The Art of “Planned Distraction”

One time, I was deep in discussion about a project with a potential client at my satellite office (a local coffee shop!). When, all of a sudden, without warning, she blurted out, “Bob, I want chicken wings … I can smell them!”

Stunned, I said, “It’s only 10:30 in the morning!”

She replied, “So, I’ll have them for lunch! Now, where were we?”

Bob Sands here with day four of The Writer’s Life. This week we’ve been looking at keys to developing infinite creativity.

We’ve all been around people who are easily distracted. And, as writers, distraction can lead to the dreaded procrastination.

Distraction isn’t normally our friend, but it can be. In fact, the art of “planned distraction” can rev up your creativity.

Several of the major time management gurus preach to eliminate distractions. They say once you do that, you’ll find yourself being more creative and less overwhelmed.

I think the opposite of this advice is true, to an extent.

Am I suggesting chasing every “shiny object” that comes along? No, but I am advocating PLANNING some time to be distracted during your writing day. Planning for it allows you to stay more focused during your actual writing time.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Go for a walk. Some of the greatest writers did this very thing. Dickens loved the change of scenery. Some say he was to have reported logging as many as 20 miles per day! If you’re having trouble with an idea, walk away and walk out. When you come back, see if things aren’t a bit more fluid.
  2. Talk to real people. Since I work from my home office a lot, the only live creatures that are usually available to interact with are my two cats and a dog. Sometimes, it’s important to interact with real, live, honest to goodness, bona fide human beings!

    So, schedule a coffee or a lunch. My favorite thing to do is to leave my office and go have lunch with several of my friends. Usually we shoot the breeze, tell jokes or talk about the happenings in our city. Whenever I come back to the keyboard after a break like this, my perspective is renewed and the writing comes a bit easier.

    By the way, this is an added benefit of living the writer’s life – having the freedom to do this and all the while becoming a better writer.

  3. Change where you think. Like a lot of people, I have my preferred writing space. When I sit down at the keyboard, it signals to my creative side that it’s time to produce. Sometimes, I vary where I do that (another benefit of the writer’s life!). Occasionally, I write at a coffee shop, on the patio or even at a park. The shift in location gives me a different perspective and often inspires new ideas. If you want to change your flow of ideas, change where you think.

Why not begin today planning for some distraction time? You’ll find, when you sit back down to write, you’ll have a new perspective and the new ideas you need to reignite your writing.

What kind of distractions do you plan for? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

We’ve all heard the statement, “It takes a village … .” Join me tomorrow for my final installment in this week’s series of The Writer’s Life when we look at the fact that it takes a community to enhance creativity.

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Published: July 3, 2014

5 Responses to “The Art of “Planned Distraction””

  1. I know it's a dangerous thing to admit to, but there's a pub on my way home from work. It doesn't have TV screens, it doesn't have music, but it's fairly busy, so there's a constant buzz of conversation there.

    That's where I do my most creative writing. I can't edit there, but for generating ideas, it's perfect. I just have to restrict the glasses of wine, or the creativity becomes... well... just a bit TOO creative!

    chris brannick

  2. Hi Bob,
    "Planning" distractions is a great idea for day to day focus. I will start doing as you suggested, which makes sense. Spontaneity has its place, but a writers focus time is crucial, while taking healthy and planned breaks are a benefit we should take advantage of, and connect with our local friends and peers, intentionally.
    In addition to your "planned distractions" I have to offer what I do, since you asked. What also motivates me is planning that next vacation away, as part of my longer term planning for balance. And lastly, what has pushed me as an entrepreneur in the past is this note to self, "Fail to plan, plan to fail". Even a vacation won't happen if we fail to plan for it.

    Guest (Cheryl Davis)

  3. I seem to be distracted by everything,my mind is always roaming over day to day problems past and present it is very hard to keep my mind focused on any one thing for very long. I sometimes have to just get up and take care of the problem such as dishes cleaning etc just to get back on track. I then can concentrate better until the next little thing comes up

    Guest (Vickie)

  4. I liked this post, because more than a distraction I have different activities: I meditate, workout, I send time playing with my son or going to the movies with my wife and I even take regular naps. I also use my regular job as a distraction, which is the only distraction I want to get rid of :):):)


  5. Hi! Bob,

    It's me again. You have been pitching in at right spot. What an article! Great thanks!!

    I also take planned distraction, but in a different way. I take time to reflect, while going for a walk or sitting at my balcony - watching wonderful waterfall in front of my house or enjoying rain. Great authors like Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) or David J. Schwartz (The Magic of Thinking Big) also emphasize importance of taking time out and reflect in solitary.


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