I have been asking writers about their biggest challenges in managing their daily lives and finding time to write. Their top answer: distractions.
So I thought that, in order to understand the problem, I would catalog every distraction known to writers. Then, in the post below, turn this into a guide. If you are a writer hoping to overcome distractions, all you need to do is simply memorize this list, and learn to avoid the key triggers that turn each of these items into distractions.
Okay, here goes. The Complete List of Creative Distractions and Defenses Against Them.
Distraction: Cat Videos
- Definition: Amazing, lovely, cute, wonderful cat videos. Is there anything more amaz…. No wait. They are evil, evil distractions. These perfect little cute… ACK! BAD! DISTRACTION!!!
- Defense: Become an evil soul with a heart of pure stone. That is the only way to avoid the majestic beauty of adorable, cute… ACK! STOP!!!!
Distraction: Real Cats and Dogs and other Pets
- Definition: In moments of weakness, we allow these wild creatures into our lives. One moment you are a writing machine, the next moment, you spend all of your time coddling this filthy, wild creature. “Oh, just a little more rubbing on the tummy… Oooooh yes, you are such a good puppy. Yes you are! Yes you are!” It’s sickening, really.
- Defense: Open the back door. When the animal leaves, close back door. Put in ear plugs and get back to writing.
- Definition: Remember when your parents trapped you into a concrete building for the first 18 years of your life? Then how you got back at them by wasting tens of thousands of dollars doing keg stands instead of going to class? Yes, that is the education I am talking about.
- Defense: Do I really care what year Isaac Newton invented gravity? Or how to properly subjugate an adjective in a paragraph? I mean, really? Education is a sham. A giant ruse developed by whichever political party you dislike the most. Education, in all its forms, should be avoided. Like the plaque.
- Definition: Dust bunnies. You can hear them calling, can’t you? They say, “Dust us! Collect us and deliver us to the afterworld of the magic dust bin!”
- Defense: For centuries, mankind has lived in filth. Sewers running through the streets, people bathing only monthly. I mean, the vacuum cleaner wasn’t even invented until 1860, meaning that most of human history was spent without them. Some of the greatest written work of all time was written specifically in the absence of the unrivaled suction power of a Dyson. Let’s face it, if A + B = C, there is no argument. A world without vacuum cleaners is a world where great writing thrives.
Distraction: Celebrity Gossip
- Definition: I’m going to try really hard to not mention the K-word in this one. The fact that Kar… I mean Kaaar… Kaaaar-daashhhhh… I can’t do it. Kaaaaa-rrr-daaaashhh-eee… Useless. Useless to resist.
- Defense: Write this in large letters on the wall (yes, directly on the wall in a black Sharpie) above your writing desk: “If I care about celebrities, I am a horrible human being.”
Distraction: Television (most especially Netflix and their entire seasons of shows)
- Definition: We convince ourselves that watching TV and movies helps us study the craft of storytelling. I mean, AMC, Netflix, HBO: Who asked you to create these amazing original TV shows? We were fine with Season 10 of Beverly Hills 90210 which focused mostly on David. Really, we were. We still watched that crap.
- Defense: I’m working on a blog post that will spoil every TV show ever created. Once you read that, you will have no use for TV. Wonderful TV and all of its amazing storytelling that doesn’t revolve around David Silver. Spoiled!
Distraction: Internet (most especially social media)
- Definition: Isn’t it amazing how you can now stay in contact with your ex-boyfriend from 7th grade on Facebook? How you can learn every detail of how he redecorated his cube at his accounting firm? How he washed his 2007 Honda? I mean, the magic of the internet, right?
- Defense: Gee, it’s gonna be hard for me to make an argument around no longer caring about what your ex-boyfriend from 7th grade is doing right now. I mean, what if he has a feeling about the latest Mad Max movie? Would you really want to miss that?
- Definition: Connection to loved ones is one of the most primal human compulsions, after our inability to eat just one Dorito. We care for others even more than we care for ourselves, just like John McLane in Die Hard.
- Defense: See my thoughts on “pets” from above.
Distraction: Windows (and the reminder that there is a full and vibrant world out there)
- Definition: Windows. No, I’m NOT being petty here. Windows offer hope. Hope that you can gaze outside of them and dream of a life where you are not doomed to slave in front of a screen writing your next book.
- Defense: You wake up. A beam of sunlight crosses your bed. You hear birds chirping. A school bus drives by with the sound of laughing children. Let’s face it, you aren’t getting ANY writing done today. Simple solution: Move your bed to a the basement. Embrace the magical isolating properties of cinder blocks. If you want a distraction-free writing life, you’d better begin appreciating the dark, dank smell of the basement.
- Definition: We all want to feel attractive, right? Or at least, presentable. Oh, wait… WRITERS. We are talking about WRITERS here. Let me rephrase that. We all want to ensure there isn’t food dribbling down the front of our shirts before we leave the house, right?
- Defense: Mirrors. Really? I mean, how selfish and self-centered are you? Did Han Solo ever look at a mirror to ensure he looked dashingly handsome? Did Yoda have a mirror on Dagobah? Did Darth Vader check the shine of his helmet? The answer for all three is a clear ‘maybe.’ But let’s face it, you don’t live in the Star Wars universe. Reality check, folks! Get rid of your mirror.
- Definition: All. This. Pressure. To FitBit my life. To eat right and exercise because it provides longer life, resistance to disease, more energy, and better rest.
- Defense: Let me ask you this: Does Hemingway care about his health? Answer: No. Why? Because he’s dead. Simple fact. If you want to be like Hemingway, face facts that the only thing that matters is how you are remembered. Working out, eating well, any meaningful exposure to fresh air or sunlight — these are all extravagances that only selfish writers seek out. The only thing that matters is if, in 80 years, people create little images with quotes from you on them that they can share on Facebook. That is all that matters.
- Definition: That’s right, caring. Caring in any way about other human beings, any social causes, any environmental or political causes, or about anything in general.
- Defense: Some of the coolest characters ever created were uncaring. They were rebels without a cause. Cool hand Lukes. Thelmas and Louises. They didn’t care about your rules. Your “causes.” They did what looked cool. Isn’t that what you really want? To look cool?
Distraction: Blog Posts (about how to avoid distractions)
- Definition: Yes, we are getting meta here. Writer Unboxed, for instance, has many wonderful posts about how to identify and combat distractions. (Here, here, here, here, and here, just to name a few. Oh, and this one is amazing, but please don’t click that link. It is just a distraction, remember.)
- Defense: Close this browser window right now. GO — CLOSE IT!!! The only thing left in this blog post is the one most amazing tip I ever heard that will help you, the writer, avoid creative distractions. That’s it. Oh, is that interesting to you?
Done! See, now that you have eliminated all of these distractions, you are ready to live a full, flourishing life as a writer. A writer with no:
You are the perfect writing machine!!!!!
This concludes The Complete List of Creative Distractions and Defenses Against Them, Volume 1. In Volume 2, we will delve into the many different TYPES of cat videos, and the distinct challenges of learning to not be distracted by each. For instance, there are the cat videos where they are purring adorably, and then the cat videos where they are trying to jump onto something, but missing. It’s a burgeoning field of study.
Please let me know: What distractions take you away from your creative work each day?
Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!