As writers and (basically) people, we all have weaknesses and distractions. Those things that we love almost as much as creating—and destroying—worlds, that sometimes cannot be ignored, no matter how many times we motivate ourselves through ample application of self-shaming if we fail to accomplish 3,000 words before going to bed. For some, that distraction is yoga or working out; for others, our favorite TV show; and for others, reading a good book sometimes proves more compelling than writing one.
Then there’s another set of writers whom I’ll call “the freakish July crowd.” We are the rabble that sit in front of the NBC Sports stream for 4 – 6 hours every single day for three weeks straight in the middle of summer to see the carnival of quads and sods racing around France. Oh, we know we’re wrong to waste our time in this fashion, but we can’t help it. It’s an addiction, an obsession, a geek-cum-athlete-fest so extreme and titillating that our habituated, slavish minds are incapable of resisting it.
But we are adults, right? We can control our habits and our actions. We don’t require an intervention to ensure we’ve adequately performed meaningful, if minimal, human functions for the day. We are in control of our actions and emotions, dammit, not the peloton. And not, dear gawd, the General Classification time gaps.
Still, there is no denying those distractions tear at us. And if we wish to continue touting ourselves as writers, we must
justify our behavior strategize ways to work those distractions to our advantage.
For me, it’s as simple as using my obsession with cycling, both watching races and spinning my own pedals, as research. Believe me when I tell you there is no better case study for researching deep, primal suffering than the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, or Vuelta a España. And, yunno, given that my preferred genres all delve deeply into humanity’s psychological and physical pain caves (military SF, horror, dark urban fantasy), I write about plenty of suffering. I need to be able to look into those grills of gritted teeth on the Col de Tourmalet, the eyes oozing agony on the team time trials, and the bloody, stripped-to-the-bone flesh on the Alp de Huez to accurately portray the depth of pain and misery people are capable of dropping into. Those hours I’m glued like Honey Stinger gels to teeth to the grand tours are not just to pass the time; they are essential to developing as a writer. Research. No good book can be written without it.
What strategies do you employ to manage your distractions and keep your writing momentum?