Monday, February 22, 2010


I’m a list person. I write everything I need to get done for the day down and try to make sure I have enough time to do what I have scheduled (Although, I NEVER do!). And it never fails that things come along to distract me. Some I LET distract me, some I have no choice over.

Here are my Top 5 Distractions:

1. Immediate family. Is there a reason they have to eat every day? Couldn’t we stretch that out a little? Do kids really need baths? A little dirt never hurt anyone, right?

2. Illness, mine or someone else’s. It seems like, since December, we’ve gotten quite a few bugs around the house, no matter how many vitamins I keep pushing on everyone or how isolated I keep the infected. There’s nothing like that call during your mid-morning writing sprint to inform you that your child has thrown up at school. Then there are my various foot and neck problems (I absolutely can’t function with a headache. Aleve is my new best friend!).

3. The Internet. Yes, this is a self-control problem. I’m addicted to my email and have even been known to click the Send/Receive button as soon as it tells me I have no new mail. Just in case. Sigh. Then there is Facebook. I resisted for a long time before I finally created a Facebook page. Now, the little status updates call to me on a regular basis. Double sigh. And my blog, and other people’s blogs, and my horoscope… You get the picture.

4. Day Job. I haven’t figured out how to get out of this one yet. I run a small resume writing business that basically provides enough income to support my writing habit. At least once a week I get a call that says, "There's this job I want to apply for, and the closing date is in 48 hours." Um, a little forward thinking would be nice, people! There are many times I’d love to just drop it so I can focus solely on my fiction writing, but since fiction isn’t paying me anything, yet…

5. Housework. This isn’t so much a distraction as a necessity. With a hubby (who doesn’t do dishes) and 2 kids, the house gets dirty, quickly. While I’d like to say that I’m June Cleaver, it would be a lie. I pretty much leave the house until I can’t stand it any more (for instance, we’re sticking to the kitchen floor, much to my mil’s dismay) then I clean thoroughly. Unfortunately, some things can’t be put off as long, like needing clean underwear. If I could just remember to get the clothes out of the dryer when they are done… My ultimate publishing fantasy is to make enough money to hire someone to clean for me once a week. That's all I ask, I swear! (Okay, I'm lying, but still...)

I’m slowly learning to cope, though I’ll never be the gal who can “Go With The Flow” and embrace interruptions like they are life’s way of telling me to slow down and all that jazz. Instead, my body and psyche view most interruptions as stress-building exercises (except in the case of the internet, where it is a stress-relieving exercise). But a few chosen techniques are making me better in this area. I just have to stop long enough to remember to employ them. :) Deep breathing (heck, breathing at all), prioritizing, exercising daily, accountability partners, and instructing my kids on how to take over more responsibilities are going a long way.

One such technique I’ve instituted is a weekly Write-Out. Many people think that because I get to stay at home all day, I have more than enough time on my hands to write, along with anything else they want me to accomplish. In addition to outside influences, problems also come from me allowing my focus to be pulled in other directions. Lately, in order to get writing done, I’ve found myself leaving the house 1 day a week. I’ll go camp out in a restaurant or bookstore, plug in the hubby’s laptop or drag out my alpha smart, and get to work. Except for my cell phone (which I try to only answer if it is the kids’ school calling), there are no distractions. I don’t know how to get on the internet on the laptop, so the computer becomes a work only zone. Clients can’t reach me because they need something Right Now! No email. No Facebook. And someone else will serve me lunch. These “Write Out” days have helped my output and focus tremendously, and I often come home ready to work even more. I justify this by reminding myself that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a café, so there’s nothing wrong with running away from home, right?

Have you found any techniques that help keep you focused and on task? I’d love to find some more that I can utilize!


P.S. I’m blogging today over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood on Author Burnout. I’d love to see you there!

Coming Soon!
Tomorrow drop by to meet adult contemporary romance and young adult romance author Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills.


Barbara Vey said...

I've tried writing lists, but then I never look at them again. I seem to go through life by the seat of my pants. I'm too old to change now.

Maven Linda said...

It's an on-going process. Believe it or not, I'm still learning how to say "no." That's really tough, because I've always been the fix-it person everyone comes to when they have a problem. But I do assign stuff to other people, now. Chores, problems, tasks -- they'd have to do them if I wasn't here, so they might as well do them while I AM here. Makes sense, right?

And, yes, having someone come in once a week to clean the house is very liberating. That's a worthwhile goal!

Playground Monitor said...

Life has pretty much been one big distraction after another lately. I decide to take a day to go write at Starbucks and that ends up being the day we get assigned for court. Go to court expecting things to get settled, and we get another continuance.

I CAN say no, and have said it a lot lately. I joined a new church and am asked weekly if I wouldn't like to join this committee or that women's group. "No, thank you. Right now all I want to do is just come on Sunday morning and enjoy the sermon and the music."

I have to get my teeth cleaned this morning. Wish I could say no to that. :-/

Instigator said...

Even having someone come in every other week is amazing! I'd get home from work, realize that I could either a) spend time with my family b) work on my writing c) clean or d) destress in various ways. I'll tell you that option c was always last on the list!! I love the Thursdays when I come home to a clean house.

It's hard not to let things distract you...especially when the writing isn't coming easily. It's an ongoing process - for everyone I think. I know it is for me. There are days that I fail miserably. But there are days when I make myself work through the various distractions and I surprise myself.


Problem Child said...

Running away from home is a very tempting option for me at the moment. Do you think anyone would notice?

Teena Rose, said...

I'm with #4 ... more than a 48-hour notice is a necessity.

Unfortunately, I'm also a list person. The problem with me however is that I have continued lists on post-its, backs of client files, note pads, and well, just about any scrap of paper I can find an open space for a new list.

My lists go just beyond to-dos, however. Lists could encompass client projects that are due, ideas for generating new sales, marketing strategies, errands to fulfill after I run to the bank at lunch ... insane, right?

I do find lists to be helpful yet stressful, too, especially when I'm bogged down with writing projects and my lists are continuously staring at me like a persistent child tugging on my shirt.

Playground Monitor certainly hit it on the head for me when stating, "Life has pretty much been one big distraction after another lately." That rings true for me too.

Angel said...

Barbara, Instigator says the same thing. I, on the other hand, MUST have my lists. They are my form of Brain Drain. I get all that information out and written down somewhere, so I can utilize the space for something more important. :)


Angel said...

"they'd have to do them if I wasn't here, so they might as well do them while I AM here. Makes sense, right?"

Maven Linda -- I desperately need to remember this for future reference. I find myself taking on more (and seriously resenting it) rather than offloading work. Ugh!!!


Angel said...

Teena Rose, I try to keep all my lists on my calendar or in 1 notebook. Otherwise, I spend all my time searching for them, which defeats the purpose. :)

I recently got some great advice about lists. It said, actually add 1 more list to your lists: An Accomplishment List. At the end of the day, or as you go through your day, write down everything you accomplish, both big and small. By day's end, you will see how very much you have accomplished, not just all the big things you've marked off. Now if I could just remember to do it...


Kathy said...

Accomplishment lists are ideal. I love to cross things off my lists. What a great feeling it is to see that something has been done. That's one of the reasons I used to love to can jam and such. Whenever I opened my pantry, there were all my products lined up in a row. I could say, "I did that!" It was a great feeling.

My problem is: nowadays I forget where I've put my lists. ~sigh~

Smarty Pants said...

Forget the Times List... I'll know I've *made it* when I can afford to have someone clean my house on writing money alone. Oh yes, that is a lofty goal to have.

Anonymous said...

I make a list when necessary. IE, Friday afternoon, I left work at noon. My list was made:
car tag
Martys' - bakers rack
Home Depot
Office Max.
Got to all but BBB & Office Max. I felt a great accomplishment once I realized all that was off my list.

PM's Mother said...

I, too, am/was a list maker. I found that if an item stayed on the list long enough it really wasn't necessary to accomplish it, s-o-o-o off the list with it!

When I was 80 years old I rewarded myself with a house cleaner every other week. It is heavenly!

Stephanie said...

I had a big laugh when I read your comment about the laundry. I had just said yesterday to Writing Partner, J, that I had clean underwear and food to eat so everything else was going to have to wait while I worked on queries.

Glad to know I am not the only one who has that as a standard. :-)