Nope, it’s not a curse word. If someone shouts, “BICFOK” at you, you shouldn’t be offended. (Unless they’re not a writer—then they might have meant something else.) But you should do what they say because BICFOK is an abbreviation for what all writers need to do to get the work done:
Pretty simple, right? Yet, there are so many things out there to keep our butts out of our chairs and/or our fingers off the keys.
Here’s some common distractions and how to eliminate them.
The internet is both treasure chest of information, inspiration, and support, and the ultimate distraction and time-waster. Oh, just some quick research? Whoops, there goes an hour. Need the perfect name for the random, secondary character that appears for half a scene in the whole book? Whoops. There goes two more hours.
1. Do research ahead of time in your planning stage.
Something will of course come up that you didn’t plan for. But! Unless it’s something you can’t continue without, save that for later, when you’re done writing for the day. Don’t shift your brain out of creative-mode to go look up the best ways to kill someone.
2. Use placeholders.
Looking for names can take time. I use placeholders so that I don’t have to stop as I go. I saw this online somewhere, or maybe in a NaNoWriMo forum, so it’s not my idea (and sorry, I forget whose it was!), but I use a zibit. It’s a strange word that I use before a tiny description of what place it’s holding. I’ll type something like this: zibit:BOYFRIEND. Then, I can go back at the end, do a search for zibit, and all my missing info comes up. By naming the placeholder with something like “boyfriend,” “school name,” “place of business,” or whatever, I keep them all together and I know when it’s all mean to to be the same name. If you’re meticulous at that, you can find/replace each placeholder with the correct info.
3. Turn it over to software.
On Firefox, I use LeechBlock, on Chrome, I use StayFocused. And yes, I use both because I use both browsers and there are times I open a browser, use up my Facebook time, and open my other browser to get around the block. Yeah. It’s bad sometimes. A timer can also help, if for nothing else than to jar you into remembering that, hey! I should be writing!
Sometimes, Mom calls or texts and you really can’t ignore it. Sometimes, you do have to answer. But! You can keep it short and get back on track.
1. Tell everyone you’re writing.
Hopefully you have an awesome support network that, when they ask what you’re up to and you say, “writing,” will respond with something like, “Awesome! Keep it up and text me when you’re done for the day or take a break.” Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m writing!
2. Keep it short.
I know not everyone has an awesome support network and not everyone understands what it feels like to get interrupted when you’re deep in a scene and the words are flowing like magic. Keep your responses as short as you can, don’t feel the need to respond immediately, and don’t be afraid to say you’re busy and you’ll get in touch later. Would you be answering if you were at the movies? (You better not!) Make your writing time important and uninterruptible.
3. Just say no.
It’s easy to pick up your phone and pop out a quick tweet announcing word count or something awesome that happened in the course of your writing. It’s also really easy to then scroll through your timeline, see what those notifications are on your other apps and if you’re like me, get lost in Pinterest Land for about two hours, then remember you should be writing, not pinning more crafts you’ll never actually make. A timer can help here, too, though you have to remember to set it. What we need is an app that will alert you to go write and put down the phone. I haven’t found an app that works like StayFocused and kicks you off your phone after a time, but something like 30/30 can keep you on task. If you know of any good apps for this, let me know in the comments. I need one!
People Around You
I know there are some people who can write in the midst of talking, movies playing, etc. I am not one of those people. I prefer almost silence and an empty or a sleeping house. However, sometimes, you have deadlines and can’t wrote in your ideal environment.
1. Block out the noise.
It seems like you’re adding to it, but when there’s a bunch of noise around you, it’s time to gear up your playlist. Pop in your headphones and set the volume at a level that you can hear it and not everything else. Since I don’t like music with words when I’m writing (more distractions!) I have a few playlists just for writing, built around certain moods, that are wordless. It’s mostly piano music and other repetitive stuff like Eluvium and Philip Glass (Thank you, Robin Sloan, for telling me about Philip Glass!)
2. Schedule your time.
You can’t always go into your little private writing hole and shut out the world. Life demands you! But, if you try to schedule around busy times and fit in your writing when you can, you’ll get more done. For me, I know that as soon as I get home from work, there’ll be homework things, dinner things, husbands things, etc. If I tried to write then, I’d only be frustrated. Even right after dinner, there is general discussion and the kid is usually running around. Also not great. But there comes a point in the evening, where everyone has gotten enough attention and is sufficiently busy in their own tasks, when I get into my writing. During the high-interruption times, I do things like check email and see to those ever-present notifications going off on Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads. I purposefully get up early to write because everyone else is sleeping and only the cats will bug me for attention.
3. Get out of the house
Write-ins are great. They let you meet other writers and hopefully, write in a place where no one is going to be singing to you a cat version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame for hours on end. (Buy me some catnip and crinkly toys, I don’t care if I make lots of noise… We like to make up songs. Sometimes they turn out catchy and I hear them over and over and over and over and over…). Even if there isn’t a write-in nearby or happening when you need it, there’s always a coffee shop or bookstore somewhere, or my personal favorite—the library! If distractions are inevitable, remove yourself from the equation.
Now that your path has been cleared and the distractions have been eliminated, you’re ready to go! Now, git your butt in the chair, put those fingers on the keys, and let those words fly! BICFOK, for the win!
Got any other great distraction-eliminating tips?