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Distracted? Tell Me About It!

Got too much on your mind? Can’t focus enough to get started? Too distracted to write?

Tell me about it!

No I mean literally.

Tell me about it.

Well not literally literally, I don’t want emails full of all the gunky stuff that will come out when you do this, I simply mean when you feel overwhelmed, when you’re trying to write and you feel the need to do something else, check something, email something, read something, ping something… don’t try and focus.

Try just writing instead.

Try just writing from these prompts.

1. Tell me what you don’t want to write about

5 minutes on “I don’t want to write about”

(Can be followed with 5 minutes on “I want to write about”, and back to “I don’t want to write about”… and so on; the contrast and shifts can help you to release what’s stuck)

2. Tell me how it feels to be not writing

How your fingers feel when they get that itch to do something else, anything else but the writing you’re supposed to be doing. How your heart feels heavy when you want to write something but you can’t slow down enough to catch the words. How your throat constricts when you don’t make the time to write what you really mean.

Tell me about it.

And some time when you’re just writing about not writing, notice when the tension eases. When the words start to flow. When you write something with a ring of truth. When you breathe out with a big deep sigh. When your heart feels lighter. When something changes inside.

And then write.


Do you have any writing or journal writing exercises that help you to start writing when you’re… too distracted to start writing?


Thanks to Natalie Goldberg ‘Writing Down the Bones’ for the ‘I don’t want to write about’ exercise.

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  1. Tweets that mention Distracted? Tell Me About It! | Confident Writing -- says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Suzie Cheel. Suzie Cheel said: Distracted? Tell Me About It! | Confident Writing @joannapaterson [...]

  2. Suzie Cheel says:

    Love this Joanna, start write it’s not ending now
    This is how I wrote the words that became my book emergings- My then Uni said just start writing the words it’s not ending now start write it’s not ending now and it flowed.
    .-= Suzie Cheel´s last blog ..Losing Can Be a Gift! =-.

  3. Karen Putz says:

    Prompt number one did it for me. By identifying what I didn’t want to write about and then shifting back to what I wanted to write about, I found the direction that I wanted to go in with an article I’m working on. Thanks, Joanna!
    .-= Karen Putz´s last blog ..Deaf Mom Heads to DC/VA for ZVRS VCO Plus Event =-.

  4. --Deb says:

    Always good advice. I remember a section in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” where he tells a student to look out the window and describe the top left brick of the building across the street, and when he couldn’t think of anything else to say about that, to move to the next brick, and the next, until finally the words started to flow…
    .-= -Deb´s last blog ..MM: Show, Don’t Tell =-.

  5. Debbie Yost says:

    Last month was full of writer’s block and my blogs suffered from it. The main reason was just how much was going on in my life and not having time to sit down and write even when I wanted to. My biggest problem is I come up with these great ideas at the most in opportune moments: church, driving, in the shower etc. I start writing a great blog post in my head but by the time I get to a computer, I completely forget to write it and if I do think of it, I’ve lost “it”. It’s so frustrating at times!

    I like the idea of just writing though. Sometimes I do that. It helps to just get it out and get rid of the junk.
    .-= Debbie Yost´s last blog ..Teamwork =-.

  6. Karla says:

    “… don’t try and focus.” So are you saying “don’t try” “and you should focus” or did you mean “don’t try to focus”?

  7. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    SuzieM what a great prompt, and a powerful way to connect into the source of the words… thanks for sharing it with us

    Karen it’s a really good unblocker, glad it worked for you!

    -Deb I can see how that would work… it’s just a way to get out of our heads and back into the here and now…

    Debbie life doesn’t always leave time for writing, and I know you’ve had a busy wee while ;-) Just writing is a good way to keep in touch with your writing self, and your inner self, when there isn’t time to ‘write’

    Karla don’t try to focus…

  8. Tyrean Martinson says:

    Writing poetry when I can’t seem to write prose works.

    Getting a piece of junk mail type paper, and jotting down random thoughts helps. Basically, I’m telling myself, “see it’s ok if these words are life-changing, I just am going to get a few down anyway.”

    Writing in a tiny notebook, or writing about a tiny subject - a fingernail, the petal on a flower, the grain of wood on my old table, the shape of a spoon, my cat’s mustache, etc.

    Taking a little notebook with me wherever I am, and just jotting down random words, thoughts, feelings in short phrases.

    Drawing a treasure map, even though my drawing is atrocious, and thinking about what the treasure could be.

    Those are some of my favorite ways to deal with writer’s block.
    .-= Tyrean Martinson´s last blog ..Paradise =-.

  9. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Tyrean that’s interesting about prose / poetry. I’m probably the same - poems seem to have a life of their own with me, so really I just need to get out of the way ;-) Your other suggestions / practices are wonderful and I can see just how they would work.I particularly love the idea of tiny subjects… what a beautiful way to ground your writing and yourself. I will be borrowing this one :-)

  10. Jez Lerman says:

    I don’t want to write stories with weapon-wielding characters. I’m tired of the detective story, the murder mystery. They’ve been done to the death. Boring.

    I don’t want to write stories laden with what I call “cheap emotional TV exits” the kind of trash we get on a daily basis where conflict is resolved with a supposed meaningful stare as the main character exits stage right with much door slamming. This is more akin to a child having a tantrum than adults sorting problems out.

    I don’t want to write fiction that relies upon conflict of characters, conflict of motive, conflict of any kind. Enough already of this Holywood-and-TV-network formulaic nonsense. It is time to write stories based on something else. I don’t know what, which is a pity, but I’m working on it. Common writing wisdom states that stories without conflict leave the reader asking “so what?” so, yeah, its a challenge alright!

    …there, I wrote for five minutes. Feels good, Thanks, Joanna.

  11. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Jez I am delighted that this simple post got you writing. I like what you don’t want to write :-)

  12. Sherri Ruston says:

    Joanna, thank you for this great series. I just found it last night & was inspired to journal using these writing prompts. As a result, I am able to post this comment with some level of confidence. Next, I will type out a post for one or two of my blogs, moving through my fears with my butt planted in the chair. The dishes & laundry can wait.

  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @Sherri Ruston: I’m so glad you found the articles of value. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. So sorry it took so long for me to reply!