Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Dealing With Distraction

We live in a connected world. Once you've sat down in front of your computer, you've got access to it all.

connected-world

Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, email, blogs. They're all popping up notifications or beckoning you to check for new comments or to see what's new. Even blogging comes with its own set of distractions.

But what if you're at your computer with the intention of getting some real work done? "Real work" for purposes of this blog is writing, so let's focus on that.

Start by asking yourself a simple question: Am I a creator or a consumer?

Chances are, you're both. But spend too much time on one and other suffers.

Jennifer Murphy Romig, a legal writing and research instructor at Emory University School of Law, notes that interference with writing has always been present. A few years ago, it was computer solitaire, she said, and before that it was the old-fashioned crossword puzzle. But she describes today's distractions -- including texting, e-mail, BlackBerry messages and online news alerts -- as "more aggressive."

Agatha Christie once said, "I enjoy writing in the desert. There are no distractions such as telephones, theaters, opera houses and gardens."

Distraction. It is the bane of those who want to get "stuff" done.

I'm as guilty as the next person. Digsby pops up a new twitter. Or I see that there's some new blog entries to read through. What began as anticipation of a good solid hour of writing becomes an hour wasted.

So how do we keep from being distracted?

You can go old school: turn the computer and cell phone/blackberry off, and go find yourself some nice white paper and a pencil. But there are diminishing returns for such an approach, as in you're giving up your word processor. I don't know about you, but I can't write without my word processing software, not to mention all the outlines, notes, and other reference material I keep on my laptop. I'd be lost without it.

Instead, try something a little less radical:

  • Close your email application.
  • Shut down your IM client.
  • Turn off your cell phone or other device.
  • Stay away from your browser or RSS feed reader.
  • If you want to go a little more extreme, unplug your network connection.

All of this requires self-discipline, of course. Stay focused on what's important--getting your work done. The other stuff isn't going anywhere.



Comments (2) -

  • NJS

    10/21/2008 9:22:36 AM | Reply

    It's sometimes unfortunate that my work requires a network connection and often the internet.  I'm a graduate student researcher.

  • scottmarlowe

    10/21/2008 3:16:20 PM | Reply

    In this day and age you'd probably have a hard time doing your job in a reasonable amount of time. Though people used to do such work with these antiquated relics called "books". ;-)

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