What? I Can Write! Dealing with Distractions

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson

Dealing with Distractions

Not too many years ago life in general moved at a more leisurely pace and people had time to consider the issues of the day with greater deliberation than is common today. There were fewer options and fewer distractions to draw people’s attention away from the things that really mattered.

Fast forward to today. Ours is a very distracted culture. Thanks to our lightning-fast digital age with its 140-character Twitter-verse, 9-second sound bites, and 24/7 global satellite coverage in real time, we are accustomed to getting almost whatever we want whenever we want it. One consequence of this age of instant gratification is a shortened attention span. Our thoughts on any subject tend to be brief, superficial, and easily distracted. Few people today take the time or effort to really think.

Writers should always be among those few. As I said before, writing is a demanding discipline. Good writing requires well-developed critical thinking skills and a mind like a marathon runner who can go the distance rather than a sprinter who is good in short bursts. In order to write well you must be able to think well, and in order to think well you must minimize potential sources of distraction. If writing while facing a window distracts you, for example, go somewhere else, perhaps to another room that has no windows.

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Turn off your cell phone. If the lure of the Internet, e-mail, and social media proves too tempting to ignore, step away from your computer and (gasp!) write in longhand on paper! You can always type or dictate your work into your word processor later.

Identify your most common distractions, then implement a plan to minimize or eliminate as many of them as possible. Your writing will be better for it—and so will you.

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