Tips for distraction free writing

Often for me it isn’t the time it takes to write that’s the problem, it’s how I can somehow waste that time once I sit down.  I think there may be some concentration vampire that lives under my desk, but I have yet to find him so must ponder an alternate root cause.

M. Jaynes blogged about one key issue here recently, Creating a Writing Space.  That’s an elemental item for me, because while I sometimes enjoy banging out ideas in a coffee shop or other public area, the distraction factor is through the roof.

Lifehack also has an article with some great additional tips to help remove all the other excuses and help you get down to writing when you sit down.  My favorite items are:

Make your software leave you alone – Use tools to hide all the other pop ups and software running on your system.  The browser is a tricky one for me because I use it for valid research, but then suddenly find myself surfing Wikipedia for an hour on random, tangential (but interesting) garbage.

Use pen and paper – It’s so retro it’s cool.  On top of that, it really forces me to connect with my ideas and work slower. I struggle writing full paragraphs, but I can work out plot points, ideas, and phrases.  I also like to people-watch when I do this, and make notes for characters.  There is a Starbuck’s in San Francisco that I particularly love as I think only the most bizarre and fascinating people seem to stream in there (well, except for me of course)

Music – Maybe a given, but I think the choice is key.  I like Classical, or Techno music.  No words, just energy. It’s a mental white-noise for me, and helps me tune out all the other things to help me focus.  If I give in and switch Pandora to my workout station to try and get “pumped” I invariably want to go hit the gym or something.  Background noise only.

If I missed any favorite tricks you like to use, let me know.  I can always use more… those vampires are relentless.

About Jeff Moriarty

A dabbler in many arts, from Ignite Phoenix to Improv, and from Information Security to Screenwriting. Jeff loves creating new things, and tries his hand at many forms of writing from screenplays to prose. He pontificates on his personal blog, and helps authors get their works online.


  1. In addition to what you have already said, I have found that I have to do “the walk away” when I write. I mean literally stand up and walk away, take a break from the piece and come back to it. I usually end up taking a walk or cleaning, oddly enough that helps me regain focus.

  2. @D. Patrick – Another great point. I do that in both short and long terms bursts. In a given writing session I sometimes need to get up and walk away and do something totally unrelated to what I’m working on – like cleaning.

    On a longer scale, I’ve become a fan of putting a work in a drawer or out of sight for a month or so when I reach a major stage (first draft done, etc). Then when I come back to look at it my eyes are a lot fresher and things I was stuck on before don’t seem as bad.

  3. Jeff,

    Absolutely, I have found that my mind gets bogged down during the writing process, especially long projects. The old “put it in a drawer until my mind is unfrozen” trick seems to make for a better piece every time.

  4. Wolf In The Fold says

    Headphones are a classic way to shut out the world. They also act as a ‘do not disturb’ sign. I also make distraction patrol part of a pre-writing ritual-dog’s been let out, phone is turned down, beverages are made (coffee) or in easy reach (Coke Zero).

    I read that John Carpenter (They Live, Big Trouble in Little China) has a beutiful house in Malibu. He writes in a closet in the basement with the desk facing the wall. One lamp and an old electric typewriter. If he’s up in the shiny real world he’s too distracted to write imaginary worlds.