Malaise, Dragon Age, & MTV’s The State: 4 ways to defeat distractions

Yo! It’s Patrick Scaffido raps!

If you don’t remember Yo! MTV Raps, you may not be hip to my latest obsession: the DVD release of sketch comedy known as The State. That and finally breaking out Dragon Age again to play through the ultimate edition are my rewards for finishing my second novel during Nanowrimo.

During Nanowrimo keeping up with releasing the Horde (now on chapter 17) was a bit of a challenge. My timeline features the uploading of chapter 17 by Wednesday and after a month long break I really want Chapter 17 to be a doozy or perhaps even a kick in the pants.

Chapter 17 currently features a berserker crazed beast person, one of my heroes taking off his shirt, and a major plot revelation regarding the nature of what a Darkling is but it just isn’t hitting me the way I’d like. Grr, I say.

I’m thinking longingly back to the emotional freakouts of Chapter 8 or the hate-mail inducing but ultimately awesome Chapter 12 and just think to myself, “Why the heck did I go with the musical production?” Self doubt, my friends. It’s a killer.

Self doubt combined with the magical powers of my Xbox and my DVD player, I am almost overwhelmed. “So Patrick,” you might ask, “how do you plan to rise above these circumstances that would paralyze a mortal man and even distract the great Hercules from his Herculean labors?”

I’d respond first by chuckling at your joke then say:

1. Ego. I’ve watched enough He-Man to know when coffee, inspiration, and cajoling by my girlfriend pretending to like my writing fails; the only thing I can fall back on is raising my stylus above my head and shouting “I have the power” much to the annoyance of my neighbors.

Seriously, though, I look at the numbers. I reread the positive comments. Sure, there are negative comments as well. Most of them have been, “I like your writing but what’s up with the musical bit?” I don’t reread the negative comments though. I don’t need to. They get replayed in my head enough, I don’t need to actually look at them.

2. Electricity. If necessary, once I go save my video game, I’m going to go unplug the DVD player, the Xbox, the tv, and the toaster (fire hazard) and get myself writing.

The only way to really remove the distractions is to remove the distractions. As long as the distractions are present, the writing and revision will not commence. Distractions must die cold nasty deaths at my hands.

3. There is no need of a 3. Go write. Go look at the masters of writing. Or go look at the future masters of writing who’ve traveled back in time from the future to teach you what they’ve learned. I’m thinking Nathan Lowell or Chuck Wendig since they say lots of stuff on the topic of getting words out.

They say: get words out.

They say: write.

They say: get words out and write. At the same time.

I say: If you can’t do that, write badly. It’s better than nothing at all. Also, you might get a neat nonsense poem you can perform in drag at your local open mic (great for meeting girls or boys, depending on your persuasion).

4. There is no 4 either. This article is over.

So, to apply these tips to yourself.

1. Ego. Have one. Build one. When you’re writing, you’re a mighty divine powerhouse of creation spilling words on paper like Yahweh spilling mud on planet Earth, turning the piles of dirt into people or cows or whatever.

You’re writing. You’re a writer. You’re a better writer than that guy who isn’t writing. That’s write, you just kicked George R. R. Martin’s tookus for taking so long on his latest book becaue you’re actually writing instead of spending your money on Pringles.

It’s possible you’re eating Pringles and writing at the same time. That’s ok. Because your’e writing. What’s not ok is eating the Pringles without the writing. Also, if you are eating chips of some kind, don’t forget to wipe your keyboard with a dry rag to remove the grease from the keys. That stuff can seriously mess up your computer. The more you know!

2. Turn off the distractions.

To define a distraction, use this simple test. Ask yourself: Is this (a)  helping me write or (b) distracting me from writing?

Anything that falls under part A gets to stick around, even if it looks weird. One night I was listening to Bonnie Raitt’s Have A Heart on repeat for six hours while singing along and dancing around the room every minute or so. I wrote six thousand words. This is a keeper.

Anything in category B should be dead to you while you’re writing. Common offenders are video games, movies, dvds, audiobooks, relatives, puppies, your mom, your face, your mom’s face, internet chat, and prewriting.

Beware! Many evil creatures disguise themselves as A but are actually B. I’m looking at you, special writing computer programs. You may trick me into thinking that looking up celebrity photos for main characters is writing but if we apply our simple test, it’s fairly clear that since we aren’t writing when we are matching Shania Twain to the protagonist of our Big Bang Theory fanfic, we aren’t actually writing!

During Nanowrimo, some write ins I’d spend most of the time socializing. Others I’d spend most of the time socializing AND writing at the same time. The bottom line was my word count leaving the write in. If I wrote, I kept going; no matter how much chatter was engaged in. I knew which write ins were “right” ins using the simple “was I writing” test.

Ignore your instincts. Follow the test. If it helps you write, keep it. If it distracts, discard it till you’re done for the day. Keep going till you’ve written to your goal.

If taking 30 second makeout breaks with your spouse every 15 minutes of writing is agreeable to both parties and encourages you to keep writing, this is a bonus.

If those 30 second breaks last 30 minutes to an hour, you may want to save them as a reward for when you’ve hit your goal. *wink wink nudge nudge* Maybe not. I don’t know. That’s for a marriage advice column, not a writing column.

3. Write.

4. Write. Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, it’s that complicated. Go get on it. If you don’t, I’ll hit you with this big stick on my next writing break.

❤ and other organs,

Patrick Scaffido


I finished #nanowrimo early. Here’s how I did it.

I started off trying to write the average number of words per day. Does anyone actually do this? Instead I only kept up by doing two or three thousand words. But I found myself 25 thousand words behind at start of the last full week. So I went to various small write ins over the week and then Saturday said, rather brashly at the Caribou Coffee write in, that I was going to finish “tomorrow.”

One of my fellow nanos said, “Hey, so you must be pretty close to being done then, right?” When I told her I was only halfway to the finish line she kind of laughed and rolled her eyes. No one quite said it was impossible, but between that and having previously challenged myself to beat Nathan Lowell’s one day record of twenty four thousand words, I was pretty driven.

So basically, the way I finished Nano was by making some pretty bold statements about how fast I can write and then chose to be as stubborn as a mule (my well written original similes were all eaten by my nano novel so don’t expect any here). I plugged away till I was done. I think I spent about 20 hours total over the weekend at coffee shops drinking way too much coffee. I was in poor shape at the end. However I had finished nano and written my second novel.

Moral of the story: Be stubborn. If someone suggests it might be too hard, use that as fuel because hey, it’s fun to prove people wrong.

It helps to be watching or reading something like One Piece where the main character  makes bold egotistical statements about how they will be the king of pirates (or in my case, poets) and then has to back it up by getting beaten to a pulp.

I also watched a lot of He-Man so I could tell myself I “had the power.” Yes, it’s lame. It gets worse when you look at my listening playlist. But it worked.

That’s my tale of how I finished Nanowrimo early. The end. Good writing, everyone!