chaos and reigning in the distractions. Be sure to check out our author interviews for more tips on making time for writing and breaking into the writing groove. As always, happy writing!