Distractions — as writers in the 21st century, we know all about them
— especially the digital kind. Email, roaming the Internet, Instagram—
these can all be major distractions and easily eat into our writing
time. If you work at home, there are even more to deal with: phone
calls, errands, 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 Profundis” while
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?
I’d love to hear any helpful techniques as we all write on!