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Creative Writing Writing 101 2016-10-12 00:00

Can Distractions Actually Boost a Writer's Productivity?

Can distractions help?

As a writer, you may dream of a day where you can sit down at your desk and simply write, with no distractions. Instead, you have to deal with phone calls and emails, and people coming over to talk to you. You have the whole of the internet at your fingertips to distract you, as well as the sounds of the outside world. You can even be distracted by your own thoughts.

But what if we are thinking of these distractions in the wrong way? Could they be something that actually improves your productivity?

Let’s take a look at the ways in which this could be true.

  1. Frequent breaks
  2. Building characters
  3. Thought and distance
  4. Fresh ideas

Frequent breaks

Research has shown that taking frequent breaks from work actually helps to increase productivity. You should take a short break as often as every 15 minutes in order to achieve your peak ability. This is because your concentration and focus are finite, and you cannot maintain the same level of productivity for a longer period of time. If you find yourself distracted every 15 minutes or so, don’t panic. Simply make sure that you only spend a short while on your distraction before getting back to work. If distractions occur more frequently, this is where you may start to have a problem.

Building characters

If your distractions come from other people, then you could be witnessing a masterclass without even realising it. Where do you get your inspiration from for your characters? Do they seem like rounded, 3D dimensional people? If not, then pay attention to your co-workers, friends, and family members who distract you – and even strangers. How do they talk? How do they move and react to things? These details will help you to flesh out the details when building characters. It’s not unusual for writers to base characters on someone they know – just be aware of not using real names or making it so obvious…

Thought and distance

When you are very close to your work, and looking at it directly, it can be tough to sort through it. Which parts of your draft should be cut, and which need more work? Taking a little time and distance away from what you are writing can give you the chance to get this perspective. Even thinking about something else for a few moments can clear your mind enough to get started again. Especially during the revision process, a few distractions can really help you to get the right changes nailed down. If you work with constant flow of ideas and no revision, you might not end up with a smooth end product.

Fresh ideas

Taking a moment away from your work can also give you the chance to think up something new – or inspire a new idea. If you are struggling with the way characters should interact with one another, or trying to find a solution to a scene, a distraction could really help. Talking to someone else, watching a video on Facebook, or even seeing someone go by outside could trigger that inspiration that you need. It’s as easy as that, and you have a new idea to put down on the page. Think of every distraction as part of the fabric of human life from which you are weaving your tale – you can always use a shot of realism to make those characters really come alive.

Next time you are faced with what seems like endless distractions, try reconsidering your view on them. Are they simply a nuisance, or could they be something that takes your work further?

If you enjoyed this post, check out The Writing Process Blog or these articles from our archive:

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