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With writing time at a premium, authors who are committed to their craft know how important it is to focus on writing-related tasks and to avoid distractions. So you would never allow yourself to be tempted into binge-watching the latest Netflix series or using your sacred writing time to catch up on office emails. But Writer’s Relief knows there are things that can seem legitimately writing related, but they’re actually—gasp!—procrastination in disguise.
How Writers Unknowingly Distract Themselves From Actually Writing
Research. A certain amount of research is often necessary before writing can begin. But when you’ve spent years researching a project that you haven’t written a word of, it may be time to ask yourself some tough questions. Is research just an excuse to avoid a bigger challenge: the malevolent, empty stare of a blank page?
Office supplies and technology. We admit it: Sometimes a trip to the office supply store feels like a writer’s Disneyland. (Ooooo! Look at all the sticky note colors!) Technology, too, can be devastatingly tempting. Word processing programs for writers, speech-to-text software, new methods for storage and backup—ironically, it’s easy to lose track of hours in the quest to become more efficient.
Marketing. Promotion is vital, especially if you’re marketing a self-published book. You can spend a lot of time comparing costs of printing postcards, preparing promotional gift baskets, organizing a mega contest, and researching the many things writers should do to grow their followings and build their reputations for quality work. But if your marketing efforts swallow up your writing time, you might want to consider outsourcing or getting help.
Social media. Strong reader-author relationships are built via social media. And a strong social media outreach campaign does require a meaningful investment of time and energy. But sites like Facebook were created to be distracting—to keep you from wanting to do anything else. If noodling around on social media begins to negatively affect your writing time, try setting a time limit for yourself or using these tips to automate your online marketing.
Critiquing other people’s writing. The benefits of critiquing are countless: Your understanding of craft becomes sharper when you evaluate manuscripts. But spending an undue amount of time offering editorial feedback on other people’s writing might be a sneaky way of avoiding your own.
Reading. Reading a copious number of books is as important to writers as weight lifting is to Olympic athletes. And let’s face it, writers love to read! Just don’t let your reading time take over your writing time. If your stack of To-Be-Read is brushing the ceiling, you might want to put bookstores and libraries off-limits for a while.
Endless editing. Of course, it’s important to edit your work after your first draft. But are you on the tenth, twentieth, or even seventieth draft? There comes a time when you may not be editing so much as avoiding submitting your work for fear of rejection. Ask yourself: Is your editing functional? Or procrastinational? (Yes, we made that word up—but it’s a good one.)
How To Refocus Your Energy On Your Creative Writing
Distraction happens. We all lose focus now and then. If you find yourself caught in one of these sneaky pitfalls of procrastination, the first thing you must do is acknowledge your intentions. Yes, you may be avoiding your writing. But why? What does it mean? What is blocking you?
Secondly, don’t beat yourself up over it. Lingering on what you might perceive as “failure” could send you into a spiral of negativity. Go easy on yourself. Remember: The time you spend on writing-related efforts isn’t necessarily entirely wasted. In fact, it might have been just what you needed. Now that you’ve shaken off your distractions, you can gently refocus and get back to writing.
QUESTION: Which of these writing-related but not-actually-writing distractions have you ever experienced?