I am fighting a battle with myself while writing my thesis. Surely I am not alone. Writing demands a deep sustained focus. The world around us is like a tennis ball machine that is constantly shooting at our shield of focus. We need to protect our space and give our writing the calm and intimate immersion it deserves.
I imagine diving into the depths of the ocean and feeling my way through tangled reefs of thoughts to discover what’s important, seeking connections, and sifting for enlightenment. If I’m constantly popping up to the crowds, perhaps out of a modern-day ailment labelled FOMO (fear of missing out), then the flow of discovery and writing… pops.
We have to make a choice. The choice is isolation. It might be a few hours a day, or a few days at a time, in fact, some authors go under for years, but we need to give ourselves a chance to make that dive into our consciousness.
This piece of advice from James Hayton is especially key. He says: “Get away from the computer when you aren’t working” and “you’ll end up spending less time at the computer, but getting far more done”.
So, when you’re feeling the itch of distraction and losing focus, just walk away from the computer. Don’t log into Facebook. Don’t check your email. Don’t surf the web. Don’t browse social media websites. Don’t read the news. Don’t write a blog post. Don’t check your phone.
Everything seems important, and necessary, and useful… and relaxing.
It is — but not right NOW.
Set aside dedicated time for writing – in my case, it’s 5.30am to 9.30am each day – and don’t allow anything else to enter this space. Nothing. It’s just you and the words, you and the writing, you and your thoughts.
And when you find yourself drifting…
… just walk away from the computer. Look out the window. Get a drink. Pace around. Stretch. When your mind has settled, it might take a few minutes, then get back to the computer, and resume writing (or whatever work you were doing).
Even while swimming, we need to raise our head above the water to breathe in some oxygen, but it’s only a rapid diversion before we’re back down swimming. So it is with taking breaks.
We are distractable creatures, and we live in a distracting world. It isn’t easy, but it’s a commitment.