It’s a big deal just to protect your writing hours, and once you sit yourself down, there’s the little matter of getting your mind to focus on the work. In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Work In A Distracted World, Cal Newport, suggests that rituals reduce friction and save mental energy, allowing you to move more quickly into a state of deep concentration. Using a writing routine ritual incorporating all five senses is a great hack for strengthening the power of your work habit and your focusing muscles.
Are you writing on the same computer screen that you use for checking Facebook or surfing the web? This mixed-use visual habit sends the wrong message to your brain. Consider placing a small personal item attached to your writing goals within your field of vision. Have it out only when you sit down to work. When your eye wanders, let it wander to the thing that reminds you of your intention.
Have some sort of auditory cue on hand to begin each writing session the same way. A short guided meditation track can be useful, or a song that gets you fired up. After you’ve played this “starting” piece, you can tune in to your preferred writing soundtrack, or a white noise source, and drill down to work.
These senses are so interlinked that I’ve joined them together. Maybe there’s a brand of mint you could carry with you for work sessions only. You could start each writing block brewing the same tea. Try to find something special that you can associate only with writing, but not so specialized that you will only be able to work at the one coffee shop in town that carries your chosen “writing trigger” blend of fair-trade pineapple rooibos.
Do you have something tactile that could be used as a cue get your mind back to your story? The old lucky rabbit foot trope comes to mind, but even twisting a ring on your finger a certain number of times, or setting your palms over your closed eyes for a count of ten would do the trick. You get the idea. Decide on something subtle if you don’t want to weird out your table mates. Or maybe you want to unnerve your neighbours? It is nice having a table to yourself.