Hi folks, I hope you are working this week. I'm going to wrap up my pitfalls series this week. This last writing pitfalls I'm going to cover is distraction and is considered another cause for choking. I talked about the other cause -- "paralysis of analysis" -- last week. Again, I'm borrowing from other fields here -- sports and math performance -- and what they've learned about distraction
So what is distraction? You checked your Facebook, wrote your blog, updated your twitter, commented on several boards, wrote a writing article, volunteered for a conference, revised your website, researched agents, read a book on writing, and didn't have any time to work on your novel. You, my friend, are distracted and are this is no way to write your books.
Why are you distracted? You have a system in your brain system. This system actively holds information in the mind to do tasks. This system is called your SHORT TERM MEMORY. Distraction is about an overloaded short term memory. Writing a novel is already a multi-tasking job. Now, your short term memory has become full of ancillary tasks -- creating a network and building a platform. Your mind is full of these tasks because many publishing voices are putting pressure on you to do them. These voices have you worried. These ancillary tasks have drawn you away from the primary task of "writing the dang book."
You are now in a multi-task weighted environment that has exceeded the limits of you short term memory. This multi-tasking environment puts especially high pressure on newbie writers because they lack writing experience that helps a veteran writer stay focused when the pressure is on. There are some things you can do to alleviate this situation. Compartmentalize. Dedicate one day a week to your ancillary tasks and the rest of days work on your main task. Build in a system of rewards. Athletes understand they must have a reward to train. Not all pressure is bad. Something about getting a gold medal puts the right kind of pressure on the participant to push past distractions.
Seek an audience for your writing. This is writing on display, especially in front of experts in field and will put pressure on you to limit distractions. Freelance. Newbies are at a disadvantage and can help themselves by piling on experience. I remember hearing a famed children's editor years ago saying you need to take any writing job for pay that comes your way. Write menus for restaurants if you have to, he encouraged. A writing job will sharpen your skills. A writing job comes with rewards (pay), an audience (an editor and readership) and the heat of a deadline. The more experience you have the less likely you are to choke when you move forward with a mammoth novel projects. Seek pressures that will make you excel.. Even a volunteer writing position will help. Experience will hone the automatic skills you need to write when the heat is on.
I hope you see that the proper writing environment is fragile. It must be tended and tweaked. You need to think about the number of tasks you can reasonably perform and then let the rest go. You need shift some of your time tasks that bring your the right kind of experience. If all your tweeting is building an audience with experts in the field, keep at that, but ditch the Facebook, the boards, the blogs, etc. Read experts books with a critique group and hold each other accountable to implementing knowledge in the book. Are you getting the picture? Create an environment that is conductive to the production of a product and limits distractions.
Okay, I can't cover everything in the universe about distraction here, but I hope this little discussion helps you get on the path to book production. Seize the day.