Distractions — as writers in the 21st century, we know all about them — especially the digital kind. Email, the Internet, Skype — these can all be major distractions and easily eat into our writing time. When you work at home, there are even more things to deal with: phone calls, errands, car-pooling, dog-walking — you name it!
While it’s tempting to believe that battling distractions is a new challenge for writers, it’s actually a long-standing one. In the early 1900s, the French writer Colette was locked in a small room for four hours a day by her money-hungry first husband so that she wouldn’t be able to do anything but write the books that supported them in grand style. He wouldn’t unlock the door until she produced a certain number of pages. The ploy worked: Colette wrote six novels in six years.
Balzac used to churn out novel after novel by fueling himself with cups of coffee and writing non-stop for eight hours at a clip from midnight on. Oscar Wilde penned his deeply moving De Profoundest while in prison.
More recently, nature writer Annie Tillard relocated from a shed that looked out over pine trees to a wall without a window. In the Writing Life, she observes, “Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”
Mmmm…I’m not sure that kind of enforced isolation is absolutely necessary, but I totally understand the impulse. How about you? How do you defuse the distractions that threaten your focus?