Creative Writing Tips #2: 20 Distractions or Excuses and How to Deal with Them
People often cite the extreme amount of distractions in their lives that keep them from working on their writing/creative projects. They also like holding fast to excuses that have blocked their creative outlets for years. This article of creative writing tips will provide potential solutions to 20 common distractions or excuses. That way, if you aren’t writing, you can say, “I am choosing not to solve these problems," as opposed to blaming the problems themselves. Acceptance is the first step, right? :)
1. My phone keeps ringing with calls or texts.
Turn it off or be dramatic and take out the battery. Believe it or not, the world will go on without you being reachable for a little while. If you don’t believe me, test it for ten minutes and see if the Earth is still here. If yes, try to add to that time little by little. If no, wow, you’re really important!
2. People keep sending me instant messages.
Exit out of the offending program or uninstall the dang thing. I uninstalled AOL Instant Messenger about two years ago and my life has been much more productive ever since. If you are worried that you will miss a specific person’s message, just tell them you’ll be busy for an hour doing something cool.
3. My house, café, basement, attic, or street is too noisy.
Write somewhere different? It isn’t too hard to find a quiet place if you’re willing to leave the problematic area. Local libraries, bookstores or quiet out-of-the-way restaurants work for me when I crave silence. If you need to stay in your noisier place, ear plugs are a cheap solution and noise-cancelling headphones are a bit pricier. And lastly, a bathroom is always a good last resort.
4. I’m too jumpy or jittery to write!!!
Whoa, calm down. First, read my article about quitting coffee :). Secondly, think for a second instead of just giving up on writing. Previously in your life, when you’ve needed to calm down or relax, what have you done? Read a book? Listened to Frank Sinatra? Laid down for a few? Try what works for you, and then go back to the writing. It will probably be much easier to start.
5. I keep feeling the need to check my e-mail, traffic stats, football scores, etc. on the computer.
Turn it off, unplug it, or leave the house. Challenge yourself to keep it off for as long as you can. Without a computer, how will you write? Go old school and bust out the pad of paper and a pencil.
6. My computer is broken, too slow, or in use.
See pad of paper suggestion in #5. If you must use a computer, ask a friend or search out an Internet Café.
7. My favorite TV show or movie is on.
Turn it off, unplug it, or leave the house. These days, nearly every popular TV show will be online the following day. Also, if you have TiVo or a DVR, the problem is solved. This is your time to write, don’t let CBStell you otherwise. If it’s your favorite movie, find a way to record it or buy the DVD. Many of these solutions will involve sacrificing your immediate pleasure for your eventual fulfillment. Believe me when I say this: TV is less important than you.
8. I’m too tired to write.
Get up and go for a walk, do some stretching, eat an apple and some raw almonds. Put on some pump up music and do a little bit of dancing. If none of that works, write standing up. It’s tough to fall asleep standing up. Just don’t pop a pill or drink a Red Bull. It will work in the short-term and hurt in the long term. Also, evaluate what time of day you are the strongest. Write at that time.
9. I’m too hungry to write.
Take your laptop or paper and pencil out of the house and stop by a good writing café. If you take the time to prepare a five-course meal at home, you may lose the drive to write by the time you have finished stuffing yourself. Let someone do the work for you and write while they’re doing it.
10. I have to leave for work in an hour.
Leave now! Get there early and write when you get there. Heck, if you take public transportation, write on the way there. Just because you don’t have a lot of time to write, does not mean you shouldn’t. Just make a little progress. And by leaving the house, you should eliminate several distractions right there.
11. I have time, but I don’t feel motivated.
Surf around this site for twenty minutes! That’s what it’s for :).
One quick tip: think about how good you’ll feel when you have the piece you’re working on completed. That is basic law of attraction.
12. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do the next chapter, story, passage, or scene.
Just write. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Just go for it! If you need certain information, collect the research and then write! There is no way you have to do a particular thing, it just needs to be done. So, make it happen.
13. My dog/cat/bird needs to go out for a walk.
Why not bring your dog/cat/bird to a dog/cat/bird park with your trust pad of paper in hand? If not, use taking out your pet as an excuse to leave the house to work. When you come back to the house, just drop your pet off and head to the local café or favorite writing spot. I’m sure he or she will understand :).
14. I told my boss, my friend, my land lady, my spouse, etc. that I would do something for them.
Now you can bust out the old IM, text message, or phone call and tell the person in question that you are unable to work on his or her project. This is not a lie! You have an important project to work on for yourself. If you are motivated, you have an idea, and you have yet to begin, you should get out of your prior engagement.
If it is impossible for you to reschedule, do it. If you can’t reschedule it, try to delegate. If you can’t do either, put it off for an hour or two and start writing. Your writing is important. The sooner you start conveying that to the people who “request" your time, perhaps you’ll find that more writing time happens naturally.
15. I am too overcome by sadness, grief, rage or some other powerful emotion to write.
Perfect! Use it. Being overwhelmed with emotion is a great situation to be in as a writer. There is a lot of raw power you can draw from and draw from it you will.
Try to convince yourself that putting this emotion down on the page will be great for your writing. If that seems impossible, find a friend that will understand your desire to channel your feelings into the written word. We’ll call this friend a writing buddy.
I was the writing buddy for my friend Adam during a tough break up. He was devastated. He couldn’t eat or sleep, but I forced him to write. The result was a one-man show that is currently being adapted into a full-length film. Putting true feeling into your work can carry you far. Some obstacles aren’t obstacles at all.
16. I want to write, I just don’t feel like I’m any good.
Prove it. Prove to me that you aren’t a good writer. I can show you proof of the chinks in my armor. I received a C in a poetry class, a fiction teacher told me I shouldn’t write fiction, and I was mentioned in a newspaper review as saying I had co-written a “lemon" of a script. And yet, I pressed on. Why? How?
I have yet to make my grand contribution. I can feel that there is still something I can write that will mean something or last. Maybe it’s this website and maybe it’s not. I just know I’m getting closer because I still want to write.
If you want to write, then you should write. If you don’t feel like you have any talent but you still want to write, then there must be some reason. If you do not write, you will never find that reason out. If you have yet to test the waters, you might as well jump in. Talent and perceived talent are only a small part of the pie. So I say, dig in, write, and see what happens. You know, before I make another metaphor :).
17. I don’t know how to write.
Take your favorite book or play and open to your most earmarked passage or scene. Write something in the style of that scene. With the same characters or your own creations. When you’ve finished, read it out loud and chance anything that sounds weird. Now repeat the same process with another scene. Keep doing that until you feel comfortable starting from scratch. If interested in non-fiction, do the same with a similar non-fiction work. And then you are a writer. Start putting it on your business cards :).
18. I work so much! There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Option 1 – Change one of your jobs into something that will allow you to write. Working in a library or as a receptionist at a less-than-busy office can make this possible. Also, finding something more passive like a website or some kind of investment can free up some time to write.
Option 2 – Sleep less.
I started option two about a year ago and option one a couple of months ago. They both have their positive and negative traits. Option two has been more effective personally, and both work best only if you have strong goals to support them. I know that sacrificing sleep is negative for your health, but I do plan on improving this aspect of my life in the future.
Making time for your writing often requires a sacrifice. What is it gonna be?
20. I have so much to say, I can’t get it all out at once!
Start small. Just write a paragraph. Or write an outline. Don’t let your wealth of ideas stop you. You have the best kind of problem. Just know that any work takes time.
But if you absolutely need to get it all out, take a day off of work, go to a café and bring a lot of paper :). I once wrote a screenplay in one day because it felt like it needed to come out of my head. Why fight it? Start writing!
Please, please, please write. Don’t let anything get in your way. If you get stuck, check back here and I’ll try to get you through it. Happy writing.
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.