Reading and writing for uninterrupted stretches of time—and I consider five minutes to be an uninterrupted stretch of time—now seems like a rare, precious gift. This sad fact is a creativity and productivity killer. If you’re a PR pro or journalist or any kind of professional wordsmith, being able to write freely without distraction is the only way to produce anything of real quality. It’s your metier and your meal ticket.
I struggle with this daily. Just today I discussed it with my colleagues on the PR News editorial team. We came up with a few ideas that might be helpful to you. Hopefully they won’t serve as yet another distraction from the job of writing good sentences.
• This is a pricey solution, but you may consider purchasing a distraction-free smart typewriter. You can type away and save your copy to the cloud, but you can’t access the internet. More important, the internet can’t access you with its prickly emails and texts.
• At the risk of being labeled a shallow hipster or poseur, you can hack away on a beautiful, old refurbished typewriter. It’s not a practical option in the modern office, but it’ll force you to write second drafts when it’s time to enter the copy into a 21st century machine. My guess is your productivity won’t dip at all, and the quality can only go up from where you are now.
• Writing first drafts in longhand would be more neighborly than using a clanging, banging typewriter and, like using a typewriter, it would also force you to write true second drafts.
• At the very least, you can shut off your mobile device and shut down email on your laptop. This tactic usually buys me five minutes of uninterrupted writing time, but no more than that. Somebody who looks strangely like me always barges into my office at the five-minute mark and turns on both my phone and Outlook. I should ask building security to take away his ID card.
May you find an unimpeded path to clear rivers of clean sentences in 2017.
—Steve Goldstein, editorial director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI