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Defeat distraction with a mini writing deadline

Some days I’m easily distracted and can’t settle down and just write. It could be a a pile of paperwork on my desk, dirty dishes that need washing, or the the phone ringing every two minutes.

So I go to my local library to see how many words I can write in 60 minutes.

Like most libraries, the ones in my community have free Internet access. To make sure people don’t monopolize the computers, each one has a time limit. Sixty minutes is the maximum time you’re allowed to use a computer each day. So I know I have to get into my writing quickly once I log on. Most of the time, the other library goers are quiet and inclined to follow good library etiquette. The low-level thrum of library energy makes for good white noise. I’m in my happy place.

The library also has several “study rooms” patrons can reserve for two hours. I call them, “writing boxes.” The rooms contain a desk, two chairs and electrical outlets. That’s it.

It’s true, the library has wireless access, so I could distract myself with the Internet. But something about my library routine makes it easy to know I’m going there with a mission, and I find it easy to focus. If I don’t write at one of the public computers, I’ll reserve a study room and shut myself in my little box with my laptop. Some people might feel a little claustrophobic, but I feel peaceful once I close the door, knowing I have a quiet place to work and the knowledge that I’m going to satisfy my craving for a writing fix.

These self-imposed mini deadlines — courtesy of my public library — help me focus. And who can’t help but love being surrounded by all those lovely books with all those lovely words?

Andrea Levy, author of The Long Song, says she writes her most imaginative material at a library in London. Levy speaks here about why she likes to write at the library. If you struggle with distraction, stir up your imagination by writing at your local library.

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