Those Pesky Distractions

Walk into your new office space, stop and enjoy the sight. Your desk is clean, your pencils are sharpened and your typewriter or word processor beckons. "I'm a writer," you breathe.

Quiet pervades the atmosphere. Excitement courses through you as you sit down and start to write. You just know this is the time to write that blockbuster novel, or at least to write something in your journal for the day.

With the first keystroke, someone banging on your door shatters the silence. Startled out of your moment of inspiration, you go to the door only to find your neighbor, who loves to talk.

After she leaves, you try to put your mind back on what you wanted to write.

In the middle of a paragraph, the shrill ring of the telephone makes you jump. You answer automatically only to hear a chatty telemarketer. Attempting to be courteous, you try to tell the caller you are not interested, but you can't get a word in edgewise. Finally, you set the phone back in its cradle and plan to write.

In the meantime, however, your computer has frozen. Not being a super-whiz at electronics, you realize you must shut it down and reboot it. Perhaps that may even necessitate calling tech-support or your computer-savvy spouse, or you may have to wait until your children get home, since they know more about it than you do!

Finally, peace descends on your office, the words begin to flow and you dream of publishers beating down your door to accept your manuscript.

You write one page (double-spaced), and you pat yourself on the back. You know you'll be able to continue with no disruptions this time. However, the neighbor's dog has other plans as he begins to bark non-stop. There will almost always be distractions. The key to getting anything done is to learn how to work in spite of them.

The truth is, you can write. It isn't a matter of the right circumstances (although they do help), but rather the will to write that is important. Even if you start with fifteen minutes per day, you can accomplish a great deal by the end of a week. Self-discipline is the key, just as it is in so many other things, such as eating, exercise and daily devotions.

Setting an artificial deadline can help. Make a goal to have so many pages done by a certain date. One of the hardest parts of working at home is the lack of external forces to keep you at it. It helps to realize you are working for God and He is your employer.

Belonging to a critique group is also essential and is an opportunity to stimulate writing ideas. Regular attendance keeps you writing, helps you to be accountable to others and provides valuable feedback from other writers. If no critique groups meet in your area, you may consider starting one yourself.

Although outward distractions abound, some distractions are inward, such as fear, laziness, procrastination or lack of self-discipline and motivation. Admit these to God and ask for His help. Prayer is the true starting point for your writing.

When you sit down to write, you will be amazed at how many ideas come to you that are unrelated to writing. Suddenly you remember the refrigerator needs cleaning, a drawer needs to be sorted and the ironing is piling up. The clothes need washing and the garden needs weeding. This is the time to remember God's work is most important. If you can write for only a short period out of your day, then let the other things wait until you are finished. Making a to-do list will help relieve the urgency you feel to do other tasks.

So, lay in a supply of earplugs and set your will to write. Be gentle with yourself; all habits take a while to either break or to develop. Pesky distractions will always arise, but they need not permanently interfere with your writing.

By Crystal J. Ortmann