Head off into the depths of the internet for writing advice and chances are you’ll come back with a whole lot of contradicting instructions and a new list of neologisms that make no sense when you really think about them. Everything from what music to listen to, to the proper use of commas and other punctuation, to the polarizing love/hate relationship the internet seems to have with adverbs can be found spattered across blogs by the thousands. You’ve really got to be careful as a lot of that advice out there might be well-intentioned, but it might also not fit within style of your project or your voice. There is one bit of advice I’ve found out there, however, that seems to ring true regardless of who’s saying it:
Simple stuff, really. But good lord is it tough to achieve. Distractions come in all shapes and sizes, from children and pets to internet addictions and clickbait movies and even the bloody laundry! Most people recommend unplugging from the internet and finding a place where you won’t be tempted to check emails or twitter messages. I don’t think unplugging is the best means of staying away from distractions (as I often have to cruise online for bits and pieces of research material), but it’s not a terrible one either. Still, some go further – choosing to dig up their old MS-DOS computer and pounding their manuscript out on that! There are hundreds of different ways people recommend you situate yourself to avoid any outside stimulation, but the fact of the matter is it largely comes down to your own discipline. How you convince yourself to focus needs to come from you and not from the unplugged ethernet cord on the ground beside you. Finding that focus, that headspace you need to occupy within your story, takes quite a bit of effort. There are, however, tools out there to help draw you into the zone and sneakily convince you to focus on the work in front of you. One of the best tools for this (and my personal favorite) is:
OmmWriter is a word processing program that, among other things, gets rid of the clutter of menus that plague so many writing programs out there. It also comes loaded with a variety of backgrounds over which you type, allowing you to reside within a setting that is designed to help you escape from whatever busy place you might find yourself in and set the mood of your writing right alongside the words themselves.
Perhaps my favorite thing about OmmWriter, however, is its inclusion of sound. As some of you know, I’m a huge proponent of listening to music while writing (no lyrics, though!). OmmWriter includes a variety of loopable soundscapes that work quite effectively to transport you from the bustling coffee shop you find yourself in to a whispering forest or an ethereal cloud, cutting out the distractions of people chatting around you and silverware being dropped. Having the music included in the program also cuts out the need to have an internet browser or Spotify open, thus lessening the chances of you losing focus and wandering around the music stations all day. Also, in addition to the music, OmmWriter also has a variety of keystroke sounds that you can activate, making every “if, and, or but” you type sound like it was pecked onto the page by an old typewriter or a digital thingamajig. It’s great for really losing yourself in the landscape of your writing and helps immensely when it comes to finding that focus so many of us lack.
While the program isn’t free, it also doesn’t exactly have a set price. The developers give you the option to pay as much or as little (within reason) as you want. They do have a minimum of $5.11, which, for a writing program as beautiful and useful as this, is a criminal steal, but I’d advocate giving them a bit more as they are just a team of five or so fellow writers. It’s also available for Mac, PC, and (interestingly) the iPad. So try it out and let me know what you think of its ingeniously simple design in the comments below.
I think distractions get a bad press. Distractions can be quite good, for instance when a little bit of distance is needed between me and what I’ve just written. I can read a few emails, check something online. To me, what is important when writing is routine. As for many years I have worked from home, this isn’t a problem. But it enables me to do some writing more or less (as I’m never against the odd day off for something of interest) every day whether it’s working on my next novel, writing or revising a short story, writing a piece for my blog, or updating websites. Routine helps me cope with distractions without them causing problems.
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Routine is absolutely important! And if some distractions are part of that routine, then more power to you. But for some people (myself especially), distractions aren’t something we indulge in when we need a quick break from the writing – rather, they’re something that pulls you out of the writing before you’re ready, something that pokes you as you write and makes the words cease to flow as your attention is stretched between two things.