remove distractions to write

Nine distractions I gave up for the love of writing

You often hear that to be a serious writer you have to give up the distractions that eat up your time. Annie Dillard takes this attitude to an extreme when she says in her book The Writing Life:

“It should surprise no one that the life of a writer — such as it is — is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author’s childhood. A writer’s childhood may well have been the occasion of his only first hand experience.”

I always resisted the notion that my life was just a bunch of “distractions” I needed to forgo in order to write. That is precisely the reason I didn’t have a consistent writing life. I wrote and published on and off, but I had many other passions: love(s), salsa dancing, books, travels, work, mothering…

Overtime it was clear that even with a smashing career and a loving family, there was something missing. The pain this absence brought shrouded everything else. It forced me to shed off layers each year, each month, each day, until I fully committed to being a writer.

Here are nine things I’ve given up for the love of writing:

  • A corporate job with plum salary and benefits — aka, financial stability.
  • Prestige in the eyes of the world. I’m not a Director of anything anymore. I toil away in obscurity for years on end.
  • A spotless house, on-time laundry, daily home-made meals.
  • Entertaining — I haven’t thrown a big party in over two years.
  • Social media apps in my phone (aside from Instagram). I use social media once or twice a day, in my laptop. It’s not a mindless addiction.
  • Late weekday nights — I need to be fresh to write in the morning.
  • Netflix binges.
  • Full-time freelance work — I still need an income, but I work part-time so I can have time and energy for writing.
  • Spending without thinking — every dollar counts.

I don’t live like a monk. I still go out, see friends, and have fun, but I do so within certain boundaries. I live intentionally.

As I have given up distractions, I have added some activities that inspire me and help me commit further to my path as a writer:

  • I read more books.
  • I go to more art exhibits.
  • I meet with writer friends to chat and/or write.
  • I meditate (almost) daily.
  • I participate in a Master Mind for writers, or take writing courses at least once a year.
  • And the most important, I write or revise at least five days a week.

Other people are able to maintain many balls in the air. I admit I’m not one of them. I had to give up a lot to gain what I most want. As Daniel Goldman says,

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.”

What have you given up to follow your dream? And what have you gained once you gave up distractions?