Throughout the year it can be very difficult to maintain focus on writing but now Christmas has surfaced, it’s the time when family and friends are coming around and it’s going to be a hectic, busy household. Finding the time to write with these added complications might seem like an impossible task, so how are you going to squeeze in the writing when it’s just too noisy and there are so many distractions around?
Have your own space.
Have your own desk in a room where you can lock the door and have time and space for yourself to write. Maybe it’s an area of your bedroom or you’re lucky enough to have your own study. Set your space up with anything that might motivate you – quotes, writing notes, inspirational pictures and decorate it with Christmas lights to set the mood. When you’re in this space, it is time to write. If you associate this space with writing – and just writing alone – it will be easier for you to work when you come to it and can reduce your likelihood of procrastination.
Find a quiet time.
While it would be ideal to make it clear to friends and family that you need the time and space to write. This might not always work. If you’re younger and live with family sometimes interruptions are unavoidable, whereas if you live on your own you can’t always dictate when the next family gathering happens. What’s important is even if you can’t ask for peace and quiet, that you still find it.
Waking up early, before everyone else, can sometimes be a useful technique in productivity. If you wake an hour or two before usual there could be a lot of work you can do, uninterrupted by anyone else. This is also a useful technique out of the holidays. Get up an extra hour before school or work and you’ve made more time. People are often more productive in the mornings and this will allow you to get your writing done before the busy day get’s going. If you hit your ‘write for an hour’ target in the early morning, your day is already off to a successful start.
Distract the Distractor.
If it is impossible for you to shut down the distractions from outside then earplugs and some music to drown out the noise can be very helpful. Pick the music to suit your need. Sometimes lyrics can interfere with your thought processes, so it is advantageous to pick music without vocals or in a language you don’t speak when you are writing. However if you feel yourself hitting a moment of block, then lyrics can provide inspiration. Pick music that suits the theme of your story, there are thousands of ready made playlists on Spotify and websites like 8tracks. Or you can make your own specific to your story. Alternatively opt for white noise or other background noises.
Turn off your distractions.
While you might not be able to control certain instructions, there are things that you do have control of. When you sit down to write there are a few things you can do to minimise distractions. Turn off your phone (or if that’s too painful for you, put it on silent and leave it on the other side of your room – you don’t need it while you’re writing). Either turn off you internet (all laptops have a built in ‘flight mode’ feature that will make it inaccessible) or use an internet blocking program, software like Freedom and Cold Turkey can block you from the internet for a limited time period – and there’s no way to get around them besides waiting for the time to pass. If you still want to keep the internet for certain tasks these can be useful, these programs can specifically block certain websites rather than the entire internet.
You can also try programs like Dark Room (or WriteRoom for Mac), that darken the rest of your computer leaving you solely with a simple text based program. OmmWriter is very similar but as well as only providing a simple text editor, it also creates a ‘mood’ complete with a simple non-distracting background and subtle background noises that can be adjusted to your preferences.
Set a timer.
With everything going on this Christmas, there are Christmas films and books that you might want to devote your time to. Family comes first, and we’re all trying to plan the best presents for a book lover friends. So among all that, how do we find the time to write? Well you don’t have to find an hour to sit at a computer and write, even 15-20 minutes is more than enough. Set a timer on your phone or, if that’s turned off, on your computer (there is an app called ‘Timer’ available for free in Microsoft Store that will flag up in the corner of your screen when your time is up). Set it for 15 minutes and do a solitary writing sprint, where for that time period you think of nothing else. Just sit there and write. If you get 15 minutes of writing done every day, you’ll be surprised by how much that add up to. Whenever you get a spare moment, do a 15 minute (or even 10 minute) timed sprint. Between all that’s going on, who knows, you could get 1000 words written a day.
But don’t dedicate your entire holidays to writing, you may have the time off but this is a time for friends and family.
Enjoy your time with them, put 100% of your focus and concentration into enjoying the moment. If you spend the time stressing over your story, life might just pass you by. You need to take a break and it might be just as important to use the holidays as a break from your novel, just as much as it’s needed as a break from school or work. If you’ve finished your first draft (like those who took part in NaNoWriMo) taking a break over this period might be just what you need before moving on to redrafting. When the new year rolls round, that’s when it’s time to start on your new draft. While these life experiences can bring life into your own story, more importantly they are what makes life worth living, so spend the time with your family and Merry Christmas to you all.
–Elizabeth & Nadia