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My Top 5 Writing Distractions (and how I avoid them)

by Kellyn Roth |
January 15, 2020

I’m not the only easily-distracted writer, am I? It’s so easy to let distractions take away from my writing time, especially since I have not-ADHD-because-we-don’t-want-to-randomly-say-people-have-ADHD-when-they-don’t-but-focus-issues-for-sure.

But these writing distractions are avoidable (ish) … which is why I’m going to take this opportunity to share my top 5 writing distractions and say how I avoid them (ish).

Hopefully this will be a helpful (and fun!) post that will encourage you to minimize distractions and write that novel!

1: The Endless Void of YouTube

Lately, I’ve actually been too busy to watch YouTube (let alone write sometimes!), but that’s not usually an issue for me.

Because I’ll watch YouTube all the time.

It’s easy to do. You just have to catch up on your favorite YouTuber’s most recent movie review … and then you’re down the rabbit hole.

This can be an awful writing distraction for me since I usually watch more creative-ish things that do inspire me to write my own stories … but not in a healthy “stop watching YouTube videos to write” way but in a “creating twenty-five plot bunnies” way.

Good when I lack inspiration — but bad when I want to get something done.

The YouTube Fix

Other than installing blockers or unplugging the internet (the former of which I don’t want to do and the latter of which would defeat the purpose because a lot of my work is online), self-control is my main answer to this issue.

That’s hard to do, but I tell myself that I will watch a Youtube video (“a” meaning “one”) after I do something.

Taking breaks is healthy and productive, so this will be incentivise you and refresh your mind after a hard spell of work.

2: Just scrolling through social media.

I do this most with Facebook, but you all know what social platform it is that causes you to be badly distracted.

I don’t know what about Facebook calls to me. Probably because I hop on every so often to do something actually productive — then get sucked down the wormhole of seeing one more post.

I use Facebook for learning a lot, so it’s pretty easy to get distracted by that and tell myself it’s okay. But it’s not because it’s distracting.

I try to set myself up with set times to do stuff on Facebook for that reason, but oftentimes I find that I don’t need that time since I’m not much of a Facebooker (e.g. I don’t generally have more than a comment or two to respond to) — which leads to more scrolling.

The Social Media Fix

Again, installing site blockers or turning off the internet may work for some. I like to log out or uninstall apps for a certain amount of time if it’s really bothering me.

More than likely, though, simply jotting down whatever it is I want to do on social media and letting it sit until I’m not in the middle of something else is the best fix for me.

3: Wanting to be with my family.

Everyone goes, “Awww!”

But I’m not really that sweet. I don’t want to talk with my family or spend time with them or really even have them near me. I’m a grouchy teen, remember? Almost not a teen anymore, but you know.

No, I just want to “hang” with them. In that I want them to be available for me at any time as I ignore them and they ignore me.

Generally I used to do most of my work on the couch downstairs for this reason — I don’t like being alone and isolated up in my room, and I like having a place where I can sit quietly and observe everyone.

Problem is, this leads to a lot of distractions, from music and games and TV to people wanting me to do things to simply not being able to get in a zone because I’m watching people live their lives around me.

This is a more personal one, so it won’t apply to most people. But that’s my family situation. 😛 Most just have to worry about family bugging them — not them wanting to be around family all the time.

The Family Fix

I set up an office in my room, and I make myself work there, and I take little breaks to go see my family.

This does two things …

First, it gets me into a work zone with a separate place for me to work as to, say, watch TV with the family or eat or stretch my legs.

And second, it just keeps me away from people in a quiet place where I can light half a billion candles, turn on twinkle lights, and sometimes even blast music without headphones.

I know I’m pretty blessed with have my own room which has space for a desk and chair and a couple small bookshelves, so again, personal. But if you can create your own space, that’s a good way to go!

If not, you can have a serious conversation with your parents and ask them to let you have “office hours.” Everyone deserves a little time to themselves!

4: Multi-Tasking

Trying to do everything at once is probably one of my biggest issues.

I’m a multi-tasker, you see, but I’m horrible at it. Which doesn’t make sense because when people say “I’m a multi-tasker,” they usually mean “I’m really good at multi-tasking.”

I just mean I multi-task all the time. And I really just suck at it.

I need that one-minded focus to get myself in the zone. But I also don’t have an attention span to do something for hours and hours with no changes.

So if I try to write all day, I will not be able to do it because I will quickly lose interest in writing. Which is probably why multi-tasking draws me so strongly: I love switching it up!

The Multi-Task Fix

It works for me to work for twenty or thirty minutes and then take a five minute break.

I also like to do things in sections — e.g. write for thirty minutes then work on a blog post for twenty minutes then check social media then back to writing.

As long as I completely turn off my “writing” side of my brain and focus in the next thing (something I’m personally able to do fairly well given a few minutes to compose myself), this works for me.

If you’re a bad multi-tasker, I’d suggest keeping a running list of things you have to do (I have a document dedicated to just that) and just doing one item from that list at a time.

Even if it’s something that has multiple steps, I’d suggest finding a way to “Henry Ford” the system. I’ll generally write the outlines of three or four blog posts before writing the first drafts of three or four blog posts before editing three or four blog posts, for instance.

5: Guilt and Stress Over Not Working

This is a strange distraction, I’ll admit—but it often plagues me.

I can think of so many times when I sit at my desk or on the couch, staring at my computer screen, too stressed by the amount of things I have to do and too annoyed with myself for not doing them to work.

It’s sort of a “too tired to sleep” situation.

I get into a head space where I go on a cycle of thinking about all the things I have to do until I don’t want to do them …

And then I get mad at myself for not doing them …

And the delay means deadlines approach and work piles up and stress increases …

Which starts the whole thing all over again.

I end up either shutting off my mind for a couple days and skipping half a dozen things I really wanted to do — or just crying my eyes out late at night.

The Guilt and Stress Fix

I’ve yet to find a great fix for this one, too, which is one of the most annoying things. I’ve found little things that help, but generally, when stress has its hands on me, I often feel like there’s nothing to do but wait it out.

Ranting or talking about it helps a bit. Sometimes making lists, organizing them, and chipping away at one thing at a time will help.

But generally by the time I’ve realized I’ve gotten into one of those procrastination >> stress >> guilt >> procrastination cycles, I’m so deep in that waiting it out and ploughing through is the best way to handle it.

Still, as time goes on, and this continues to be an issue for me, I’m at least better at handling my emotions, clinging to God (Who probably doesn’t care if I skip a couple blog posts here and there) (but shhh leave me to my guilt), and riding it out.




How do you handle allllll the writing distractions? What’s your biggest one? (If you have children, I apologize for giving you false hope. I cannot offer a distraction solution. I guess enjoy these years because they got by so fast???)

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9 Responses

  1. I usually write at night with headphones on because if I try to work in the living room I’ll end up talking to someone or watching whatever movie’s playing or… ? If I do work during the day it’s either in my room or outside.
    Pinterest is probably my biggest distraction bc there are so many goofy nonsensical videos on there…you go for inspiration for two minutes and forty five minutes later…yeah. ? Mostly it’s just a matter of self control.
    Also I’ll turn on my writing playlist and four songs later I’ll still be singing in front of my mirror… ?

    1. Yup, that’s probably a good idea! I can’t write at night anymore because I need to get to bed at 11 (so I can’t do more than an hour or so – and usually it’s less once everyone’s settled), but I still do like using it for last-minute crunch time (though hopefully I’ll be able to stay up later in a couple months!).

      Pinterest used to be a big distraction for me, but it’s not really anymore because something about the dashboard made it all wonky, so I’m not gonna put the effort into figuring out the issue. 😛

  2. That last one gets me too. (Some of the others do also, but I don’t want to talk about them right now. Haha.) What helps me is allowing myself a set time (anywhere from ten minutes to one full day; it depends on how big the overwhelmed feeling is) to cry it out and deal with the feelings that are happening. Once that assigned time is done, I force myself to shift gears and choose one thing to work on (and hopefully finish). Then I choose the next right thing and the next right thing, until slowly but surely the list fades to nothing but crossed-out items. Happy wishes for finding a method that works for you too!

    1. Weirdly enough, I never do seem to be driven to tears by work-related stuff – more personal things. Though those can definitely add to the work stress, so I guess it depends!

      Also, this comment reminded me that the tab I accidentally closed and then couldn’t remember what it was was my TO DO LIST! Yay – I do need that to remember what’s next. 😉

      1. My tears are usually about non-work stuff too, though there are days when a certain scene I’m writing will get to me. I’m glad I could remind you about that to-do list tab! Hope you’re getting lots of things checked off the list these days.

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