(Transcript) Easily distracted while writing? Here’s a solution

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Morgan MacDonald : Welcome. Today we are talking about being easily distracted while writing. If you write, you probably fall into the category of “easily distracted”. Because we ALL are [laughter].

 

I’m Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, editor, and author, and I run my blog and business out of http://www.paperravenbooks.com And just so you know, if you have to hop off the Scope really quickly, there is a SPECIAL page where I take notes for you, and I post the replays and transcripts, so you can always stay caught up. Let me flip you around so you can see that address really quickly.

 

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http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope … [irrelevant comment]  

 

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So, let’s dive in. Distractions. If you are anything like me [laughter], every time you sit down to write thoughts just stream through your head almost [as if] you can’t even control them. Suddenly you’re thinking, “Ah, my coffee is cold. I want fresh coffee.” The text message dings, and you wonder who it is. Then the little Periscope whistle goes off, and you’re like, “Oh, who’s broadcasting right now?” Then you’re like, “I, kind of, need to use the restroom.” The you’re like, “It’s cold in here. Let me turn down the thermostat.” Like, all of these thoughts about things that suddenly feel very urgent, and want to pull you away from your writing.

 

This is TOTALLY NORMAL [laughter]. I think EVERY writer experiences this, and you shouldn’t take it as a sign that you’re not “good” at writing. It just is a part of our human condition that we are easily distracted. So what I want to, kind of, outline for you today are some really good tried-and-true ways – and maybe a few ways you haven’t tried BEFORE – to help curb that distraction.

 

So people talk a lot about how to get MOTIVATED to write. But MY concern for you today [deals with the issue of] once you ARE motivated to write, and you do actually sit down, how do you stay in that space? How do you PROTECT that “bubble” of motivation.  Because motivation is SO precious. I mean, as writers when we have that … [irrelevant comment] … Thanks for the hearts. [They] let me know that you’re still there… Oh, by the way, if you‘re new, tap the screen for hearts if something resonates with you, that way I know that it is valuable for you, and I can [then] craft content around you and your needs. And if you like to talk about writing, hit the little “Peri Buddy” down there and change that plus to a check, and that means that you’re following me, because I Scope about writing every day…

 

So, sorry, that was a little detour, but let’s get back into it. So people talk about how important it is to get motivated to write. But my challenge for YOU is : once you GET that motivation, and HAVE that energetic urge, like, “Yes! I’m READY to write. I know what I want to write about, and I’m so excited” Then you sit down. How do you PROTECT that energy, so that it doesn’t just fly out the window with the dozen thoughts that are bound to come into your head while you are writing.

 

So there are a couple of things you can do to protect that. One [is to] schedule writing time into your calendar. This is just actually a process of training your brain to anticipate being motivated. It’s really strange – and feels, kind of, FORCED at first – but if you block out 30 or 45 minutes, or really EVEN [just] 25 minutes – that would be my bare minimum. Block out 25 minutes where you can do some writing, and your brain will start to anticipate that time of day, and it’s like the motivation will slowly start to [just] APPEAR at that scheduled time. It’s very bizarre, [and] has something to do with the human brain that I’m not qualified to talk about. But it works, even for people who are very scattered and not very disciplined.

 

But if you can teach your brain to say, “I write in the mornings”, or “I write in the afternoons”, or “I write in the evenings”. It’s almost like it stores up those subconscious ideas and releases them at that time. So having that scheduled time is really good, [and] that scheduled time also makes it possible for you to do these other tips I’m about to share.

 

Bluesparkcol (https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) :   When I’m writing, an ant crawling on the ground is highly entertaining.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hey Courtney. When I’m writing an ant crawling on the ground is highly entertaining. Isn’t that true [laughter]?

 

Bluesparkcol (https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) :   Thanks for this.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … You’re welcome… I know, just before this Scope I was battling a mosquito, which in Houston we battle mosquitoes a lot. But I was like, “Ah, I’m trying to get the mosquito.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh! This is EXACTLY what I am Scoping about [laughter] ; not getting distracted by stupid stuff like a mosquito, or ants.”

 

Okay. So having that scheduled time makes it possible to do these OTHER things, [one of] which is : ten minutes before, start getting prepped. So let’s say you’re like, “Okay. I’m going to start writing from 10:30am to 11:00am, because it’s this weird, middle-morning time where I have a dead zone. So I’m going to start writing around 10:30am.” [Then at] 10:20 am start getting everything prepped. Get your water, get your coffee, get your snack, use the bathroom, put your phone on “do not disturb”. Get your physical space set, so that when 10:30am hits you are ready. You want to be prepared.

 

If you have kids – I don’t know if you can hear MINE in the background, [but] they’re with the nanny right now, who is amazing – make sure that they’re going to be fully occupied. So whether that might mean having a groundwork conversation with your spouse, or with your baby-sitter, or with your sister, or whomever is watching the kids. But just say, “Hey, I’m about to start writing. Can you just make sure the kids don’t bust in and ask me a million questions.” That may not be a concern for anyone, [but maybe you have a] dog. Dogs can be really needy. Just make sure that you DEPENDENTS [laughter] are, kind of, occupied by someone else for the time being. [Television] HALFWAY counts, but not really. Get a PERSON to watch them, and help them with their needs. So make sure that this time is without interruption.

 

Then quiet your space. Literally make sure that it is peaceful, and quiet, and the ambient noise is pleasing to you. So how I do this [is] I put my phone on “do not disturb”, I close my web browser, and [also] turn on my house [air conditioner] fan. Because my office is right next to our AC unit, and when it’s on [there’s] so much loud, white noise that I can’t even hear the kids. So that’s a little trick that I’ve learned. So find ways to make the sound of the space really conducive to your thoughts, because our ears are so good at picking up random noises and being distracted. So let’s say I hear [one of my kids] yelling in the background, even if I don’t leave the room to go see what’s going on, just by HEARING it, and letting my attention go that way, I actually lose a little bit of momentum. So I want to try to MAINTAIN my motivation and momentum as much as possible.

 

Then my OTHER trick is to use a timer for 25 minutes. So if you’ve been on my scopes before you know this is true, and I want to ask you if you’re DOING it [laughter]. Has anyone who has been on my Scopes started using a timer? Point in question. Courtney? Anyone else in here, who’’s been in my Scopes before? Are you using a timer, yes or no? Because it will SERIOUSLY change your life. Even if you have ONE twenty-five minute chunk for writing, and you set ONE timer for 25 minutes, and you write from start time to end time, you’ll be so much more focused in that 25 minutes that’s it’s COMPLETELY worth it. You can get more done in a focused 25 minutes of writing than you can in 90 minutes of writing while [sporadically] checking email, and Facebook, and watching ants on the ground. So, really and truly, you may have heard this advice before, but if you’re not implementing it I want you to use a timer today, because it will change your life [laughter].

 

So those are my main points for you guys today, that is that it is good to be really intentional.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Hi Morgan!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hello Ron.. So even though we’re all really hoping that the motivation to write will show up, we need to be really intentional about creating protected space for that motivation. So when it DOES show up – and hopefully it shows up during our writing time that we schedule – that we use it wisely. Because that’s like one of our KEY RESOURCES as writers. [It’s] that,  sort of, like DIVINE inspiration. And [although] I don’t want to totally get into that right now, but during these moments where thoughts appear that really don’t feel like they’re from us. [They feel like they’re] from somewhere else. So we were GIVEN them, so what do we DO with those thoughts? Do we sit down and am suddenly distracted by, “Öh, my coffee is cold, and there’s a mosquito in the room.”? Yeah, usually we are. We’re human, and that’s okay, but in order to be good stewards of this inspiration and motivation, we need to be intentional about HONORING that motivation and creating space for it so that we can be committed to it.

 

So I hope that makes sense. Do you guys have any other questions or thoughts… Thanks for the hearts… about distractions, and keeping your motivation up. I would be happy to answer some questions, [as] I have a couple of more minutes. But if you are new to the Scope, I Scope every day about writing and motivation, and tools, and just tips, and editing, and things like that. I’m a writing coach and an editor, and I run my business and blog out of http://www.paperravenbooks.com . And I help you write your book, from initial idea to first draft to finished manuscript.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Do you write during a vacation?

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron, do you write during your vacation?… Good question. I decide BEFOREHAND. So I don’t just bring my stuff with me on vacation and say, “Eh, if I feel like writing I’ll write.” I decide beforehand if it’s an “unplugged vacation” or a “plugged-in vacation”, and [then] figure out how much I really want to write during that time.

 

So, for instance, during May – right before this summer – my husband and I took the kids to Belize for a couple of weeks, and I knew that I would be finishing up my book at that point. Like I had the date with my editor already set – because editors work with other editors. You can’t edit your own stuff. It’s like being a doctor [in that] you can’t operate on yourself. So I had my editor ready to operate on my manuscript, and that date was going to be right in the middle of our trip. So I just told my husband, “”This is going to be a quasi-working vacation vacation, if you’re okay…”

 

Pam Kesterson ( https://twitter.com/PamKesterson ) : Great diving there!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Great diving. Yes, Pam. Belize is GREAT for diving, but we were with three small children under the age of six, so we didn’t do any diving. But the jungle was super fun…

 

So I had like a game plan with my husband, and I was like, “If you don’t mind, these are the kinds of hours I’m going to need for the writing, and it will be on you to deal with the kids”. [But] he was okay with [that] because he works very long hours and doesn’t get to see the kids a lot anyway, so he was like, “That’s fine. We’ll go down to the beach and it will be good.” So we had that plan set ahead of time.

 

What I find [is that], if I DON’T set it ahead of time, I feel really GUILTY. I’m like, “Oh I have all of this free time. I’ll bring my laptop, [and] I’m sure I’ll get all of this writing done.” Then three days into the vacation I’ve done ZERO, and then I’m like, “Oh, all of this wasted free time!” Then the guilt sets in… Ron, I don’t know if you caught yesterday’s Scope, but [it] was all about guilt, and how feeling guilty about not writing does NOT serve us well. It does not HELP us to do more writing. In fact, when you feel GUILTY about not writing you STILL don’t want to do writing. You just feel guilty [laughter].So we, kind of, talked about how to reframe that…. But yeah, it’s just something I really set intentionally.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : That’s me.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … That’s you, Ron? Yeah. I know… Because it feels like wasted time, but I’m slowly learning how to reframe it. [So] it’s like SOME vacations are “working vacations”, where I’m going to make sure there’s someone to take care of the kids while I work. Because honestly, I’ve come to accept this as a “mom entrepreneur” – I don’t like the term “mompreneur”, but it is somewhat applicable [laughter] – it gives me my own responsibility. So if I need to work I’ve got to have my nanny. [Or] if my nanny isn’t there because I’m on vacation it’s got to be my husband. Or when I go to visit my parents I have a sitter at my parents’ house, in my home town. I have someone who I call, and I say, “I’m coming to visit my parents for the week. Can you be there from 9am to 4pm Monday through Friday while I’m there?” That’s just something I had to do. So those are times when I decide ahead of time [that] it’s going to be a working vacation [and] I’m going to arrange for that work – my writing and business, and all of that stuff – [to happen].

 

So that was a really long answer, and I like dove [laughter]  into being a mom and an entrepreneur, but me being a writer, and a mom, and an entrepreneur are ALL, sort of, mixed together for me. So you, kind of, have to look at your responsibilities in life and delineate your own boundaries, and say, “THIS is when I’m a writer, and THIS is when I’m not.”  And it’s OKAY for you to take vacations and NOT be a writer. That’s fine. You’re STILL going to get inspiration. Bring a notebook, just in case [laughter], but don’t feel guilty about it. Guilt does not serve any of us. We do our BEST work when we’re inspired and energetic and looking positively toward the future. But feelings of guilt, and negativity, and cynicism totally drag us down, and we’ll NEVER do our best work in that mindspace. That’s MY thought [laughter].

 

So [does] anybody else have opinions? How do YOU deal with distractions? Do you listen to music, or do you NOT listen to music? This is my eternal question. “Do I LIKE listening to music when I write, or do I NOT like listening to music?” Let me know… I can always tell when I’ve been talking a lot, because I need water… Or, if you DO listen to music, what’s your favorite music to listen to?… It’s raining outside right now. That’s my favorite space for music…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : I listen to instrumental and movie scores.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Instrumental and movie scores… Oh, that’s a good one. What do you think a book would be like if you were listening to the Indiana Jones movie score while you were writing [laughter]?

 

TX Namaste Chick ( https://twitter.com/txnamastechick ) : Sometimes music helps me focus.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Sometimes music helps  me focus… Yeah. That’s true. It, kind of, gives your ears something to listen to, and you can anticipate it, and if not, you know that it’s coming.

 

Pam Kesterson ( https://twitter.com/PamKesterson ) : You’re always plotting in your head during vacation. I like white noise.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Pam says [that] you’re always plotting in your head on vacation, [and she likes] white noise… Yeah. That’s true. Your mind is always writing.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : You have to be careful.

 

Morgan MacDonald : You have to be careful [laughter].  You have to be careful about which movie score you listen to. “Star Wars” is a select movie score to listen to, [but] not all the time, and not always appropriate. Yeah, that’s true. You’re mind is always thinking about writing. You can’t really help it.

 

TX Namaste Chick ( https://twitter.com/txnamastechick ) : Yes. But sometimes I need silence too.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Sometimes [you] need silence too… Yeah. I’m finding I’m a silence, kind of, person. But I’m also finding that – I don’t know if you can hear in the background – silence is really hard to come by in my house.  Maybe I should have an office space [laughter]. But that’s okay. I’m good with it. I’m glad that I’m in a situation where I can be close to my kids while working. It’s all good.

 

Alrighty guys. Well, last week we talked all about writing tools, and [we] geeked out on Google Docs  and Scrivener…

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Too bad Pandora doesn’t let me select the movie genre.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Pandora doesn’t let you select the movie genre… Oh, that’s a good point! I wonder if Spotify does? That would be a good thing to investigate. Amazon Prime… has “playlists” that they’ve pre-done. I bet there’s a movie one. There’s got to be a movie one. I might look into that. That could be a whole other Scope; the music you listen to, and where to [find it].

 

So last week we geeked out on writing tools : Google Docs , Scrivener, and some apps and stuff. So you can go over to http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope and catch last week’s tools Scopes. This week we’re all about motivation

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Gotta run Morgan. I’ll catch the replay.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Oh, thanks Ron. Yeah. Talk to you later… So tomorrow we’re talking about writing habits, and it’s coming right off of my webinar. So you guys are actually going to get the post-webinar thoughts about habits. Let me give you the address to sign up for the webinar [really quickly]. It is “Five Essential Habits That Successful Authors Have”. So these are all like THE best writing habits that you can implement to make sure that you are staying motivated throughout your writing, and actually FINISHING stuff, and getting those manuscripts done and shipped. So if you find yourself struggling with procrastination, and not finishing, and putting “”The End” on the manuscript and shipping it off, tune in tomorrow to this webinar, and [we’ll be] talking about the five essential habits that all successful authors have. Let me give you that address.

 

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It is :  http://www.paperravenbooks.com/5habits . That’s where you can register for tomorrow’s webinar. And if you want to catch Scope Notes http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope .

 

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Tomorrow I’ll be doing,  sort of, [some] post-webinar thoughts on habits, and stuff like that. So I’m looking forward to it guys, and I will see you tomorrow. Make sure to hit [the] “Peri Buddy” down there to follow [me], in case you haven’t already.

 

And catch me on Twitter at @morgangmac ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac ). I’d love to connect with you. I think Periscope is a really AWESOME place for writers to connect and support each other, and reach new audiences. So I’m trying to connect with everyone on Periscope who Scopes about writing, or just likes to LISTEN to Scopes about writing. So connect with me on Twitter, and we’ll get everyone in a really cool, supportive group. [We are using] hashtag #periscopewriters ( https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%23periscopewriters ) to try to find each other, and search for Scopes that are about writing. So alrighty guys. Bye.Thank you.

 

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