When you’re writing, you get into ‘the zone’. The zone is that special state of concentration where new ideas seem to structure easily, new patterns form and new connections become obvious when you haven’t seen them before. It is also a pretty fragile state. Any small distraction can make you lose it, and you won’t be able to get to the same place for hours afterwards. That’s why before every writing session you must, must take steps to ensure that there won’t be anything that interrupts your work.
Before you even think about sitting down to write, make sure you’ve got a plan jotted down of how you’d like the piece to go, or it’s going to go nowhere at all, and your distraction-free environment won’t matter. What do you do when you don’t know what to write next? You pace around, you go to make a cup of tea, you start reading articles titled “22 Reasons Why This Celeb is Bae”, and so on. In short, you do anything but make progress.
That’s why doing extensive preparations before you even type a key is so important. In fact, if what you’re writing is research-intensive or significantly lengthy, preparations should make the bulk of your work. Jot down all the ideas you have for the piece you’re working on using pen and paper. Look at how they’re related to one another and how you can transition from one to the next. Using a new sheet, write the ideas in sequence. Congrats, you have an outline.
Get to a Distraction-Free Space
Even if you live alone and don’t have any animals to distract you with their petting needs, there’s still lots of stuff in your home that can be a bother when you’re trying to concentrate. For some, even a space to get up and walk in can be a distraction.
Instead of trying to ignore the unmade bed, full laundry basket or food in the fridge, just remove yourself from them. Take your laptop to your favorite public space, and write there. Parks, cafés or any other space where people come together to be by themselves, together (think buses and trains), will work. Here, you’ll pretty much be forced to hunker down and write what is on your mind. If writing in noisy spaces is a problem for you, try the library or just use white noise.
Use A Distraction-Free Text Editor
This one is important too. Even if you went to a mountaintop where there is literally nothing else to do but write, there is still the matter of the tool you’re using. Namely, your text editing software. Fancy-pants all-purpose text editing programs are overabundant with features, badges, icons, templates, options, and a ton of other stuff that only takes up screen space and RAM.
To truly immerse yourself in your process, try using a distraction-free text editor like Write!. It’s a great solution for any kind of writing from tweets to short stories to novels. It’s as functional as it is beautiful with a minimalist design and a specialized focus mode for concentrating on one paragraph at a time.
It now even features a publishing feature. In just a few clicks, your writing can be up online for anyone you’d like to see it, whether your editor or your Twitter followers.
Take Frequent Breaks
All work and no play makes you a dull writer. If you don’t strategically give yourself an outlet for your time-wasting needs, you’ll find it very difficult to commit to writing for lengthy stretches of time. With no break to look forward to, you’ll most likely burn out very quickly and just go back to your old habits.
The Pomodoro method gets it right. 50 minutes of work, and 10 minutes of free time afterwards is a good idea, but feel free to adjust it to your needs. Some people find it a bit difficult to cope with working for 50 minutes straight, so you might want to try a 30/10 split. After you’ve completed a certain amount of working sessions or when you hit your wordcount goal, give yourself a lengthier break.
All in all, planning and sticking to that plan is key to distraction-free writing. Take time at the end of each week to evaluate how you did, productiveness-wise, and make corrections before going forward. You can learn a lot about yourself as a person and as a writer if you take the time to figure out what makes you tick, and adjusting your process to account for those quirks.