How to write a book without digital distractions by Frances Booth
As any writer knows, there are hurdles to leap each day before sitting down and tackling ‘the book’. “I’ll just … put the bins out / put the washing on / clean the kitchen …” (delete as appropriate).
We may well recognise this procrastination for what it is, and even use it as a ritual to help us build up to writing. But now another form of putting things off has crept up on us. Its name? Digital distraction.
We sit down at our desk to write – bang on schedule. Then, we check our email, and have a little browse on Facebook … eventually, we turn to the book. We write a few lines, think for a while, then remember a piece of research we want to do online. With a sigh of relief we head to the Internet. While we’re there, we check email again, and get caught up in answering a demand that has come in. By this time, we feel a bit drained, and not inclined to keep writing. We’re ready for a break anyway … we’ll get on with the book this afternoon … Sound familiar?
In a digital world, writers need even more discipline to avoid the distractions of email, social media, smartphones and the Internet. Dealing with this digital distraction is the subject of my new book, The Distraction Trap.
Here are my 10 top tips on how to write a book without digital distraction:
1) Write first. Write for two to three hours if possible first thing in the morning (starting at whatever time works best for you). Don’t check emails until after that. You’ll find demands and requests tend to be able to wait.
2) Use your best time of day for writing. Use the times that you feel ‘low energy’ eg the mid-afternoon slump for digital distractions.
3) Enjoy the feeling of focus you get from writing at length uninterrupted. There aren’t many tasks that lend themselves so well to this. Enjoy the fact that writing a book is a huge ‘single-task’ project.
4) Build up your writing stamina gradually. Go for half an hour, then an hour, then two hours with smartphone, email and social media switched off while you write …
5) In breaks, go for a walk or meditate rather than switching on to a digital distraction such as email or social media. Your ideas will develop and your attention will be restored.
6) Pay attention to what makes you feel drained (eg. an overflowing inbox) and what makes you feel inspired. We need to be careful as writers to stay inspired. Don’t spend your time unnecessarily on digital distraction.
7) Do your research in blocks. Print off or download articles in batches and take these to the library to read rather than logging on / logging off / logging on again.
8) Deliberately work in places where you have no internet connection if you can’t rely on your willpower. I also suggest writing apps to help if you are struggling with willpower in my book.
9) Have only your writing programme (eg Microsoft Word) open on your computer while you are writing.
10) Make switching off part of your pre-writing ritual. Put the bins out, make a cup of coffee, find your favourite pen … and switch off. Now you’re ready to make real progress on that book.