I’m not a full-time writer, and this makes me sad. I’m not rich, which makes me equally sad. These two sad factors in my life means I am not ambling to my oak-laden office in the west wing, and planting myself amongst my Beauty and the Beast style library, pouring a glass whisky from my crystal decanter, hidden inside a huge globe of the world, to work on my new ode. Instead, I am waking up early, and going to bed late to find that precious, quiet time where only my characters and I discuss what’s going on in their world.
I live with three other people in a small apartment, and so time alone is as difficult as eating tree bark. Of course, even if others are in the apartment, I will still write, but sometimes it can be difficult to show that I’m deep in it.
One of these flatmates is my girlfriend, which is great, as I never thought I’d get a girlfriend, but I did. It’s tough to explain that distraction is frustrating when writing. If I am on the sofa and tapping away, and my protagonist is clutching to the edge of that cliff with the villain flicking away a finger at a time, it really doesn’t help the scene if I am told, in that precise moment, that we need more cucumber.
Distraction is quite far-reaching too. It can include people in the vicinity playing music, or watching YouTube videos of some rant regarding hatred for Trump, battering my thought process as I am knee deep in a chapter. It’s tricky, as I don’t want to be a dick and ask for silence, I wouldn’t do that, or to hide away in a room with a ‘do not enter’ sign hanging off the handle, particularly if that room doesn’t have anywhere comfortable to sit.
So, what techniques are out there to deter the distractions? I’ve looked around on what I can only describe as the internet, and most of them advise to close your office door. I barely have doors, let alone an office. Other advice was to ‘let everyone know you need some quiet time’, which is just not feasible, and quite selfish when in a small apartment with four people who have better things to do than tread eggshells around your musings. Here are a few ideas that I believe are pretty realistic for those in a similar situation to me.
- One of the first things you can do is help yourself. Your phone is too easy a distraction. Sometimes I reach for my phone and after spending three minutes watching a video of a person falling off a trampoline, only realise I’m not writing. I then force myself back onto the words at hand. The ping of a message is an obvious one too. It might be hard at first, but turn the phone off! If turning it off feels too much like euthanasia, then put it on silent and leave it in a different room.
- This one takes a tactful approach, but when someone around you says something to you as you are writing, and you know it is not important, something like ‘Jennifer decided that she’s not gonna go for a second bikini wax.’ This conversation can clearly wait until you can fully give them your attention. Perhaps highlight to the person telling you this tale that you are writing, and need to just finish the piece, then are free to discuss Jennifer’s pubes. Maintain the focus on writing.
- Wear headphones. You don’t have to actually listen to music, as that may distract you too. But what it does do is block you from the outside world, and also shows people that you won’t be able to hear what they are saying, so would likely not speak to you in the first place.
I wouldn’t want to bog you down with loads of tips, as you can get creative with your own methods, which would be great to hear about if you were willing to share. These methods usually do well for me. Another one is to head to a café, or library, but again, you are in the outside world, so may not work for everyone. In the meantime, I’m now going to exit my duvet-made, sound-proof den, take off the giant earmuffs, and announce to the world I am available to be spoken to, although, my flatmates and girlfriend have probably ditched me anyway.