My friend, Roy, is a journalist and he can write just about anywhere. Nothing seems to derail his train of thought or interrupt the tap of his fingers on his laptop keys. My friend, Tim, was a police officer and often wrote in his patrol car during the quiet moments of a graveyard shift, but always with one ear on the radio to catch a call.
You may be like Roy or Tim or any number of great writers who can crank out good work no matter what goes on around them. Not me. The thing that distracts me is words.
The words might be on a television or as part of a conversation in the next room. Music is good, if there are no words. If the song has lyrics, it distracts me. I’m even distracted by the instrumental versions of familiar hymns or opera arias. My mind supplies the words and the distraction.
Identify What Distracts You
Distractions are the enemy. The first step to deal effectively with the enemy is to identify the enemy. Words distract me. What distracts you?
I’m not talking about interruptions here. Interruptions are brute force. You can prevent some of them by shutting off the ringer on your phone, closing your email, and shutting the door. But you can’t stop others, like your neighbor ringing the bell to ask for help.
Distractions are different. Distractions are the things that gently pull your attention away. Once you identify what they are (words for me), you can decide how to minimize them.
Minimize or Avoid Distractions
Once you know what distracts you, you can take steps to minimize the distractions. I play music when I work, but it’s all material I’ve selected myself, pure instrumental, with no words or thoughts of words. A writer friend of mine is distracted by what goes on outside the window of her work area. So, she doesn’t face the window, she faces a blank wall. Take steps to minimize or avoid whatever distracts you.
Distractions will keep you from writing your best, but we’re all distracted by different things. So, identify what distracts you and then take steps to minimize it.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work describes the working habits of more than 150 writers, artists, and composers. You’ll find ideas for what to do your own work, including minimizing or avoiding distractions.