Being 'In the Zone'
I'm an incredibly distractible person. A teacher of mine once told me a I have a 'butterfly mind', and I think it's probably quite accurate. Concentrating on a piece of writing, therefore, can be quite difficult for me. Even writing this blog post has taken two or three attempts, as other things crowd in.
Tips for getting down to writing seem to fall into these categories:
- Set aside time for writing - a specific time where you say 'I'm writing, not anything else'.
- Set up a good working environment for that time.
- Be disciplined with #1 and #2.
Here's a few ways I've been trying to solve the first two.
I'm very lucky that I'm a part-time teacher, giving me plenty of time to write. I try and get writing done in the morning, while I'm fresh and can still drink coffee without worrying about it wrecking my sleep pattern (apart from Thursday morning - that's when I record Pocket Fiction). There's plenty of precedent for having your own habits; a quick search reveals that authors through history have all done it differently - early in the morning for Murakami, stood up for Hemingway, in a rented hotel room if you're Maya Angelou. One repeated mantra comes up: whatever you do, do it regularly.
As far as the actual writing itself, I've heard people recommend the Pomodoro Method, which I have yet to try. Essentially, you write for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5. Repeat until done. Another time-management method is Written? Kitten! Set yourself a target, and every so often a new picture of a kitten comes up. Or any other picture you want, by editing this URL. One final tool I've tried to do with time is Write Or Die. Stop writing, and this interface will get cross with you. Continue to procrastinate, and it may even start deleting your work, one word at a time...
I work best in a coffee shop. There's plenty of coffee, for a start. The tables are bare - nothing to distract me there. Mainly it's for the background noise. The constant hum of things happening around me provides just enough distraction that I can concentrate. At home, music is good, though nothing with lyrics - they're too distracting. Epic soundtracks can be good, and I have a 'Quiet Music' playlist for when the action is not so dramatic. I've recently discovered this ambient soundtrack generator, though, and it's excellent. Ones I can recommend are Tom Bombadill's House and Research with the Winchesters, though I'm sure there are plenty of others - let me know in the comments if you have a favourite.
There's one place in particular in London where I enjoy writing - corporate sell-out moment here. The Chancery Lane Starbucks has an awesome downstairs area. Quiet, secluded, very little signal for phones, easy access to toilets and drinks, and plenty of power sockets. If you're a London writer, check it out.
If you have particular writing times, places, tools, or tips that help you to get 'into the zone', let me know in the comments below!