Dealing with Distractions of Topic

With scattered rainstorms threatening my area during most of the weekend, my parents and I decided to take a day trip to visit some local shops and have a late lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. One of the shops we stopped by is located in an old mill. The walls are paneled with rough-cut lumber, the stairs creak as their boards flex against their nails, and the air smells of cedar and candle wax. Usually a cat or two is lounging amongst the three floors worth of craft displays, and during this visit, we were greeted at the door by a curly-coated dog and his owner.

The third floor of the building includes a history display that features clothing and black and white photographs as well as the old mill workings. While perusing these artifacts, I found myself wishing that my current writing project was not set in modern times. I have a love for localized history that often adds detail to my fiction, but this love proved to be a distraction from writing this weekend.

After having suffered some extended and extensive frustrations with current computer technology this past week, dwelling on “simpler” times when electricity only came in the form of lightning was quite appealing. Staring at my laptop’s word processor for hours on end was less so. I won’t say my free time turned into a total waste, however, as I spent quite a few hours reading. And I spent some time in character planning.

Some writers will have multiple projects going at once to help them avoid problems of distraction and writer’s block. I’ve tried such practices in the past, but with my current mental blocks, I find it safer to focus on only one set of characters and plotlines at a time. (My most recent projects have had very modern settings, however, as I’ve been pushing toward more technology-reliant plot points. So multiple projects would not have helped to fight my latest distraction.)

As I’ve said in the past, when it comes to taking advice, you need to figure out what creative methods fit your work style best and help you to make forward progress. Some people will find having multiple projects going at once to be quite useful when dealing with topical distractions. Others will have an easier time if they simply push themselves to write. Still others may wish to sit down and type out a short story to get the distraction out of their system before turning attention back to their main work. And many more people will come up with various solutions and methods that I would never think of myself. Use whatever works for you as long as it helps rather than hinders!


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