Writers are creative people. Sometimes I think my most creative moments come when finding ways to avoid putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Here are some avoidance techniques that have worked particularly well for me.
- Keep your email program and all social media sites open on your desktop while you are attempting to write. Interrupt your writing every time you hear a ping or receive a notice that someone has an update or new message for you. Read that update, respond, and enter into the conversation.
- Reread what you have written to this point many times, admiring the cadence of your words, tweaking here and there as you see fit.
- Use Google to research facts you want to incorporate into your writing. Allow yourself to be carried away into interesting but unrelated areas. (Note: the researching of relevant facts is actually part of the writing process. Getting carried away into unrelated area isn’t, unless, perhaps, that triggers additional ideas for your current or future writing.)
- Make lists of what you need to do next with your writing projects. (Note: It is necessary to properly organize your time and priorities.)
- Use Pinterest as a tool when creating characters. Find their clothing styles and home decor preferences. Become side-tracked with interesting recipes, the latest cleaning tip, the dress you’d love to wear if you could fit into it, the funny quotes, and the crafts you’d like to do if you had time.
- Try one of the crafts you found on Pinterest.
- Take an online personality quiz, such as Meyer-Briggs, from the perspective of your main characters. (Note: it is important to spend time getting to know your characters.)
- Organize your writing area. Find inspirational quotes and pictures to surround yourself with, to create the perfect ambiance and motivation. (Note: sometimes taking time to organize is important or your thoughts become as cluttered as your work area.)
- Take a nap. (Note: Rest is important.)
- Take a walk. (Note: Walking is great for clearing and freeing the mind. In her book Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron says, “It is on these walks that my best ideas come to me. It is while walking that difficult clarity emerges.” A feature in the New Yorker on writer Miriam Toews noted that before she can sit down to write, Toews needs to walk.)
- Research approaches to writing and tips from famous writers until you are so confused or conflicted you’re paralyzed. Do you start to write without a clear idea of where the story is going or do you create an outline first? Do you build in-depth character profiles before writing or allow the characters to reveal themselves as you write?
- Clean and organize closets. This is a long-standing avoidance technique I discovered years ago when studying for exams at university.
- Check your email and social media network sites again. There must have been updates in the last 30 minutes.
- Write a blog entry on avoiding writing.
The complete process of writing involves more than just putting pen to paper or typing words into a computer. Research, fact-checking, editing and just plain thinking and imagining are part of it too. Some of the distractions and diversions I’ve listed are actually part of the process, but they can also cross the line into pure distraction. It’s not always easy to know where that line is. Maybe I need to research that.
Note: A previous version of this post appeared on Destinations Detours and Dreams.