distractions / writing

Ten Steps to Cure Distraction and Gain Pages

Step one: Early Sunday morning. Wake up exactly when alarm cries out; do not, repeat DO NOT go back to bed. Head straight to the shower, do not pass go, do not check email, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, anything. So far as you know, the internet does not exist.

Step two: While showering, soothe anxious thoughts by berating self for even having them. A worry comes, shoot it down. Obsessions, buried. Wonderings, flattened. Everything, down the drain. Step out of the shower. You are clean now.

Step three:
Find a way to listen to music without being connected to the internet, which means you will have to let go of your love for Pandora and blip.fm. Create a new playlist for your novel in iTunes with songs called “Break My Body” and “Hanging High” and “Hello to the Floor” and “I’ll Walk You Out” and “Good Night Bad Morning” and “Youth Decay” and “Werewolf” and “Runaway” and “Skeletons” and “Trouble.” Set it on shuffle so it can loop forever.

Step four: Comb hair, tie it back. Skip makeup. Grab closest items of clothing: shirt left over from high school, jeans with belt already looped through, wrinkled shirt overtop it all because who cares anyway. Find two matching shoes.

Step five: Pack laptop without going online first to check email, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, anything. The internet still does not exist. If someone wants to reach you today, they can call. Oh, wait, you barely ever answer your phone. OK, if someone wants to reach you today, guess what?, they can’t reach you.

Step six:
Step out into the street. You’ve made it this far.

Step seven: Clear your mind as you walk toward writing spot. Let the people you pass wash over you. The two skeezy guys leaning on the mailbox. The man peeing on the park bench. The boy reading the book. The three punks sleeping on the grass, so peaceful. The three guitarists holding three silent guitars. The girl with the dog. The old woman practicing tai chi. And you, among them, invisible, walking by.

Step eight:
Iced mocha to go. The large.

Step nine:
Arrive at writing spot, first person of the morning. Find a desk in a dark corner. Clear mind of everything that hurts. The doubts, push them away. Wake laptop up from sleep, but don’t turn wifi on. Pretend there is no internet here. Pretend you are in the mountains of New Hampshire if you want to. Pretend anything. Just don’t you dare turn Airport on.

Step ten: When struggles come—the anxiety, the pressure, the knowledge of Monday approaching, of family trip next weekend, of things to do, of more things to do, of You Can’t Do This, What Made You Think You Could Ever Do This?—drop to the floor beneath your desk. Lie out on your back on the carpet and picture it: your scene. Get it square in your mind. Hold it steady, for as long as it takes. Then open your eyes. Sit up. Get back on the chair. Pop in earbuds. Hit play in iTunes. Then—hands out, fingers reaching—touch the keys. And wait for it…

Any moment now, let’s hope, you should start writing.

11 thoughts on “Ten Steps to Cure Distraction and Gain Pages

  1. Step Nine is hard. Hard. Everywhere you go these days, there’s wireless this or that. I’m starting to believe the only way to get away from it is to hike a few miles into the mountains where there’s no coverage. Ha!

    p.s. My blog url has changed – just letting you know. Sorry for the inconvenience

  2. [i might copy this and place it on a
    text file on my desktop, just so I
    can constantly remind myself, I
    have found that pubs are a pretty
    good place to get writing done,
    because of the atmosphere, I
    guess it helps me along]

  3. Well… I don’t know if it’s working per se…

    But I’m trying.

    Then again, I am clearly online right this minute while I should be writing, so what does that say?

  4. I used to love writing in Starbucks because I fooled myself into thinking you had to pay hourly to get internet there…and so I was safe from many of my distractions. But then I found out that you DON’T have to pay for it–not if you have a registered Starbucks card. And so now I have to lie to myself and hide from the internet. Anyway, I LOVE these steps! I’m at work on a new novel (I’m on page three…..weeks and weeks of writing the same three pages over again.) But tomorrow is my day to work on it more, and I’m going to follow these steps exactly. Thank you for them!

  5. I was just thinking I need steps, so I’m glad I checked in today. I was also thinking that I’ve got this DayTimer thing (SO old-fashioned, but I like it!) with all these dated pages on them…So, why don’t I use them? Why don’t I write down goals for each week, because I know that when I set written goals (and with goals come the steps), I’m more productive. So, why aren’t I doing this? Why why why?

    Can I blame summer?

  6. wonderful. hilarious. poignant. true.
    Keep at it, we’re cheering for you! (and as for our own writing? um, well, it’s like this…I gotta go to my dayjob…? (that doesn’t fly, does it? ) OK, i”ll write later. With more coffee, when the household is asleep.

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