5 Ways to be a Productive Writer in a World of Distraction

    become a productive writer

    Imagine yourself in this scene…

    You settle in to write in your perfect spot. It might be a cozy, perfectly arranged office that you love - or maybe your spacious deck overlooking the ocean.

    It's quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free. You're so focused that the ideas flow effortlessly as you easily churn out page after page.

    The hours fly by as if they were seconds, and before you know it… you're finished!

    Your perfect distraction-free environment has allowed you to create the best piece you've ever written.

    Thrilled with an incredible day’s work, you decide it's time to quit and celebrate with some well-earned rest and relaxation - so you mount your winged unicorn with your best friend the magical elf and fly off into the sunset.

    Wait. What’s that?

    Unicorns and magical elves don't exist?

    Yeah, I know. And for most of us, neither does distraction-free writing.

    It's gone the way of the Dodo Bird: Extinct.

    And if it's not exactly extinct, it for sure deserves a spot on the endangered species list.

    Take 2 minutes to watch the video below and see what I mean…

    In real life, you can't control what the rest of the world chooses to do when you need to write.

    • The kids are going to play, yell, and argue
    • The dogs are going to run around the house, bark, and jump up into your lap
    • The people you live with are going to interrupt
    • Friends and family will drop by unannounced
    • The neighbors will throw parties, mow their lawn, and have loud men with jackhammers come over to fix their driveway

    You just can't tell life to, “Shhhhh” and expect it to comply.

    Why then is there so much information out there about how to write distraction-free? Because it's an ideal - not reality. And ideals are much easier to talk about than real life. They're perfect scenarios.

    My life isn’t a perfect scenario, and I'll bet yours isn’t either.

    So how about we tackle real life head-on and talk about what you can do to be a productive writer when distractions are unavoidable?

    Don't Fight the Chaos - Go With the Flow

    When you need to write, but the world around you gets hectic, what do you normally do? If you’re like most people (and you’re being honest with yourself), you might just fold up the tent and call it a day.

    And why not? It seems pretty logical that if you can’t concentrate or work without constant interruptions - maybe you should wait until things are calmer and more quiet. Why not wait until tomorrow?

    Well, there are a couple of reasons not to just put it off until tomorrow.

    First, there’s no guarantee that tomorrow is going to be any less noisy, hectic, or distracting than today.

    And second - you probably won’t do it tomorrow. That’s called procrastination as you well know, and it’s a habit you don’t want to encourage.

    Consider all the things you’ve put off until tomorrow over the years. How many of them got done when tomorrow came?

    Personally, if I followed through with all my plans for “tomorrow”, my car would be cleaner, my yard would look amazing, and I’d be in a hell of a lot better shape!

    If you wait for the day when you’re in the mood to write to intersect with the day when conditions are perfect for distraction-free writing, you could be in for a very long wait.

    Nope. Tomorrow isn’t usually a good plan. Get your writing done when you’re thinking about it and you're motivated to get it done.

    “But”, you say, “when things get chaotic and loud, I can’t focus and it’s hard to maintain a consistent stream of thought.” I totally agree.

    If you’re writing the “meat” of your piece, important dialogue, or trying to do a final edit, the distractions are going to wreck havoc. Those are parts of the writing process that require extreme focus.

    No matter how hard you fight to maintain your focus while trying to perform these elements of the writing process, the chaos is going to trip you up.

    So don’t do those things. Stop fighting against an opponent who you know is going to pummel you.

    Instead, what if you stopped fighting and, like a martial arts expert, you used your opponent’s power (distractions) to your benefit?

    How Distractions Can Actually Help Your Process

    There’s a lot of research indicating that creativity and chaos may be much more like friends than enemies. To read more on the subject, I highly recommend you read one of my favorite books ever, The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson.

    It seems that innovation and creativity peak when we do things that are different and outside of our “normal” routines. Great ideas come from thrusting ourselves into new disciplines and odd environments and paying attention to the intersections those combinations of new things create for us.

    That means that when you need to be productive and get some writing done, but your environment is full of distractions, you can use it to your advantage and focus on some of your more creativity-related writing tasks.

    How to be a Productive Writer When Life Hits the Fan

    We already know that doing an important final edit or writing the “meat” of your piece probably aren’t the best choices when distractions are buzzing all around you.

    But you can use those distractions to your advantage.

    Here are 5 ways to productively move your writing forward no matter what crazy loudness your day throws at you.

    1. Don’t Ignore the Chaos
    I mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating. If you can’t avoid distraction… well, then… stop trying to avoid the unavoidable. It’s exhausting. And impossible.

    Instead, accept that it’s there and focus on what you CAN get done, not what you can’t.

    2. Siphon New Ideas From the Distractions
    As long as you’re stuck with distractions, you might as well use them to your advantage. As writers, we spend a lot of time taking things out of our brains and putting them onto the page.

    Why not use all the crazy action in your hectic day to refill your tank? If you have to live amidst distraction, use it to observe, get ideas, and fill your creative tank.

    Listen to the noise, write down interesting things you see and words that you hear. Watch the distraction unfold… and mine it for new ideas! You might just come up with some incredible dialogue or a mind-blowing plot twist.

    3. If You Can’t Write - Outline
    Outlining is another writing task that you can tackle when your concentration isn’t optimal.

    Sometimes when you write, your own mind becomes your worst enemy because you overthink and second-guess yourself. One of the advantages of a day of distraction is that it doesn't allow you to go that deeply into your own thoughts. The perfect mindset you need to step back just far enough to work on outlines.

    Map out your next blog post or your next chapter. Keep it simple. Use bullets so you can easily edit and change the order around. You could even create a storyboard. Look at things from a distance and create an excellent map for yourself when you can concentrate more and really dig into the work.

    4. Don’t Edit - Polish
    We can all agree that “crazy day” isn’t the best time to do a final edit on an important piece. But it might surprise you to know that it is a great time to polish work you’ve already written.

    As odd as that sounds, keep in mind that your day of distraction allows you to see your work through they eyes of most of your readers. How so?

    Most of the time when we read, we’re distracted. When do you read books? On a bus, on a plane, while your spouse has the TV on, or during a lunch break at work.

    When do people read blog posts? While tweeting, checking email, on breaks, at red lights on their phones (don’t do it while moving!), and all sorts of other distracting scenarios.

    Scanning and polishing your own work while distracted can tell you a lot. Is it interesting? Is it too “flowery” to hold attention? Will it pull your reader in and keep them reading despite their distractions?

    You'll find that being somewhat "detached" will give you a new perspective on your piece. When you find rough spots, smooth them out or make note of them. Then, when your environment allows, do your final edits.

    5. Research and Fact-Check
    When you can only work on your writing for minutes at a time, another great way to be productive is to do research and fact-check. Google things, do your research, find quotes, and double-check your facts. Save your research and links in your software of choice like Evernote.

    Set Yourself Up For Writing Success

    The thing to remember is that when life gets loud and distractions are plentiful - you’re NOT helpless. You have a choice.

    What we think of as serious “sit down and bang this out” writing may not be possible at times like these, but there’s plenty of actions you can take to move your writing forward.

    And when you take that action, not only will you be more productive during your period of distraction, but you’ll also be laying a great foundation and setting yourself up for success when you’re able to have a more focused writing session.

    Now, I want to hear from you...

    What do you do when your environment is full of distractions? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.

    About the Author

    Gary Korisko is Write to Done's Associate Editor, a professional copywriter, and also writes about Becoming Someone Worth Following on his blog, Reboot Authentic.

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Gift David says:

      Wow! Inspiring and educative article i totally agree with you on this article. Thank you Gary, for sharing this article.

    • Obatrindu says:

      Nice tips bro. Thanks for that, I need more more learn again. 🙂

    • Toni Sofin says:

      Good article. http://mmsgrouponline.com/

    • Kuldeep says:

      Hi Gary,
      Really a ice share. Polishing your content before hitting the publish button is important.
      Thanks for this article.

    • ojas says:

      So true — and as an added bonus my dog started barking when the dogs in the video barked. Real life indeed intrudes! Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Adeel Sami says:

      Hello, Gary!

      I am the victim of the distraction…

      I fought with it .. And for years.

      But, now I lost the fight because I admitted that it is there and I am just destroying myself to fix it up.

      The distractions won’t go away. If one does, the second one will build up but it won’t ever stop building.

      But if I had read this post of yours before, I would have saved a lot of my time …

      But, I am thankful that I did. Because it proved me that my decision was right.

      I am still being faced by the distraction but not worried any longer because I am making myself used to of it.

      And the first thing I do when I turn up my laptops, I plug in my headphones. 🙂

      That’s so helping me getting things done.

      I am loving the way I am working now!

      Thanks for the so useful experience with us!

      Will surely share it on my social circle.

      ~ Adeel

    • Tim says:

      Thank you so much it was really helpful

    • Tim Fenner says:

      Nice post, Gary! I totally agree with your stance that life’s distractions are no excuse for not being productive. So much so that I also wrote about it:


    • Micheal A says:

      Right now, distractions are just coming from any angle and pose a threat to creativity. Thanks for this lists, as it will help to restrict how distraction hinder us.

    • Amar kumar says:

      Hey Gary,

      Writing is very rewarding, but sometimes our work doesn’t meet our expectations. We’re always seeking perfection, and we can be so hard on ourselves. Brushing up on the basics of grammar and spelling is a must for any writer. We need to spend some time learning the correct uses of punctuation and basic rules for written English.There is no better way to get better at writing than to practice.Being repetitive with our choice of words can limit what we are capable of. If we find ourself writing a piece that mentions the same words or terms often, get a little more creative and swap those words for similar ones with the same meaning.

      It should be no surprise to us that most passionate writers are also passionate readers. We can learn a lot about our craft by reading regularly. Eventually, thanks for sharing much information pertaining to this subject.

      With best wishes,

      Amar kumar

    • The news is very interesting thank you very much for the information ..

    • Laszlo A. Voros [email protected] says:

      When I’m right in the middle of writing and it is going well, and then my neighbor decides that it would be the perfect time of day to mow the lawn. That’s when I wish my Star Trek hand phaser was real so that I could heavy stun him for a couple of hours. But since you can’t you have to live with it. You try and tune it out. reread the past couple of pages till he’s done and get yourself on track.

    • Debra Gaz says:

      Exactly what I needed to read today. Since my husband retired and I’m taking all those tomorrows seriously, it’s been chaos for me.

      Love your writing style too.

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Thank you, Debra. That’s nice of you to say. Best of luck to you!

    • Nikita says:

      Exactly when I needed to read this, Gary Korisko! I love the point a “Don’t Edit – Polish” and will start using tomorrow.

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Awesome, Nikita. I think you’ll like it. I used to “polish” on planes, on lunch break, etc. It’s especially nice the next time you sit down to work on the piece because it’s like, “Wow. A lot of this is already done!”

    • Anne Ford says:

      So true — and as an added bonus my dog started barking when the dogs in the video barked. Real life indeed intrudes! Thanks for the suggestions.

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Ha! Well, you’re welcome for that fun little chain reaction, Anne 🙂

    • Mark Tong says:

      HA! Really good and fun post Gary – and so true to life – last week I was trying to launch with 3 loud dogs and 3 even louder kids outside the window – I think the only answer is to emigrate to a Mars penal colony for the peace and quiet, if only they existed the world would be flooded with great writers.

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Hi Mark. Although the uninterrupted peace sounds nice, I think I’d have to pass on the Mars thing. but if you ever find a nice oceanfront hideaway, sign me up! Hope your launch went well!

    • I think I’ll give this a try, sounds good and its very logical to use the situations to our advantage, maybe we can disern something and use it.
      We can use real life situations and incorporate them into our stories to make it more real and give it more feeling. Great advice thank you so much..NICOLAS THE TELLER OF TALES

      • Gary Korisko says:

        You’ve got the idea, Nicholas! Hope it’s productive for you.

    • If I’m struggling to focus, I work on my networking! I read blogs and connect with other writers. Usually I end up feeling inspired by my peers’ work, which in turn gives me the focus I need to start writing.

      In chaotic situations, I might journal to get me started. Writing in my journal is a low pressure exercise. I find that I often stumble on creative ideas, just like you mentioned!

      • Gary Korisko says:

        There you go, Amanda. That sounds like it’s working for you. If it moves you forward, it’s better than not moving, right? 🙂

    • MikeC says:

      For he on honey-dew hath fed
      And drunk the milk of Pardise.”
      For he on honey-dew hath fed
      And drunk the milk of Pardise.”

      Oh what was the rest of that? T’was composed complete and all I need do was put it to paper. Curse that man from Purlock! Curse his business!

      S. Coleridge

      What would we have seen if Coleridge had not been distracted?

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Great point, Mike! Thanks

    • Love all the suggestions for things you can do even with a lot of distractions. It really does come down to making a commitment to yourself and making it the number one priority of each day.

      • Gary Korisko says:

        Very true. The other benefit is that you wind up knocking out these tasks… so when you do finally get some quiet time, it feels like you have a head start.

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