How do you write without getting distracted? How do you focus, rid yourself of outside diversions and get immersed in creating murderous plots, dazzling protagonists, and fantastical worlds? And is writing something purely for the money a sidetrack, too?
Every writer knows there are a plethora of how-to tips online—heck, there are even old-school Self-Help books to keep you Stephen-King prolific. I gravitate towards writer blogs because I like the get in/get out approach of bullet points. However, these blogs seem to spew the same jargon and regurgitated vision—10 Tips On Writing Without Distraction—
Here’s how it begins:
Step 1: Research before writing.
But what if you get an idea for an excellent short story? You write it and then research to see if the concept is plausible, right? Plus, we all know that inquiry, especially the online variety, is like a shiny bauble, and you, as a creative-inquisitive type, are a Magpie. This step isn’t all that helpful.
Step 2: Disconnect.
Rip the phone cord out of the wall, if you’re still tethered to a landline, turn-off your cell phone, and your email notifications. In short, make writing a priority. Isn’t that a given?
One post suggests unhooking your cable and/or your modem. Not being technically savvy—I’m for the whole technical world working on the Clapper or Etch A Sketch, but since it’s not—what if I unplug and then can’t reboot?
Another con to this advice is I have kids. What if your kids can’t call to ask if it’s okay to help a stranger find his/her lost Labradoodle pup? It’s okay, mom/dad, the stranger is really nice, they gave out candy and promised a ride home in their windowless van afterward. See? I can’t unplug—I choose life!
Other steps in the writer’s blogosphere include catchy titles like, Spread the Word Not To Be Disturbed, which feels like grandstanding to me. I’m not going to call people up and tell them not to call me for x-hours because I’m writing.
Besides coming across as a big ol’ douchebag, this will inevitably lead to questions about what you’re working on, what you’ve read lately, and how far into that Netflix Original have you binged? All huge time consumers!
There’s also the standby, Take Breaks Throughout Your Writing Day. I hate this step. I mean, isn’t it a given, too? One such blog Oracle says he takes a break every 15-20 minutes. Gimme a break! A countdown to interrupt my creativity is terribly distractive!
This is how it goes for someone like me:
T minus 19 minutes and counting…
I notice Father Time rising out of oblivion and shaking his head over my laptop screen.
T minus 15…
A time-warp stressor of too little, too late. I’ve been writing for five excruciating minutes, but I only have fifteen minutes to go—not enough time to world build!
T minus 8…
A flurry of subconscious panic. Did I feed the dog? Did I feed the kids? Have I seen my kids today?
T minus 1…
The realization of failure pours down like a flash flood in Zion National Park. I’m doomed. I don’t know my way out, and I didn’t pack my rain poncho. See what I mean about many writer blogs? In their quest to de-distract, they emphasize distraction.
However, these obstacles are not the only detours down that writing highway. Example, using your writing-superpowers doing something else. This could be the biggest diversion—the ultimate fumble down that literary rabbit hole!
Recently, I’ve hit that existential dilemma of Who Am I, and, what do I write, after calculating that for every short story, I make less than $.10/hour. I decided to hunt for a way to use my storytelling abilities and make more money, faster.
Enter, Copywriting. The attention-grabbing caption went something like, “Copywriting, the untapped six figures a year career.” Both far-fetched and promising, right? I pictured Mad Men—the series of a 1960’s Advertising firm—men in tailored suits, women with bouffant do’s—and everybody working on their mad, mad creative skills. I was totally ready to be called “Doll” and get my ass grabbed for the cause—just kidding!
Note: If Harvey Weinstein has taught us anything, it’s that no one has the contractual right to grab ass at work, nor should one expect grab-assing as part of a promotional duty. No Looky. No Touchy.
After googling what precisely a copywriter was, I signed up. For only four monthly payments of $59.29—plus $300 for the accelerated, accelerated program—I delved into the exciting life of Direct-Response copywriting. What’s that?
Well, it wasn’t what Google promised! You know all that junk mail stating that you’re pre-approved for Quasi-Financial credit? I answered that call! I discovered how to manipulate by covert operation.
Here’s the gist:
Collect Intel of customers through consumer data; age, gender, income, even political affiliations and core beliefs. Then use info to sell random products. For only $360 bucks I learned how to get a middle-class, government-hating, narcissist to buy Ginseng.
Looking in the mirror I realized, I may be hard up for a moneymaking career, but do I want to prostitute my skill and become Madam Metaphor-whore? Not really.
I dropped the course, got my money back, took three skin-scrubbing showers, and returned to writing the traditional way—banging my head against the wall, typing going-nowhere nonsense fated for deletion, and scrawling ideas on notepads, crumpling them up and tossing them into the recycling bin—a true writer!
So, how does one keep from being distracted? I don’t know what the answer is for you. I don’t know how to keep you from spending hours researching or if you should disconnect, or if Copywriting is your answer. I just don’t know. Who does? Who can?
Only you know what works for you and what doesn’t. All I can offer is that I know what you’re going through and I wish you good luck!