5 Strategies to Banish Writing Distractions for Good

by Suzannah Freeman

Girl with television in snow

One of the biggest complaints I hear from writers is about the difficulty of distractions.

Twitter. Facebook. Google Reader. These social media outlets are highly tempting to the average writer, not to mention the everyday interruptions of a career, housework, and television.

Are there strategies we can use to help keep us on track during a writing session?

Check out these 5 ways to banish writing distractions for good:

1. Dark Room Feature

If you find yourself looking at all the shiny buttons and tempting options on your desktop, try a dark room feature, which blocks out everything on your screen and leaves you with nothing but a blank page and cursor.

Download Dark Room for Windows here.

Download WriteRoom for Macs here.

2. Freedom

This is a program for both Mac and Windows users, which blocks your internet connection for whatever amount of time you specify. Simply type in the number of minutes you need to concentrate, and voila–you’ll be internet free.

Download Freedom for Mac or Windows here.

3. Schedule Your Distractions

You love Twitter, right? Me too. It’s a great social outlet for writers.

But, instead of tweeting while you’re supposed to be writing, schedule your messages ahead of time by using a program like HootSuite. Just type in what you want to say, add any necessary links, then decide when want your tweet to go live.

Check out HootSuite here.

4. Pencil and Paper

If you find yourself distracted by pretty much everything on your computer, try getting back to basics: write with a pen and paper.

Leave the house, if you must. Grab only what you need, take a walk, and find yourself a quiet place to write.

5. Embrace the Noise

Many writers find themselves unable to write except in complete silence.

If you’re one of those writers, why not deliberately condition yourself to write with background noise?

Start with some quiet music playing on the stereo, then slowly build up your tolerance until you barely notice the noise any more.

Distraction Free

Anything that prevents us from writing is something we need to address, if we want to be successful as writers.

Learn to free yourself from ongoing distractions, and make the most of your writing session every single time.

What things distract you  most from your writing?

Today’s Challenge: List your top three writing distractions, then decide how you will eliminate them from your writing sessions in the future.

About the Author: Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

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  • Can’t quite go to pen and paper, at least not very long, penmanship fast deteriorates to the point even I can’t read it. I do accomplish more in a secluded corner of the house away from the jumble of my desk on a laptop with a busted Wi-fi card. I can still plug it into the router when I transfer stuff off, of course, but it keeps me more focused when I’m writing. I keep it primarily for that reason, since word-processing programs are pretty low demand anyway.

    • My handwriting is horrible, too!

  • Robin

    I usually write longhand away from the computer. It’s the best way to avoid all the distractions for me. I’ve trained myself to write while my son plays computer games and have learned to tune out the game sounds – most of the time. I think I may try Freedom – simply because now I need the time to type up what I’ve written and that’s where the distractions are affecting me now.

    • It’s so difficult for me to write when there’s background noise, but Im getting a bit better.

  • Thewritestuff

    Once I get on Facebook or start checking emails it’s all over. I love writing at a cafe or the library so if I really don’t want distractions I’ll go there with pen and paper, although Freedom is another great option now that wi-fi is another possible distraction when I’m away from home.

    • I know, Facebook is addictive, and once I start checking my email I have to reply to them all, right??

  • Rene

    I write using a pencil and paper because I want to WRITE and not to TYPE (well, that’s not correct because I type the final drafts on my lovely typewriter but I know you get the point). And I work at a small bookshelf that I use as a standing desk. The only distraction I have is the view out of my window on a wide landscape but I think that’s a good distraction.

    • Rene, I wish I loved writing with a pencil and paper. My hand gets cramped and I find the process generally unpleasant. I type very fast, so I find that the best way to write.

      • Rene

        Suzannah, by using pencil and paper I have learned to come down, to don’t rush through life.

        But I think you agree with me when I say: It’s not important how we write, but to just write.

        • That’s right, Rene. As long as you’re writing. I just wish my penmanship was better so I could make use of the tried, tested and true method of pencil and paper!

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