Amber Hart's 7 Tools for Blocking Distractions
Writing the first draft is often a solo job with a million distractions. Writer’s block. Chores. Responsibilities. So how does an author stay focused? There’s no set rule, and no one’s situation is exactly the same, but there are a few general things that might help.
1.) Create a designated writing spot. Do you like to be around other people? Maybe a café is your thing. Do you prefer solitude? Pick a section of your home and make it yours. Only yours. It doesn’t have to be any bigger than whatever it takes to fit a laptop, a cup of coffee, and you.
2.) Set a time to write. Maybe mornings are your jam. You like to get up, fresh thoughts, and conquer the world. Cool. Pick a time—say 7am-10am—and write all the words. Not a morning person? That’s fine. What time are you most awake? Set those specific hours aside for yourself and your characters. It’s okay to be flexible. Some days work and others don’t. No problem. Try to stick to a schedule whenever you can.
3.) Find your poison. What gives you a feeling of alertness? Is it copious amounts of coffee? We would probably get along. Make a pot and settle in for a great writing day, caffeine flowing through your veins, making all the chapters happen. Oh, or maybe you like tea? Me, too. Boil some. Let the steam drift into the air around you and write everything. Do you prefer a fresh breakfast? Water? The blood of your enemies? Pick your poison and have it readily available. Snacks help, too.
4.) Outline. For some of you, this word brings panic, for others tranquility. I don’t mean an outline in the sense that every scene needs to be addressed before hand, though certainly if that works go for it. I mostly mean this: have a general idea of who your characters are, where they are going, what their story arc is, and how they get there. An outline can be a broad description of beginning, middle, and end. Or it can be a sentence or two chapter by chapter. Find your preference and jot it down. It’ll help you avoid staring into space endlessly. You have an end goal. You know how to get there. Go.
5.) Brainstorm. Sometimes your characters take unexpected turns you never saw coming. It’s perfectly normal to allow time to brainstorm. It’s helpful to do it while completing other mindless tasks. Like showering, making dinner, doing the dishes. These are already auto-pilot things for you, so might as well take advantage of the time and think of your story. That way brainstorming doesn’t distract from your actual writing. While you’re doing mindless tasks, allow your characters to speak freely. They have a story to tell you, after all.
6.) Wear a KEEP-OUT sign. Well, not really a sign, but make it obvious that you need this time to write. If you’re in public, consider wearing ear buds—whether listening to music or not.Most people understand this as the general sign that you don’t want to be bothered and will respect that. Maybe you write at home? In that case get in your writing space room and lock the door. Barricade yourself in. Let no one enter. Even one distraction can derail.
7.) Stay off electronics. This is a hard one, I know. But unless it’s your laptop or whatever else you use to actually write, STAY AWAY. Don’t go on social media. That status update can wait. Don’t answer calls and texts and emails. It’s a time wrap, I’m warning you. Suddenly two hours have passed and you have no recollection how you got there, at that place where you now have a blank screen and no words. Your writing time is precious gold. Don’t let distractions steal that. Eyes ahead. Fingers on keyboard. Stay focused. And then write that novel. You can do it. I believe in you.
Thanks so much for having me!
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of several novels for teens and adults, including Wicked Charm, the Before and After series for teens, and the Untamed series for adults.