I probably have undiagnosed ADD. Not the hyperactive kind – the inattentive kind.
So when I’m writing, I’m constantly getting distracted. Facebook, email, twitter – those are evil for writing. But really any kind of sudden stimulus can derail my train of thought. There are some times it actually has been a squirrel.
As a writer, how can you avoid losing your momentum because of these “squirrels”? Here are some tips that come to mind.
#1 Be intentional about time.
Set aside a particular time for writing each day. Make it sacred. Nothing interrupts. Set aside email/social media times too if you need to be more careful about that. Set a timer and log off when it rings.
#2 Go dark.
During your designated writing time, turn off your phone if you can. Close your browser window. I like Pages on Mac because when I go full screen it actually turns the screen completely black around my document. Shut the curtains if you have a particularly squirrelly backyard. Try some white noise if your neighbourhood is noisy.
#3 Use hyper-focus to your advantage.
One of the plus sides of ADD is “hyper-focus” – the opposite of the stereotypical distractible state where you get fixed on one activity to the exclusion of all else. Sometimes this happens when I’m writing. When there isn’t anything else important demanding your time, let hyper-focus run its course. Let the dishes sit. This might be the most natural writing you’ll get done for the whole week.
#4 Make a note.
Interruptions happen. Sometimes a friend really needs a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes your kids are climbing something they probably shouldn’t. Sometimes you have to eat, or you’ll starve. But if you’re like me, you’re afraid you might not be able to pick up where you left off. Take a minute to jot down a little note to remind yourself when you return. Keep a stack of post-its and a pen handy, or type a few key words right on the screen. That way your train of thought will (hopefully) be waiting instead of pulling out of the station without you.
Hopefully this helps you as much as it helps me. Distraction can be a challenge, but with a little planning and discipline, it won’t be an obstacle to productive writing.