Writing is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It’s lonely and you have to focus and think at the same time. Our brain, however, is constantly looking for new stimuli. It loves nothing more than entertaining random thoughts and shifting attention to attractive signals. That’s how you get distracted and side-tracked and this is what makes writing so hard.
Most professional writers have a routine and a matching workspace to get into the flow of writing. At MakeUseOf, you will find everything you need for a calm and peaceful PC setup that will help you become a productive writer. To save you time, I have compiled this ultimate resource guide to finding digital writer’s zen. Follow the 5 steps below, add a bit of patience, a grain of brilliance, a healthy dose of persistance, and writing will be just as hard, but it might flow much more easily.
1. Turn Off Noise & Notifications
Distraction is your worst enemy. A sure way to get distracted are random things popping up on your computer screen and capturing your attention. They need to be turned off. This either means shutting down the respective application or changing its settings so it won’t interrupt your work. Unless you need music to focus, turn off the sound altogether. Also don’t forget to turn off or mute any other devices in the same room with you: the TV, your phone, the tablet etc.
Not sure what notifications I’m talking about? See 5 Distracting [Windows] Desktop Notifications & How To Turn Them Off for details.
2. Block Online & Offline Distractions
Are you dying to check your email? Do you feel the pull of Facebook? Didn’t you need to tweet something? Giving in to these temptations can be a death sentence for your productivity. If you are an easy victim of the internet, block the internet or at least the most distracting websites for a period of time during which you want to write.
My personal favorite right is Blockr, a Chrome add-on that blocks internet access until you meet your self proclaimed writing goals. Similar tools that we have profiled on our Directory are StayFocusd, Cold Turkey, FocalFilter, and KeepMeOut. Aaron has looked at StayFocusd in more detail.
Offline distractions typically are clutter in your surrounding, including your physical and your virtual desktop. It only takes 7 Simple Steps To An Awesome Minimalist Windows Desktop or 5 Great Tips and Tools For a Clean and Minimalist Mac Desktop. But rather than wasting time with cleaning up your desktop, you should simply…
3. Use a Simple Writing Tool
While you are writing, there is no need to format the text. Picking fonts and colors and header formats is just a way to procrastinate, kill time, and yet feel busy. Stop yourself and choose an application that won’t let you do stuff like that.
My personal favorite is OmmWriter, which is available for Mac and Windows. If this particular software is not your cup of tea, don’t despair, there are dozens more. Below is a selection recommended by MakeUseOf authors. Please make it a point to pick one quickly and stick with it.
- Saikat recommends to Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors.
- Tina explains how to Meet Your Writing Deadlines In A Distraction-Free Writing Environment With OmmWriter.
- Jackson shows you how to Get Over Writer’s Block With OmmWriter, A Zen Distraction-Free Writing App on the Mac.
- Justin likes Quabel – An Online, Distraction-Free Writing App.
- Matt prefers to Reduce Distractions and Achieve Writing Goals with FocusWriter.
The three points above are also reflected in my article 3 Ways To Stop Multitasking & Stay Focused To Be More Efficient & Productive.
4. Take Care of Your Body
Writing requires your mind and, as the Roman poet Juvenal recognized, a sound mind resides within a healthy body. In other words, sleep well, eat well, drink lots of water, and breathe. Drink water to stay juicy and get a quick run to the toilet every hour. Take breaks to stretch, open the window and breathe deeply, do a quick exercise and get the blood flowing. This will pump fresh oxygen into your brain. When you feel mentally exhausted and if fresh air just makes you tired, take a short nap to refresh your brain.
When you have to work long hours at the computer, your eyes will tire. Technology can help reduce eye strain, so you can be productive for longer stretches of time. Have a look at the following tools:
- 4 Ways To Prevent Computer-Related Eye Strain Without Losing Productivity
- Let EyeLeo Prevent Eye Strain While Using Your PC
- f.lux Now Comes With A Simple GUI [Linux]
5. Cures for Writer’s Block
So your computer is so perfectly calm and peaceful that your mind is completely blank. Congratulations, you have successfully been meditating! Sadly, this is really bad when you need to get thoughts down on paper. The condition is also known as writer’s block.
For a chance to find inspiration, you actually have to stimulate your brain and let your thoughts flow freely. If a brief (!) break, a short (!) nap or a glass of water don’t help and if you are regularly suffering from writer’s block, develop a routine to deal with it.
One proven method to overcome writer’s block are freewriting exercises. You simply write down anything that comes to your mind for a set amount of time. For support, try one of these 5 Websites for Freewriting Exercises. A similar technique are Writing Prompts. The difference is that you are asked to reflect on a question in writing. Try one of these 10 Websites for Writing Prompts exercises.
As mentioned above, writing is tough because it’s lonely. What can help is to compare yourself with others and enter in a fun competition. This is where 750 Words comes in. A distraction free online writing space on the one hand, it encourages you to set a goal and write at least 750 words a day, complete challenges, compare yourself with other writers using the service, and earn recognition. See How To Inspire Yourself To Write At Least 750 Words Per Day.
I can only repeat what I said in the beginning: writing is hard work. To be an inspired and productive writer takes not only talent, but most of all a lot of discipline and patience. While routine can get you very far as a writer, don’t expect writing to become easy at any point. And once you find yourself procrastinating and not being productive again, which you will, don’t beat yourself up. Every writer goes through these valleys. Some even write articles about it, for example Joshua, who revealed How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps.
What are your worst distractions and how do you get into the writing zone?
Image credits: Mouse Ying and Yang via Shutterstock, Time to Focus via Shutterstock, Distracted Boys via Shutterstock, Girl with Pencil via Shutterstock, Yoga Hand via Shutterstock, Woman Throwing Waste Paper via Shutterstock