In the beginning, I needed total quiet to write. I couldn't handle interruptions, music, chatter, or the constant barking of the neighbor's dog.
Back then, in our old house, I'd hide upstairs in my office or head to the local coffee shop so I could work, but that didn't help solve the problem. I was only avoiding it.
I just couldn't find the focus I needed to get anything done.
Write From Anywhere
It was slow going then. Posts took more time to think about, to write about, and to edit. Add in little outside noises, or the not-so-quiet inside voices of our children and my production took a nosedive.
I grew tired of fighting it. How would I ever get anything done if I needed complete silence? Life doesn't work like that. I realized that I couldn't keep hiding.
When is there ever total silence? Oh, wait. Never. I needed to be able to work, to write, and to get things done darn it, whether or not there was noise. Life is busy. It's messy, hectic, and there is always something needing to be done.
It is hard enough to work from home and not become distracted by the dishes that need doing, the pets that need attention, the laundry, yard, and the other one million little things that keep calling to you when you are trying to do something for real.
For those of you who write outside of the home, it isn't any easier. There are the demands of your boss, your coworkers popping in to say "hey," the emails, the Slack updates, the MissingLettr campaigns to review, days of mind-numbingly boring meetings, and on and on.
If you are writing just for "you," because you want to blog or you want to finally write that book, it isn't any different.
All those little everyday things can add up to one tremendous creative drain and a huge distraction that makes it hard to help you stay focused on what you actually need to get done.
So, how do you learn to write without library silence? As the previous holder of the (unofficial) Most Distracted Writer Award, let me tell you: it is possible.
Non-writers don't understand that when you are in the middle of typing The Best Sentence in the History of The World and are interrupted, that sentence is often lost forever.
If your biggest issue is an interruption from someone or someones in your home, you can close your home office door. If, like me, you hate working behind a closed door so much that you removed it from its hinges, then give your friends who like to drop in or your family who feel like chatting a visual cue when you are really into what you are doing.
This way, if you are only poking around, you aren't yet "in the zone," like if you are reviewing your MissingLettr campaigns, or answering emails, and don't mind if someone enters your workspace, you can make it clear.
Put on a baseball cap, tie your hair back, hang a sign on your door, or come up with some other visual way to let your family, friends, and/or coworkers know that you are in major work mode and would prefer to be left alone.
My own family knows that if they walk in and see me typing, to just wait a minute until I stop and look at them before they say anything.
Set Goals and Block the Internet
Sometimes, work is impossible. Writing is hard. Who wants to write when cleaning cat boxes or pulling weeds in the yard sounds infinitely better than staring at a blank page? Even if you sit down to your computer with the best of intentions, sometimes, somehow, you end up on non-related web sites and spend way too long Facebook stalking. Social networks are sneaky like that. They pull you in before you even know what is happening.
Does that sound familiar? Are the interruption and distraction all of your own doing? If you are your own worst enemy and discover that you are hopping onto the Internet when you should be writing or scheduling your social media tasks, you need to thwart your attempts.
Use a site like Chrometa or some other sort of time tracker to actually see how much time you are spending online so you can deal with it accordingly.
If it is a bigger problem than you thought, you might want to consider using Internet blockers. There is a slew of Internet blockers out there that essentially work the same way: they prevent you from accessing social networks and other distracting sites so you can get things done.
A few worth looking into include Freedom.to, Stay Focusd (for the Chrome browser), SelfControl (for Mac), and Rescue Time. That doesn't even include the different type of separate cell phone apps to help keep you from reaching for your phone and wasting time (though some of those blockers do have other capabilities built in).
But hey, writers are people too. It's okay to waste a little time. Use it as a reward.
Set a writing goal. Is it 500 words? 1,000 words? Finishing that article or five paragraphs or twenty minutes of nothing but writing? Choose something and, when you reach that goal, reward yourself with a little Internet downtime--if your ten minutes of web surfing, Instagram updating, or app playing doesn't turn into anything more.
Again, that's where those Internet blockers could come in handy.
For the writer at home, a writing routine can help you ease into your writing time and give your brain a heads-up as to what's happening next.
Although a writer should be able to write anywhere and at any time, (seriously, don't wait until you feel like writing or you will never get anything done), a routine can help you approach each writing session thoughtfully.
It can aid you in spending less time fooling around getting set up to write and more time writing.
Whether you start by making a cup of coffee or tea and then settling in or you light a candle or sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," do whatever you need to do to get those creative juices flowing. It can be a handy tool to force your brain into that sort of hyper-concentrated mode.
Just, you know, use it as a way to get to where you need to be: more confident in your writing and better able to write anytime and anywhere and not rely on it as a crutch.
The Sounds of a Cafe...in Your Home
While you can get used to having other things going on in the background, for the new writer, a little background noise doesn't hurt. It helps mask the irritating drip of a faucet or the argument going on between your husband and the kids over why everyone needs to bathe more often than never.
Once again, there are a ton of different companies that offer an assortment of white noise programs. You can find the noises of a library or a bustling cafe without having to leave your home, with MyNoise.net or Noisli.com.
Turn to apps that play coffee shop noises, like Coffitivity, or for nature sounds, try Relax Mediation.
You may even find yourself cranking up your favorite bands as you get to work. I don't turn to babbling brooks or library white noise soundtracks. Breaking Benjamin, Trapt, and Three Days Grace usually join me for the ride. Loudly.
The Next Step
When you have the Internet blockers installed, your white noise is going, when you've come up with a writing routine or some other way to keep your friends or family from bothering you during your writing time, get to work.
There's no excuse now.
The longer you write, the easier it is to sit there and do what you need to do before moving on to the next thing on your list.
Whether I'm writing for experience or there is hefty research involved, it doesn't matter. You can get there too with practice.
Start small and work your way up. Grow in your writing, stick to your task at hand, and you'll learn how to work when you need to work without trying to make excuses as to why you should do something else entirely different instead. Stop doing that.
For a travel writer like me, being able to work from anywhere is an important skill to possess. For everyone else, it will help you become more productive. Who couldn't stand to do more in a day?
Eventually, all of these anti-distraction techniques will lead to better habits. Web sites will no longer lure you in once you are used to actually working. You may be able to ditch the Internet blockers forever at some point and learn how to incorporate the all-important nap into your day too. Baby steps.
Not to brag, but I can write quality stuff while our boys and their friends run in and out of the house with Nerf guns. I can still write when my husband asks if I've seen his wallet or his keys.
All it takes is finding that desire to put something down on paper or, you know, a blank web page, and then finding that focus, and sticking with it.