Writing Despite the Distractions

There’s one question I hear over and over again: When do you find time to write? But I think a more accurate way to phrase the question would be: How do you write despite the distractions?

Our lives are busy, aren’t they? One day we find ourselves in the middle of them, rushing from one thing to another, crossing just one more item off our lists. It’s hard to make time for anything, much less something as time-consuming as writing.

But it’s not impossible. Today, I’m going to tell you how I write despite the everyday chaos.

As some of you know, I homeschool my two children. It’s been an amazing blessing to me, and it’s something that I’ve guarded rather tenaciously. There have been times, especially when money was tight and we nearly lost everything several years ago, that people simply could not understand why I didn’t put them in daycare and get a normal job. But I’ll tell  you why–because it’s not what I was called to do. I knew it then; I know it now.

And I will be honest, there are days it’s harder now than it was even then because I love to write. Uninterrupted hours would be bliss. I can’t even imagine the joy of it. And yet, we still homeschool. Because my husband and I have decided this small chunk of time we have with our children, this opportunity we have to teach them and be with them, is too important to exchange for anything. So how do I get anything done? I write when they’re doing individual work, during our midday break, before dinner, and after they go to bed. Oh, yeah. And during the summer. The blissful, blissful summer.

Like everyone else, I also have the day in, day out sort of stuff–cooking, cleaning, dentist appointments, yard stuff, grocery shopping, bill paying, telephones ringing, doorbells ringing…it goes on and on.

So keeping that in mind, here’s how I write despite the distractions:

  • First, and most importantly, I try to write at least 1000 words a day, which really isn’t much. But by the end of the year, that’s 365,000 words. My YA books range from 60,000 – 80,000 words. So, at the minimum, that’s an average of six books a year–or maybe four books and a few novellas or novelettes. Now, I said try. There are days I simply don’t get any writing in, and there are days I get closer to 5,000 words. So it all averages out. I usually finish a novel in about a month and a half.
  • I have learned to block out the television. You know what keeps the kids happy in the evening before dinner? That’s right, a movie. Luckily, my kids are on an animal documentary kick (thank you Netflix!), so I don’t even feel guilty because they’re learning as they watch.
  • Music. At some point in the last few months, I have learned to write while listening to music, even the stuff with words. It really helps to block out the background noise, like sprinklers and lawn mowers and neighborhood kids playing. I’m super sensitive to all of that, and there are days it makes writing nearly impossible. Pandora and Spotify have helped, but I’ll tell you, I might have to subscribe because the commercials will jar me right out of a good writing session.
  •  Sometimes I write in the middle of the night. Yeah, I know it’s not healthy. But, wow, it’s quiet. Why do I do this? Well, my dog has this really annoying habit of waking up at about two or three in the morning and needing to go out. I have the hardest time going back to sleep, and sometimes it’s easier just to write it out and then crash at four or five instead of staring at the ceiling for hours.
  • Sometimes, on days I have a tight deadline or if I’m totally stressing out, I don’t answer my phone or the door. I figure a lot of people can’t take personal calls when they’re at work, why should I?
  • I rarely watch television. We don’t even have cable or satellite. When I do feel like watching something, it’s on Netflix. Think about how much time you spend in front of the TV. Now think how much writing you could get done if you stopped that.
  • I have learned to accept the fact that we don’t have a pretty yard. We have weeds, people. *Gasp.* Long, long ago, I used to have a vegetable garden. I used to have flowers. Now I have a few scraggly zinnias in some neglected-looking pots along the driveway. It’s sad and a little depressing, but I can’t do everything. We are very seriously looking into buying a condo where all the yard work is done for us. Or taking off in an RV and living like gypsies. I’m not joking.
  • Not everything is homemade. It used to be, at one point. Boxes of food? I think not. Frozen meals? Nope! But now…well. Yeah. I don’t even remember the last time I made homemade rolls. Oh, yes I do. It was for Thanksgiving.

But every day is not perfect. Here are the distractions that can completely derail a good writing session (which sometimes means I give up, and we go to Starbucks):

  • The kids are grouchy/fighting/tired/hungry/bored/extra needy–I just can’t. I’m not going to get any good writing in, and I’ll just end up snarling at them like a mama tiger.
  • The days the dog needs out fifty billion times. And then he needs in. And then he needs out. Honestly, I love the monster, but there are times I really miss the dog door.
  • Group text messages. These are EVIL. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will destroy my focus faster than a string of these. And I can’t take myself out of the conversation because, if I do, I’ll get a whole bunch of individual texts asking if I’m mad. Honestly. Honestly.
  • The Internet…I don’t know what to do about this beast. Some days, it just gets me. Facebook, Twitter, email, stat pages, writing forums–there’s no escaping the allure of wasting hours doing absolutely nothing. It’s horrifying. Some days it’s better for me to just walk away.

So there you go, that’s how I find time to write. I just make it a priority, and I do my best to block everything else out while I’m working. No day is perfect, and some days are worse than others. But, so far, I think it’s going pretty well.


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