We consistently label distractions as bad. And yeah, they can suck some precious time away from our writing projects.

But as far as I’m concerned, many of those distractions can actually be productive—and the source of a wealth of information.

I do keep several news feeds open as I write, as well as some social media feeds. I write until I begin to lose steam, then click over to read a few articles or check out what’s being discussed in an online writers’ group.  I check out what illustrators are posting.  I bounce around until I get that itch to get back to my WIP. I move that way throughout the day, back and forth, writing and reading, writing and reading.

The thing is, I've learned you’ve always got to keep your antenna out. I think that means reading PW and talking to other writers, subscribing to as many trade newsletters and magazines as possible. You don’t know what you don’t know. Which means you can’t Google it in a post-writing opportune time. You have to just be out there, constantly interacting, reading, listening. That’s how I’ve been learning about the publishing industry all along—both traditional and indie publishing.

You can’t write in a vacuum. That means you need an editor and feedback on your work, sure. But I think that also means you can’t simply write and not attempt to learn about the industry as a whole. That’s where we’re lucky. Living in a world in which everything is online, we get a chance to talk to bookstore owners and librarians. We get to talk to teachers and see how our work is being used in the classroom. We get to hear what kind of books readers are hungry for. And we get to see in real time what’s going on in the publishing industry itself.

That’s not to say we should all be writing to market. Chasing trends. Racing to get on the next bandwagon. But all this information really can help inform and shape your own WIP, the work of your heart. Or it can help shape the submission or marketing or packaging of that work. It’s really nice, once you get done writing, to already have a plan for what to do next—a plan that’s been shaped by all your reading during “distraction” time!


  1. I agree Holly. It's all part of "being a writer" to tap into whatever it takes to bring out the details in our stories.


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