Welcome back. I thought today we could talk about staying focused when things going on in your life and in the world become a distraction and where you work.
First up: Distractions
Our guest post is from Robyn Bennis, a scientist and airship aficionado living in Mountain View, California. Her book The Guns Above, will be published and available May 2017 – click here for book info.
You’d think “where I write” and “how I stay productive in Nyarlathotep’s America” would be separate topics, but they aren’t. In fact, finding a good space is critical to maintaining focus. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t go to Canada to write. I’m not even sure I’m allowed back after I dressed up as a sled dog and tried to hug that polar bear.
Instead, I make my own writing spaces, employing the sort of contextual readiness that Bob Harris describes in Prisoner of Trebekistan. You see, while Bob was training himself for an appearance on Jeopardy!, he re-created as much of the set as he could in his own apartment. That way, when he went on the show, the familiar context primed his brain to perform.
I do something similar, creating pure writing spaces through mental conditioning. I don’t allow distractions to intrude into those spaces, even when I’m not writing. So, if I’m at my favorite coffee shop and I want to catch up on Twitter, I step outside first—even if I’m only there for a cup of coffee. If I’m writing at a maker space and want to check the news to see whether I still have civil rights, I’ll go into the lobby. Even when I’m writing at home and want to take a Netflix break, I turn the desk around first.
Okay, that last example might bear some elaboration. I live in a studio apartment, so a home office is out of the question. Instead, I’ve tricked my brain into believing that it’s in a different space. When the desk is facing the window, I’m only allowed to write. Through many repetitions of this ritual and, most importantly, never cheating, I can make the room where I eat, sleep, and binge-watch Star Trek into a pure, distraction-free writing space.
And that’s the key to any productive writing space. You must never cheat. Never allow yourself to take one step down the dark path of distraction, and any space can be perfect to write in.
Thanks Robyn – and to everyone else, if you want to share your experience and I can fit it into a topic, email me and we’ll make it work.
Hillary Rettig is out today, so she won’t be able to check in, but I did ask her if I could post a couple of her articles on how to stay focused when life gets in the way,
…grab your timer and do short intervals. (Even a minute or two!) You will make progress and, perhaps even more importantly, keep the material fresh in your head so that you can re-enter it more easily when you have more focus.
And who knows? Maybe a couple of minutes will lead to a couple more, then a couple more, etc.
Did I tell you I sometimes use dice? I have a great purple set from Chessex (gamers’ choice; a cheap indulgence). Sometimes I roll a die to decide which part of my manuscript to work on. (Which chapter or section; they’re all numbered.) It adds a bit of color and fun to the process, and randomness is a great tool against perfectionism because you can’t really take a piece of writing that seriously when you’re only working on it because you rolled it.
And another great idea…BINGO:
When you pick a section at random it’s hard to take the work too seriously or otherwise get perfectionist.
Reader Nathan wrote in with another great randomizing technique from Viviane Schwarz: bingo cages (a.k.a., wheels)….
…. these techniques work is that they get you out of the realm of abstract thought and into something concrete that’s right in front of you. (Abstraction can be tiring.) And they inject some fun and color into the process, which always helps
In the get-to-know you potion of our chat – where do you work? Office desk, kitchen table, coffee shop, bed…or do you pull a Trumbo and work in the tub?
Ok, have at it, talk about whatever. Keep it positive and have fun! Don’t forget to introduce yourself and let everyone know what you’re working on and what you want to talk about. Let me know if you have a specific topic you want me to cover in future chats. – TaMara