Sunday, 17 October 2010

Guest Post - Samantha Anderson - Distractions: The Handicap of the Procrastinator

A really interesting and, to a lot of people, important guest post today as Samantha Anderson describes the ways she avoids distractions whilst writing. From what Samantha has told me before, her home-life is (trying to find a nice way to put this...) hectic, as she explains below.

This is a blog swap again, like Fridays, and I'm at Samantha's blog today writing about my mum hating my book. Her blog is here.

So Chris has asked what it was that I did to finish a book, how I found time to write amid constant distractions. I could give you a simple list (whichI will), and explain in a little more detail as to what exactly I mean. Being the queen of procrastination has its upside but not when it comesto writing. And when you are in a home with a boyfriend, his disabled mother, four kids at the age of 9 and under, two cats and a moose of a dog in one home, distractions are never ending. But I’ve done it. I managed to write a book in under 6 months, by following a few simple guidelines…

My Personal DOs and DON’Ts For Staying Focused:

1. Do try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day for writing. Don't limit yourself to 30 minutes.This 30 minutes doesn’t have to be a block of thirty minutes,unless you personally need to do it all at once. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve written a sentence or two here or there while on hold on the phone or via the notepad on my Blackberry while outside on a smoke break. If I got more time than the 30 minutes, great, but I rarely went under that mark. If you have the ability to go over that then do so, use it as an ‘at least’ phrase, not ‘at most’.

2. Do try togive yourself a 1 or 2 hour window one day a week to be left alone to write. Don't count this as a total of 4 days of 30 minutes.I actually did this more than one day a week and started using my lunchbreaks at work to write. At work I didn’t have access to the websites that ultimately aided in distracting me so it was very easy to put in the headphones and just write. Weeks that I couldn’t, then I would set aside time on the weekends. The main point was to have one block of time to focus solely on writing. And I didn’t count two days of 30 minutes here or there as my one hour.

3. Do carry a notebook and pen at all times or keep one within good reach. Don't procrastinate on writing ideas down as they come to you no matter how insignificant they may seem. I have come to love the voice notes function on my phone. With a 45 minute commute to work, the same back every day, I was running out of time to write down ideas. One push of a button and I could speak all my ideas, thoughts on dialogue and save them for when I had time to write them all down. For those that work better at jotting stuff down, thisis why I recommend the notebook. I’m the type of person that a line in a song on the radio can trigger a flash of creativity. I once wrote 2 chapters in under an hour and a half just because of an instrumental song I had randomly played. We are our own worst critics, so even if you’re telling yourself that the idea is stupid, write it down anyway.You never know when and where it might come into play later down the road.

4. Do find your writing atmosphere. Don't write in front of a TV. Finding your writing atmosphere is almost as important as finding the time to write. If you’re not in a place that inspires your creativity, how can you expect to write? For me, I needed music and it had to be loud. Headphones worked wonders. Also I found that if I was by a lake or a pond at all, I could write for hours, given the time. The downfall to this was taking my laptop, sitting in the recliner in front of the TV. Sure I was comfortable, but I found myself distracted by the shows that were on and would pay more attention to that.

5. Do see writer's block for what it really is. Don't use it as a crutch for your own procrastination. This is my biggest pet peeve of writers today. They all whine about writers block. This is because I don’t feel they understand what it really is and entails. From talking to writers, and yes I have worked with several that are well on their way to being published authors, they would hit a road block and it would stop them. They believe that every writer struggles with it and that if they don’t stop and let it hold them back, at least for a brief period of time, then they are not true writers. They are afraid to take detours. If you’re writing dialogue and it’s not flowing how you want, instead of stopping, move on. Start writing the next scene and come back to it. I cannot tell you how many times I would write in bits and pieces and come back to tie it all together. People I feel, use it as a crutch and a cop out to not actively write. These are just a few things in the grand scheme of writing a book that I adhere to in my own world. Sure if I would stay away from Facebook and Youtube (apps on Facebook are my Achilles Hell.. er… um HEEL), I would probably be further along in my next two novels than I am. But for the procrastinator in me, these rules/guidelines helped immensely. The biggest above all of these is that if you are working on writing something, you have to want it. You’re the only one who can determine your success.

Samantha Anderson is an aspiring writer who has found that achieving her dream seems just around the corner. Her ultimate goal is not fame, but rather just to be published. If success finds her, that would be good too.

She is on facebook and twitter.


  1. The notebook/voice recorder is especially vital, but the most important breakthrough for me was to just unplug the Internet and the TV for however long my Useful Writing Day (UWD) is supposed to be. Now, no worries, and it's not like anybody was ever hurt by watching less TV.

  2. Great advice. Occasionally I get a bit of writer's block. It's hard to move on when I want to get things just right. For the most part, I'm a linear writer so skipping scenes nag me. Not always, but most of the time.

    How do I keep writer's block from holding me back? Take a shower. I'm not sure why, but something about the hot shower allows my thoughts to flow. Ideas form, and I'm more likely to say it's okay to cut a scene which might be the real problem and find a different path to point A to point B.

    I also like the small goals. A 1/2 hour here, and hour there. I tend to let WIP take over my life and only emerge for gulps of air. Of course, that leads to semi-drowning. It's rather difficult to accomplish much when drowning in the stress of do, do, do. :)haha I said do do. Sorry. It's easier to prevent burnout if I pace myself.

  3. Great advice! For me, it's important to keep something readily available for writing. Whether I use the recorder/notepad on my phone or a notebook, I always have a way to document my ideas.

    As far as writing time, I find that the private rooms at the public library are the perfect place to work. I can stay in a room for up to two hours, longer if no one else needs it, and write in peace. A valuable resource for any writer.

  4. Great list.

    The notebook practice has been vital for me. I usually jot down ideas while sitting in traffic on my commute. I gained nearly hour of productive time each day just by doing that ... although I'm sure some would find the opportunity to refresh one's mind on all those Nickelback lyrics productive as well, but I digress.

  5. HAHAHA! Reena you are not the first person I've heard of tell me that they are able to brainstorm better in a shower. I've never been able to think anything when it a hot shower.

    Once again, thank you Chris for the awesome opportunity to 'torture' your readers!