Every now and then it’s a good idea to pause your writing and take a moment to think about your process. Creativity is a difficult skill to maintain and one or two bad habits will make everything much more difficult. Bad habits distract you and take you away from your writing. They also disrupt your routine. I try to take a moment and review my process regularly, and I’m always surprised at how many bad writing habits have snuck back in after I’ve banished them.
I’m sure you’ll recognise the 3 bad habits I’ve outlined below. I’m sure that some people will be able to justify them, but I’m telling you know – these are bad ideas! Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve also come up with some ways to smash through them (other than my distraction destroyer tool).
Mobile phone within reach
Whether you are watching TV, baking a cake or writing your next novel, having a mobile phone in an accessible place will ruin your productivity. You know this, deep down, don’t you? It’s far too easy to, when you’re struggling over a sentence, to reach over and pick up your mobile. Or when Scrivener just doesn’t load quickly enough. Most of the time you won’t have anything to do when you do. But it’s a comfort blanket. It’s something to help you escape from the difficultly in front of you.
When you play on your phone, whether it’s looking at social media, checking emails or looking at Amazon’s latest deals, you will also interrupt the flow of creativity your trying to immerse yourself in. This makes it more difficult to get going again. This bad writing habit is a killer – it slows everything down.
As well as being most common, it’s also one that’s easy to remedy. Simply put the phone in the next room. If you want to be contactable then turn the volume up. By putting the phone out of reach, you can easily remove one of the biggest distractions in one simple mood.
Random social media
I don’t disagree that being on social media is extremely important for new and breakthrough writers. I use it (twitter is my favourite = @_philhurst) and almost every other writer I know has a favourite place to network and share ideas.
Where social media becomes a burden is when you flick to it ‘just for a minute’ for no good reason. The best quote I’ve heard about this is ‘checking Facebook is like opening the fridge when you’re not hungry’. It’s a great analogy. There’s very rarely anything on Facebook (or substitute your social media of choice) that requires an instant response. And if there was, you’d be responding, rather than trying to write.
Social media deserves a post of its very own – I’m planning one in for next week – do check back for that.
The easiest way to do this is to turn off the internet when you are writing. If you’re using a tool like write or die, this might not be an option. So, it’s time to hold yourself accountable. Have a piece of paper next to you when you’re writing, and record every time that you check social media. I promise, just having that piece of paper staring at you will make changing to social media a conscious decision, and reduce the amount you do it.
Some writers are naturally tidy people. Some are anything but. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. But I think that having loads of distractions in front of you is a sure fire way to stop you writing. In fact, as I wrote the last sentence, I felt the need to rearrange the position of my computer mouse. Why? What possible use did that have?
The more there is on the desk, the more your mind will be drawn to it. The colourful pens, then discarded chocolate wrapper. It’s all taking up brain space as you try and figure out what to do with it. And that’s brain space that could be used on the project in front of you.
There’s two ways to do this. You either take the time to tidy everything up, removing the distraction and the bad habit. That will stop you looking away from the screen or notebook, and create a much cleaner, calmer environment. The other way to fix it is to surround your mess with reminders of the story that you’re working on. So link the open pencil case with the story you’re writing. Is the pencil case in the story somewhere? Or is there some kind of metephor to be found within it? I think the second option isn’t the most productive solution to this bad habit – but it might help you be more creative!
Would the three bad writing habits above have made your list? Do you have any others that I should have addressed? Let me know in the comments or send me a message.