Posted On February 23, 2015 by Print This Post

Software to Help Focus Your Writing Time with Pat Haggerty

pat_haggertyDo you get distracted while trying to write? Lord knows I do! Pat Haggerty is here to show us how to avoid the distractions and get down to the nitty gritty of writing.

Can you spend loads of time on the net when you should be writing? I sure can. My personal time-suck is research. I love to research, and I’m good at it too. When my friends have issues finding something, they call me. Google and I are way past being on a first name basis, aren’t we sweetie.

The problem? I love research a little too much.

My latest work in progress features a genetically enhanced warrior turned scientist who gets sucked through a wormhole transportation device he’s invented and spat out into the Middle Ages of another dimension. I love the plot (so far). I love my characters. The problem? I know next to nothing about wormholes or the Middle Ages. Could a wormhole shift you to another dimension? Are there reasonable scientists who actually believe in such things? And oh yea, did men wear pants in the early Middle Ages? What did women wear? What weapons would they carry? Did arrows have feathers on them? Did people use carriages? Did the horses have bridles and stirrups?

Not to fear, research is here!

I smiled, opened my browser, and spent days doing research. I spent time reading about wormholes and about Stephen Hawking, and did you know there’s a movie out about his life? It was made by Universal. Did you know that Universal Studios was founded almost 100 years ago? And clothes! Don’t get me started on the clothes and ties (not buttons) and materials. Oh and shoes! You wouldn’t believe what they called shoes back in the early Middle Ages.

And in all that time researching, I didn’t write one word. Not one.

The first step is admitting that you have a problem.

When I started writing I spent all my time taking classes because it didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t have the English chops I needed. When I had a better handle on the writing process I started planning. Ideas for different books came and I dutifully noted them down but they never really went anywhere. Oh I started stories, but then I gave up on each when another shiny idea came along and caught my wondering writers eye.

But I wasn’t. Writing.

Don’t get me wrong, the classes and some of the research was necessary, but it can’t be the only thing you do.

I was at my first RWA Nationals when I made some off the cuff comment to my wife about loving to write. She arched a brow and said, “No you don’t.” I was just warming up on a good indignant huff when she added, “If you really loved it, you’d do it more.”

And all the wind went right out of my sails. Damn it. I hate when she’s all insightful like that in the middle of an argument. I hated it most because she was spot on, 100%, correct. I was spending all my time doing all these things but I wasn’t doing the most important thing a writer can do: Writing. Then Writing more. Writing when you’re tired. Writing when the she devil on your shoulder is telling you that your writing is crap. Writing like writing is something that you truly love.

The second step is getting help

After admitting that I had a problem I started to work at focusing myself. Oh sure, a big part was self-control and learning good writing practices. I set daily writing word goals and rearranged my schedule over and over until I found the time I was most productive. When that time turned out to be before heading to work in the morning I looked for my second best writing time. Making myself set my alarm two hours early each morning was going to be setting myself up to fail. I also quit worrying about perfection in my first draft. Hemmingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And he would know. Save the perfection for rewrites.

I also researched ways to prevent computer distractions. Sounds like some sort of oxymoron but I’m serious. “Just say no” is a great mantra but for some of us Internet addicts we need a little more.

So, if you find yourself spending too much time friending on Facebook, shooting off emails, or pinning writer memes on Pinterest, time when you should be writing, then you too might benefit from some software applications that have really helped me.

Let me know if you have any questions and happy writing.

SelfControl

SelfControl is a Mac only application that can block or grant access to any web addresses that you choose for as long as you like. And it’s free. You can find it over at:

http://selfcontrolapp.com

Once you get it installed and running, you’ll see that it has a really basic interface:

image001

Press the Edit Blacklist button and enter the addresses for the sites that you find too tempting and it will block them for the specified time. If you prefer blocking everything, switch to whitelist mode and you will be allowed to access only those sites you explicitly enumerate. Set the slider to how long you plan on writing, and press Start. Your web access will now be limited and the distracting sites will be off limits until the timer runs out or until you reboot your machine.

Stop Procrastinating

My second recommendation is the same type of application and it will work on either Windows or Mac. Stop Procrastinating will set you back a whopping $4.99 and it can be downloaded from:

http://www.stopprocrastinatingapp.com

It’s interface is also straight forward:

image003

By default this app blocks access to everything but there is a checkbox to allow access to sites you specify. It can even be set to keep blocking if you try to get out through a reboot.

Write or Die

This final option is a site and not an app and for me it takes things a little far, but it’s worth mentioning. If your writing would benefit from, well, let’s call it tough love, then take a look at the website:

http://writeordie.com

image005

Write of Die can actually be set in a mode where it will erase your writing if you don’t stay focused and write enough words per minute.

***

Ok, RU Writers! What are your tricks of the trade to keep on the writing path!

Join us on Wednesday for Tracy Collins who asks Is Our Writing Routine Effective?

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Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.

Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.

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14 Responses to “Software to Help Focus Your Writing Time with Pat Haggerty”

  1. Great insights. For me, in addition to loving research, it’s reading blogs like this – I learn something, but at the same time, I’m not writing. Sigh. 😉

    Time to get to work.

    Posted by Vicky Burkholder | February 23, 2015, 7:14 am
    • Yes. Like everything it’s a balance. Learning writing skills, reading blogs, and taking classes are all part of becoming better at your craft. It just can’t be all that you do 🙂

      Posted by Pat Haggerty | February 23, 2015, 8:58 am
  2. Hi Patrick,

    I use Freedom. I can block the internet for hours that way, but I don’t use it as often as I should.

    I’m really liking what your wife said, that if you love writing, why aren’t you doing more of it. That so applies to me 🙂

    Idle surfing the net is much like going through magazines.

    Posted by Susanne | February 23, 2015, 7:54 am
  3. Great post, Pat. Pinterest is the devil! And there are time when I don’t want to sit still. Writing is hard, y’all! So I go old school and pull out a timer. When it dings, I can get up and move around. I manage to get words on the page that way.

    Posted by Terri L. Austin | February 23, 2015, 9:45 am
    • Hey Terri,

      Yes, a timer can also be a great help. They even have some apps to help with that kind of reminder, like Focus Booster (which I haven’t tried):
      https://www.focusboosterapp.com

      It can remind you to focus on particular things, tell you when to take a break, etc. One that I do have that’s nice is called FocusBar (another Mac app). It’s free and simply pops up a reminder periodically. You can have it say, “You should be writing.” Ever 15 min or something, ha.

      And yes, at home I have the good old ticking egg timer. That can work well also.

      Cheers.

      Posted by Pat Haggerty | February 23, 2015, 10:17 am
  4. Morning Pat!

    Excellent, excellent post! I am a huge fan of Write or Die..I can program it to be super obnoxious or just a bit pushy…I like that. =)

    I’m also a huge fan of wandering off while attempting to write…lol….probably why I haven’t finished a book in eons…

    thanks for a most excellent post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 23, 2015, 10:11 am
  5. The more classes I took, the less I wrote and the more Imposter Syndrome set in.

    Lots of great suggestions here – thanks so much!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 23, 2015, 2:46 pm
  6. Stop Procrastinating used to be called Webtrate when I got it and I love it. Seriously, it’s part of my routine and just thinking about turning it on and having it control the internet for me is comforting, in a weird way. I had a conversation about it with the developer a year or so ago, and he was going to use my testimonial in some promo material but right after that it became Stop Procrastinating. It is, quite honestly, the only way I can write now.

    Posted by Kathryn Barrett | February 23, 2015, 3:30 pm
  7. Hi Pat,

    I’ve heard of Write or Die, but I wasn’t aware of the other apps you mentioned. I used to participate in word sprints, which helped. Thanks for this!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | February 24, 2015, 2:59 am

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