Immediate Distractions

Everyone loves being an author. Talented authors relish the process from the first twinkle of an idea to thinking about characters to plopping them into impossible situations. Or for the nonfiction author, the challenge of imparting knowledge that will help others is fulfilling. When I was writing books for publication, time dissolved as I typed away.

Despite my joy in writing, some afternoons dragged as I struggled with getting characters from Point A to Point B; or my plot didn’t work as well on paper as it did when I was musing about it earlier; or … fill in your struggle.


  • Search for recipes for dinner. Dinnertime will be here shortly!
  • Answer emails.
  • Research a thingie that may have something to do with your book.
  • Call a friend. You don’t want to lose touch!
  • Watch TV. Surely tuning in to the History Channel isn’t considered not working.
  • Drink coffee. Gotta stay awake!
  • In the act of total desperation, clean house.

Immediate distractions are part of life. I drink coffee myself. To be writers, the key is this: We MUST return to our work as soon as our little break has passed.

The beauty of immediate distractions is that they run their natural course. Even if you procrastinate in all seven ways above, losing all your writing time would be unlikely.

But then … so the coffee is gone and you answered all your emails. Still not feeling the love on that book? Next week I’ll discuss an even more dangerous impediment to your career – and what you can do about it.

Your turn:

How do you deal with immediate distractions?

Does procrastinating help you? How?

41 Responses to Immediate Distractions

  1. Cher Gatto August 15, 2019 at 5:30 am #

    I feel there are different parts of my brain. One part creative. One part detailed. Other parts, too. My distractions come at a timely break, at a necessary juncture, to stretch out a different part and give the other a rest. I find when I allow that to happen, the other side is renewed and flows more generously.

  2. Lillian August 15, 2019 at 5:51 am #

    Tamela, you had to be a fly on the wall in my house. I’m adding thoughts to that list. It’s amazing how I remember that I forgot to do something when I’m in the middle of a sentence.

  3. Maco Stewart August 15, 2019 at 5:51 am #

    Tamela, I write in the morning. I give myself a period of time to get my mental engine warmed up (about an hour) that includes coffee, brief email, this website, etc. After about an hour, I engage before the day job. This entails getting up early, but that accords with my natural inclinations: a day where I don’t see the eastern horizon brighten and yield up our brilliant orb is a day foreshortened. My time.

  4. Lillian August 15, 2019 at 5:58 am #

    By the way, Tamela, it’s so reassuring to know that, as a writer, you are no different than I am. Thanks for being so transparent.

  5. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 15, 2019 at 6:18 am #

    The distractions of the past
    that kept me, yes, from writing
    do not matter, did not last,
    and it is now the time for fighting.
    Pain has torn me to the marrow
    and the fever’s running high;
    days are falling to time’s arrow,
    but I know I have to try.
    I have to get this written now
    (for I am running out of breath)
    even when I don’t know how,
    even when I’m fearing death.
    Lord, you’ve given me this task;
    help me finish, is all I ask.

    • Sy Garte August 15, 2019 at 8:23 am #

      Andrew, you and your words are an inspiration. Yes, the Lord is using you, and you are blessed in your task. We are all praying for you.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield August 15, 2019 at 9:11 am #

      Dear Andrew– Once again your sonnet brought tears, not only for the heart from which it came, and what you’re going through, but also for realizing how specifically what you write so often speaks to my heart. If we were to take the last 6 lines of your poem, that might be a valid daily prayer for ALL of us! Some, like you, think we have a better idea of how much longer we have to finish the tasks we’ve been given than others do, but in reality we all face the same ultimate deadline. (I never noticed the poignant layers of meaning in that word before I just typed it here!) What a wonderful reminder you’ve given us to make every day count for Christ! Thank you! ‘Praying for you, dear Brother!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 15, 2019 at 9:23 am #

        Linda, thank you for these lovely, uplifting words (and I never thought of the poignancy in ‘deadline’ either), and most especially for your prayers.

        The prayers are neeed; today is rather a beast.

    • Catherine August 15, 2019 at 11:39 am #

      This speaks so deeply to me. Thank you, Andrew!

    • Judith Robl August 15, 2019 at 7:02 pm #

      Andrew, you have me in tears. Your will and perseverance are an inspiration to us all. Praying for a good night tonight and a better day tomorrow.

  6. J.D. Wininger August 15, 2019 at 6:23 am #

    When distractions happen, and they always do, I return to my writing space and recite a poem I wrote many years ago that helps me focus. It’s called Just Touch Me, and it invites God to come sit with me, calm me, and focus me on the task He has called me to do. It’s been working for over forty years.

  7. Lillian August 15, 2019 at 6:25 am #

    ‘ 7 ways to overcome self-doubt, procrastination, and hesitancy to finally launch your business”

    Please accept my apology for posting three times. But I had to share this confirmation of Tamela’s post that also came in my e-mail this morning. God must be telling me something. 🙂

  8. Pat Butler August 15, 2019 at 6:39 am #

    Love this post. Engage in immediate distractions all the time and they work beautifully. Anything that makes me walk away for a few minutes so my brain can untangle the knot it’s in qualifies. Sometimes just walking into another room does the trick! Thanks for validating us who do this LOL

  9. Sami A. Abrams August 15, 2019 at 6:45 am #

    I think distraction is my middle name (or maybe even my first.) I’ve been struggling with my current WIP. My characters are refusing to let me in on their little secrets. Sigh. However, I have wonderful writer friends that help me talk through some of those “blink unseeingly at the screen moments”. We get together on video chat 2-3 times a week and do writing sprints and brainstorm. I highly encourage everyone to find a friend or two to write with.

  10. Rebecca Rhoads August 15, 2019 at 7:01 am #

    I think the frantic-paced overture to the Barber of Seville plays constantly in my brain. I ping from work to housework to coffee to whatever looks shiny. Even putting myself in the basement hasn’t kept me from a million distractions! But hey, who doesn’t like a fresh cup of joe like the one I’m drinking ‘write’ now. The only thing that helps is having concrete goals. I will edit ten chapters today. I will finish tomorrow’s blog. Focus, focus, focus.

  11. Loretta Eidson August 15, 2019 at 7:19 am #

    Immediate distractions can be frustrating when I’m on a roll working on my WIP, but some distractions can’t be avoided. Sometimes I must drop everything and take care of non-writing business. Those things are understandable. I try to take life in stride and weigh out the importance of the distraction. Learning to say no is difficult but necessary at times. Procrastination doesn’t help me. I’m not saying I don’t procrastinate, I do, but facing the project or the problem head-on makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

  12. Seralynn Lewis August 15, 2019 at 7:57 am #

    Great post, Tamela. I do procrastinate with housecleaning, emails and other such nonsense. Those are the norm. Family crises also can keep me from writing.

    But if I’m stuck, I find helping someone else with their writing (reading and editing their stories) helps me stay focused and pushes me to get back to my own writing.

    The other thing I like to do is to read the most recent chapter I’ve written right before going to bed so my sub-conscious mind can dwell on what the issue is and get me ready to write the next day. It frees me not to worry about it.

  13. Joey Rudder August 15, 2019 at 8:04 am #

    My distractions involve a little wandering: to the kitchen for more coffee, outside to the porch swing, downstairs to do laundry (how many times I’ve talked out loud about or even to my characters while on those steps!), and yes, I’ll check email and social media sites. I think my wandering helps if I keep it under control and get back to work with a fresh cup of coffee and maybe a little (or not so little) piece of chocolate. 🙂

    Looking forward to next week’s post, Tamela! Blessings to you!!

  14. Colleen K Snyder August 15, 2019 at 8:34 am #

    Since when is drinking coffee a distraction? Coffee is writing life! All the others, well, yes. Adding: silencing the barking dog. Finding out why the playroom has gone silent. Hearing those frightening words (from a pre-teenager) “Hey, watch this…” Running out of coffee…Life is a distraction.

  15. Melissa Henderson August 15, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    Those immediate distractions can cause me to pause and walk away from my writing. When I return to the computer, I am often refreshed and renewed. Sometimes I need a distraction to get back on track. 🙂

  16. Linda Riggs Mayfield August 15, 2019 at 9:17 am #

    Tamela, my most consistent distraction is this blog. I read everything posted as I check my emails throughout the day. There’s always something to learn, something to challenge, something to motivate, something to pray about, someone to pray for. Some of us have been active on it so long, I feel like I’m touching base with old friends. It helps me keep things in perspective.

  17. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 15, 2019 at 9:36 am #

    I think that God sometimes sends ‘good distractions’ just to share some laughs, and poke fun at infirmities (here, pain-induced hearing loss and mis-understanding).

    To wit, the first four lines of this sonnet just popped into mind last night, and the whole poem will be the centerpiece of my blog post that will go live tonight.

    I’ve always thought that Oliver Twist
    had a South Pacific aura;
    I mean, how can a bloke resist,
    “Please, sir, I want Samoa?”
    Hearing loss has got me shook,
    not quite sure of what I’ve heard;
    but I was glad to find that drinking book
    called “Tequila Mockingbird.”
    If you’re a fan of Petula Clark,
    that lovely singing English lady,
    then perhaps your heart will hark
    to the strains of Downton Abbey.
    And if flatulence is an easing friend,
    may I suggest – Gone With The Wind.

    • Colleen K Snyder August 15, 2019 at 1:36 pm #

      Great post. I love your poetry. Love your sense of humor more! Praying for you, my friend.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 15, 2019 at 1:51 pm #

        Thank you so much, Colleen. I’m so glad you liked it, and so grateful for your prayers.

  18. Damon J. Gray August 15, 2019 at 9:56 am #

    I’m so easily distracted, Tamela, that I cannot even write next to a window. I need to be in a “box” with the door closed and nothing but the warm glow of a lit monitor before me.

  19. Josephine Johnson August 15, 2019 at 11:58 am #

    As a homeschooling mom, finishing a full sentence during the day is an accomplishment. My life is one big distraction. However, the stories pull on me until they are written down. When the middle of the night noises from sleeping kids wake me, it’s a great distraction free time to write.
    Procrastination inevitably comes, it’s my time to edit or rethink my story. This blog always helps refocus and recommit to the project. Thanks.

  20. Kay DiBianca August 15, 2019 at 12:19 pm #

    I’m better at handling distractions now than I used to be. In times past, I would spend most of the morning reading emails, commenting on blogs, and doing all kinds of stuff that kept me from working on my next novel.

    I’ve changed my approach so now I work on the novel first before I do the other things. (Hence, my late replies to blogs!) I also keep a pad of paper beside me when I’m working so I can jot down a note about things that pop into my mind (e.g., call the plumber, make an appointment, send a card). That way I don’t have to interrupt my work to get the other things done. I catch up on those things after I’ve finished my writing quota for the day.

    Btw, housework is *never* a distraction for me. It can always wait. ?

  21. Darlene L. Turner August 15, 2019 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Tamela. There are so many distractions around us when we want to write. I find sometimes taking a little getaway for a writer’s retreat helps me focus. If I can’t get away, I go to a coffee shop with my earbuds and write! Away from all the distractions at home!

  22. Tamela Hancock Murray August 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

    All of you have brought me much happiness and many smiles today as I read over the comments. Thank you all so much for being here, sharing, and showing genuine care about each other and our industry.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 15, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

      Thank you for being YOU, Tamela.

      I hope that you know how much you are appreciated, admired, and loved.

    • Judith Robl August 15, 2019 at 7:12 pm #

      Tamela, I’m seconding what Andrew just said. Of course he didn’t realize that is how most of us feel about both you and Andrew.

    • Morgan Tarpley Smith August 19, 2019 at 6:31 am #

      I love our writing community so much! I’ve met such genuinely warm and friendly people with every conference I attend. Thanks to you and other agents in this industry for being so welcoming and understanding as we maneuver this complicated publishing journey. Your insight is much appreciated.

  23. claire o'sullivan August 15, 2019 at 11:17 pm #

    hahahahaha I got a chuckle.

    and out of everyone’s comments!

    1. coffee is a distraction? Sacrilege!
    2. laundry oooh I have 5 loads to do and hang on the line before the sun goes down
    3. oooh nooo I didn’t finish all my laundry because of social media so now I have to set up my drying line inside (these things take longer so…)
    4. We need to pick those apples for a turnover recipe because otherwise they’ll get wormy or sumptin (did this yesterday)
    5. BBQ? Again? Let me peel carrots, chunk the onions, pick fresh lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage to go on top, healthily figure out how much protein, cals, fats to put into, hmm, which dutch oven should I use? Where’s the Thunder Chicken? Brown chicken… got the olive oil, carrots caaaaarefullllly sliced taking me what an hour++? to prep a 30-minute bake?
    6. Make the apple filling and turnovers.
    7. Dried basil needs to be crushed.
    8. Check social media. Again.
    9. Make SURE to answer Tamela Hancock and look. It’s 11:30 PM.
    10. Well, I AM tired. Better go to bed early!

    *yes… I did that. And yes, it’s 11:30 PM

  24. Angela Breidenbach August 16, 2019 at 11:02 am #

    Yes to all of the distractions you mentioned. Then, add my duties for the organizations I work with, projects I want to do, classes, and calls from other people… still working on this years into writing 🙂 I say it’s always a process and a journey.

  25. Roberta Sarver August 19, 2019 at 6:16 am #

    -A little late to the party. Too many distractions at our house: company over the weekend and such.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post. Lately life has thrown so many distractions that my writing has taken a back seat for a while. And that’s okay. I plan on getting back to it soon.

    Andrew, your poem about hearing loss is so appropriate. (Been there,done that.) In fact, I wrote a blog post about hearing loss, and ended it with the following lines. “Laughter truly is a great medicine. Either that or ‘After grueling fizz you hate Edison.’ At least that’s what I heard.”

  26. Morgan Tarpley Smith August 19, 2019 at 6:28 am #

    The first thing i have to do is call it what it is—a distraction bordering on procrastination. Lol

    Then when I do that I set a time limit. 15, 30 or so minutes to do X thing then back to work. Because time gets away from us so quickly. I have to be very intentional with my time to write as a full time working wife and mom.

  27. claire o'sullivan August 19, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Procrastination?? I will definitely work on that! Tomorrow…

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