Writing is a weird job. Writers work every day, even though we don't punch a time clock and get far less financial return proportionate to our effort. Many writers, myself included, have preferred windows of uninterrupted time where the work is most productive.
When I still taught full time I had little choice but to work in late afternoon, evening and weekends. Now that my days are technically unencumbered I could write any time in my pajamas if I feel like it. I don’t though.
My best drafting happens when I go off site, away from all the distractions of home. Usually I work in a coffee shop or a bookstore cafe. Now that I’ve lived here in Seattle long enough I've discovered a couple of preferred spots. I look for a table near an electrical outlet, clamp on my noise-canceling headphones, choose a soundtrack, and start pecking with two fingers at the keyboard.
Revision has a different process; I print drafts after the work is “complete” because my eyes get tired of looking at screen for long periods. With paper drafts I don’t need to be next to a plug and I can color code my notations before making corrections on the computer.
Being off site does not guarantee a distraction free environment though. I discovered this today while doing an assignment for a free online screenwriting course. Our assignment was to create a short opening scene, where we post the script, storyboard, or video of the actual scene. I was curious what some of my classmates did and clicked on youtube to view them.
Youtube is crack for ADD people like me. After I watched a couple of classmate’s videos, my eye trailed to the right of the screen where I noted Rob Lowe was on a show I’d never heard of: The Graham Norton Show. Hmmm. Rob Lowe. What could it hurt?
Graham Norton is a British talk show host and he’s hysterical. He’s one of those guys who pokes fun at everyone, including himself, and he brings out the funny in his guests. I ended up killing a couple of hours watching him interview Will Ferrell, Eddie Redmayne, Jennifer Lawrence (who may have been drunk,) Will and his son Jaden Smith, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and many others.
Did I waste my time? Well.... maybe. It’s hard to justify watching the show for creative purposes, unless my character is a talk show host or an actor. Norton did show clips of his guests’ upcoming films, so there’s a thin connection to my course. Overall, though, what I got out of watching was two hours of laughs but no writing.
Which leads me to why I’m writing this now. Usually I work for two to four hours a day between 10 am-3pm. It’s now after four. The cat has been fed, the wind is blowing a gale outside so I can’t watch TV (I use rabbit ears,(what is this 1950?) so until I get hungry for dinner, home is distraction free.
Happy (Distraction free) Writing.