Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How do you avoid distractions while writing?

Jacket Copy, the book blog of The L.A. Times, has an interesting post up today discussing how writers deal with electronic distractions -- the Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. -- when trying to get some writing done.

Here's a quote within a quote. Very meta:

Author and editor Jeff Vandermeer explains the drastic measures he's taken (via Shaken & Stirred) to keep himself from being distracted by the big wide Internet that hides behind his computer screen:

Okay, I’ll admit it: work on my new novel, Finch, is going well because every morning my long-suffering yet often amused wife Ann hides the router box and my cellphone. I get up around 7 a.m., I have my breakfast and watch something innocuous like BBC News or Frasier for about half an hour, and then get down to work. Around noon I take a break to get some lunch, then go back to it, usually at that point editing or organizing notes. Around 2:30 I call Ann on our landline and she tells me where the router box and the cellphone are (it has Internet access on it) so I can finish up the afternoon with necessary emails and other work, before going to the gym.

Seems like a pretty hardcore way to avoid distraction -- but if it works, it works. This post kind of ties into my last entry, which dealt with what music people listen to while writing. Music walks a thin line -- it's either a great help or a giant distraction. I think the same can be said for the Internet. I can't count the number of times it's proven to be an excellent research tool. On the flipside, I also can't count the times it's provided a nice escape from having to actually write, allowing me instead to cruise my Google Reader or waste time watching YouTube videos or reading KissingSuzyKolber.

What do you think? How do you deal with electronic distractions when you're trying to write?


Zombie said...

Great topic. The internet is my worst enemy when it comes to writing... I'll habitually check music blogs, random wikipedia articles, craigslist, Czech real estate webpages...

Most often when I write I have to unplug my internet. That's usually not enough, though. (I find my left hand unconsciously reattaching the ethernet cable.) I do a lot of writing with my computer unplugged, either in another room or out on my balcony. My writing sessions are 150% more productive when I'm writing unplugged.

Last time I was on a tight deadline, I would take my computer out to a coffeeshop or quiet bar and write from there. Some of my most prolific writing sessions were at the 24-hour cafe on MacDougal.

king suckerman said...

It's a challenge. The upside of my writing method (posting directly to a blog) is that it's basically an organic writing journal. The downside is that I have to be on the web to write, which opens the door (and Firefox tabs) to a million other distractions.

DOA said...

While the internet can be extremely distracting to writing, I find it increasingly helpful when I have a minute at work to write. One big problem I faced when I had an laptop and a desktop AND a work computer is after a while I forget which draft I'm working on is the latest. Especially when I'm terrible at remembering to save my work at the end of the day and bring it home. So now I actually write a lot on my gmail drafts. Yeah there's no formatting, but it's basically scribbing electronic notes, and I never have to worry about forgetting to save or have multiple drafts at home vs. at work.

king suckerman said...

That's a lot like what I do. I just update a blogger page.