Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Distractions and how to overcome them

This was the shoutbox topic for today, and a lot of people had really helpful ways to overcome and avoid distraction when trying to write. What are some of the distractions you face? How do you get around them and get back to writing?

Turn off the internet, turn off the music. Don’t have anything on in the background. But really, it’s all about discipline. Have the self-will to do so. I used to set myself the target of 1000 words each day, and take the weekends off. It worked, in that once I got momentum, I was eager to get back to writing, as I could see the story building itself quickly in front of me, rather than remaining as some abstract thing, slowly, but never really growing, in the back of my mind.

In short, there’s no easy answer. You’ve just got to knuckle down and do it.

I have three children, and I’m reliably informed by my wife that drowning them isn’t an option? So I have earplugs at my desk.

Two problems for me here.

One, I need the internet when I work to look up synonyms and accurate definitions. I have a horrible memory and my stories would suffer something fierce without this ability. Before you say ‘buy a dictionary or theasaurus’, I already have both. Constantly having to break away from the screen to look things up though breaks my flow far worse than opening up a new tab and finding what I need almost instantly.

Two, I need music. I was raised with an older brother who had it playing constantly, including when we were doing homework. If I try to work without it (like forgetting my earbuds while on the laptop in a public place), I can’t get anything done. There’s simply zero creative flow. You can blame that on classical conditioning though.

If anything, this only proves that there’s no right answer for everyone around. For me, my major distractions are also my major drives. My husband is a constant distraction when he wants to talk or spend time with me, but he’s also my number one motivator and has helped my stories in more ways than he’ll let me give him credit for. Finding the right music is a horrible distraction, but having the right music gets the creative juices flowing so easily that I can write for hours without wanting a break. The internet is my arch nemesis, but it’s also one of the most useful tools I have for word choice and adding variety and doing research. So I’m still trying to learn ways to get it all to balance out.

(Admin note: Wasn’t sure why this was a sticky topic in Research, so moved it here. Feel free to re-sticky if it needs to be.)

Very true!

I also will admit, the worst distraction is myself. I get downcast or disillusioned easily, and well quickly stop working because I feel like, for better or worse, that I simply can’t write it well as I would like.

What distractions do I face?



Those of you who have met her know she’s like a Pinkie Pie tornado.


What? No way! These headphones aren’t for show. Music and good headphones block out all the other distractions around me and help me concentrate and focus more.

I’m lucky in that I tend to concentrate deeply-- extra-long writing sessions often end when I very slowly and gradually become aware of serious, stabbing pains in my lower abdomen. These are caused by the fact that I’ve been so focused on my work that I’ve not urinated in eight to ten hours; the pain has to rise to that level before I notice it. In the past I’ve also written through severe thunderstorms without ever being aware of them.

That said, when I work in a public place the one thing that will do me in every time is either music with clearly discernible lyrics or a conversation I can overhear without difficulty. So I carry a set of headphones and store all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies (even though I’m normally a classic rock guy) on my various writing machines to listen to. Then I’m right back in business again.

Also, as I get older my ability to concentrate seems to be slipping a bit.

I read a good one recently which I recognised in myself: doing stuff that you tell yourself is Writing, but actually isn’t. For example, putting on your To Do list ‘buy notebook’, so you do that, and cross it off, and feel all smug, when in fact it’s Not Really Writing. (My current one: agonising over an author bio :slight_smile: )

I try to be ready to go mobile at a moment’s notice. My laptop is always plugged in when I start so I can get up fully charged, go to my room, the living room, the office, the back patio (30% usability in Canada, sadly) or, if absolutely desperate, my car. Noise just becomes noise if I’m far enough into the groove.

As a touch of balance to the music topic, as a person who enjoys a great variety of different styles, i have to say that music which fuels creativity is commonly different from that which relaxes me in its own right. The particular styles which work are very distinct to me, and i know what works for others doesn’t work for me. For example, i know someone who uses death metal to fuel their creative writing, which would not work for me. Not because i don’t like it, just because it’s too high energy.

For writing, i use SomaFM.com’s Groove Salad channel. For coding, however, which is arguably another type of creative writing, i find that i need something more energetic. For that, i commonly use psytrance (Man with No Name, Astral Projection and the like).

One thing, perhaps, which applies to all of those is that voices in music (at least recognisable words) disturbs the process. Maybe something to do with the language processing centres being distracted from producing words of their own? I’m sure it also doesn’t apply to everybody, but it does seem, when talking with people about it, that music is good for creative work and focusing in general, but recognisable vocals will get in the way…

I get this, but only when I’m not familiar with the music. If it’s an old favourite, I already know the lyrics and they just wash over me.

Something to drown out the little noises (music), something to keep me on task (my reward for keeping to my goal for the day/week), and something to help me avoid all social media until I’ve reached my goal for the day (sheer bloody willpower). Usually, I only get to pick 2.

Also, I tend to pull out the batteries to my game controllers and stash them in another room. ESPECIALLY if there was a recent release and I happened to have the funds to get my claws on it.

A locked door helps as well, as does living in the middle of nowhere!

Headphones are a must for me, but I don’t like listening to music while writing. If there are lyrics or if the music’s very technical, like prog rock, I focus more on that than what I’m writing.

What I like to listen to long recordings of natural, repetitive noises (rain, forest ambiance, etc.) or other repetitive noises (fan, plane engine, train, etc.). I usually listen to these on a site called http://mynoise.net/. They have lots of different sounds, many of which can be helpful for writers who maybe need to “get in the zone” for a particular story (i.e. Deserted, RPG Dungeon, Ferryboat).