You decide to sit down and write. You're determined to work on a story you've had popping into your brain off and on for the past couple of days, and so you set aside an hour and find a quiet place to work. You crack open your laptop, get settled…and decide to check Twitter, just for a bit, to catch up.
You open a document. You see the blank page, and remember your friend is coming back from her adventure in Barbados this week. Wait, is it today, or Thursday? You pop over to Facebook to check.
You come back to the page ten minutes later. There was a lot there! But that's okay. You're all ready to focus now. Except, you forgot…the cat didn't get her breakfast. You put the laptop down and go feed the cat. While you're up, you hear your phone buzz. It's a text from your brother, who's headed to the lake. He wants to know if you'll go with him and a friend to catch some rays this afternoon.
It’s going to happen to you — distraction, and resistance — as soon as you sit down to write. You can guarantee it. Writing requires a certain amount of calm, and it requires your focus — something that is harder to come by in the age of digital distractions.
So follow these rules for fighting resistance and distraction every time to set out to write:
- Kill your wireless. This is essential to eliminating distraction. Learn how to temporarily turn off your wireless, or else use Internet blocking software such as Freedom, or else unplug your Ethernet cable, if you're writing on a computer. Turn off your phone, or change your settings so that you are only alerted to an emergency call (if you have the ability to customize what sounds ring by the contact that is calling you).
- Change your view. If icons and other windows open on your computer distract you, experiment with a different document view that blocks those things out (such as "Focus View" in Word, or "Composition Mode" in Scrivener). Or ditch your computer for your writing time and pick up a pen and blank notebook. Some writers find the physical sensation and sounds that accompany handwriting to be soothing and focusing.
- Set a regular time. If you can, book a regular writing time every day (or every weekday). Routine makes resistance harder to take hold.
- Commit. Tell others ahead of time that you'll be writing during that time. If another offer comes up — it will help you say no, if you've already advertised your commitment to someone else.
- Get a writing buddy. If you know someone in the same boat, make an arrangement to check in at the end of your writing period — you can keep each other accountable.
If you find yourself really battling strong resistance, try reading some wisdom from other writers who've been there before.
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Stephen King — portions of On Writing
- Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
- Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coach by Eric Maisel
What about facing resistance from outside of yourself? Evelyn Lau spent her early writing years living on the street, having escaped an oppressive home. In this video, Lau explores the motivation that drove her to continue writing and revising work, and sending it out in the midst of a chaotic life.