It won't surprise you to learn that sometimes I get distracted when I’m supposed to be writing. This happens not just when I’m blogging but was a regular occurrence throughout my master’s degree, my undergraduate degree, even during my creative writing classes in primary school when I was 10 (which, by the way, I LOVED). For me, distraction is just a part of the creative process - or so I tell my myself. Then there are the times that I'm ready, laptop open, cup of coffee at hand, but can't for the life of me manage to get a single word out of my head and onto the screen.
To get around these motivation issues, I’ve discovered new ways to start writing. Here are some of my tried and tested methods I use to concentrate and get started.
1. iA Writer
iA Writer is my absolute go-to program for any type of writing I do these days. This is a distraction-free program that I downloaded from the App Store for my Macbook. (I hear FocusWriter is another great app that can be used on Windows).
iA Writer takes over your whole screen and makes me focus on the content of what I’m saying, NOT on the fonts, the layout, or any other distracting features. In a simple courier-style font, on a basic background, iA Writer forces you to concentrate and just get down to writing. I love design and tend to get so caught up in the look of a blog, that I often spend hours hyperfocusing on choosing good fonts, graphics, and layout. What I’ve found with iA Writer is that formatting can (and should) be left until later.
A cool feature with iA Writer is the “focus mode” - hey, it’s like they knew I’d be using it. Focus mode, blurs the rest of your content, highlighting the very sentence you’re working on. This means, I stay glued to what I’m trying to say and I don’t feel the need to try to rewrite previous sentences at the same time. This also helps to reduce the number of sentences that just end midway through a
See what I did there?
(Darn, I’m such a perfectionist, I want to go and correct that, but I’ll try to resist for humour’s sake. You’re welcome, reader. Also, I'm sorry.)
Lastly, iA Writer includes a number of subtle features that I love. For instance, they have included a word count, character count, and reading time at the bottom of the screen which is great, especially for blogging or essay-writing where word counts and reading times can be important.
Brain.fm is amazing. It’s basically concentration juice for your ADHD brain. You tell brain.fm what you need to do: Focus, Relax, or Sleep, and it begins to play awesome sounds and music that put your brain into concentration mode. I don’t understand all the science behind it (but it is based on science) but the main thing is that it WORKS.
If you haven’t tried it, go use it right now. You get 7 free sessions before you pay for it, which I wouldn’t normally do, but they got me - possibly with the subliminal messaging they play in the music. Just kidding… I think. (Also, it's actually pretty cheap).
I use the relaxed or intense focus options the most when I'm writing (I’m listening to the relaxed focus as I write this) and I find that as soon as I press play, my brain switches into super focus mode. It genuinely feels like I’ve taken a double-dose of my ADHD meds at times.
Combine this with a good writing app that makes you focus on the content of your writing and you'll be writing novels in no time. You know, if that's what you want to do.
If grammar is your nemesis, I’d recommend Hemingway Editor. If you’re a writer/language geek like me, I’d still recommend Hemingway Editor.
Hemingway Editor is available both online for free and you can pay to download a desktop version. It has a lot in common with iA Writer but the difference with Hemingway is that it also tells you how good your writing is.
Everything you write is graded using a “readability scale” which points out your use of adverbs, difficult words, and passive voice. For instance, this sentence is “Grade 9” which means that the average American ninth grader can understand it, apparently.
4. Work somewhere new
One of the best ways for me to get something written is to work from somewhere different. I love my office at home but it tends to become uninspiring after a while. Besides there are too many distractions so it's easy to get sidetracked by any interruptions, no matter how small they seem.
My favourite places to work in recent months have been coffee shops. Northern Ireland has had a recent surge of coffee shops that also cater to the coworking crowd - the bunch of office-less folk like me who commute like nomads from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of electrical sockets and good coffee. These places are the BEST. I find a good table, open iA Writer, put in my awesome headphones and listen to brain.fm. Sorted.
For some reason, I tend not to get that distracted in public. Perhaps it's because I know others can see how many times I go on Facebook...
Another great place to work is the Ikea restaurant. Get an Ikea Family Card to get unlimited tea and coffee on weekdays, grab a humongous Ikea table, and get to work!
5. Take a Class
Finally, if you're really serious about writing and you're struggling to keep at it, perhaps it's time to take a class. Whether it's a journalism class, poetry, screenwriting or a novel-writing class, having deadlines and an instructor can help give you the motivation you need to finally get started on your masterpiece.
You most often find evening writing classes at universities or colleges and there are also tons of online writing courses you can try. If you can't afford to pay for a class right now, another way to get some (okay a LOT) of writing done is to sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which takes place every November. I did this in 2010 and it was so much fun but also entirely crazy. 50,000 words in a month. Sure, why not?
If you don't want to wait until November, here's the NaNoWriMo Writer's Toolkit to get your started!
How do you stop thinking about writing and start actually writing? Share your tips in the comments below!