Distractions are so dependable. When one shows up, I say, ‘Ah, there you are! My old frenemy. So glad you could join me in this creative endeavour!’ Not.
My writing days have become an exercise in distraction prevention…and that’s good because it’s how the laundry gets done which is considerable with 5 humans and a dog.
I have two 4-hour chunks of dedicated time to write each week. All other writing happens in-between times and nap times and letting the kids watch tv and eat snack-times. And on my writing days, when I have 4 whole hours, I feel pressure. It’s all from my own head and is a distraction in itself. I deal with it by breaking it down into 30-minute pieces or just giving myself a break or giving myself a hard time, depending on day.
When I first started writing, I was semi-obsessed with the writing processes of accomplished authors. I would read books about it. Articles about it. I would try stuff. For a while, part of my writing process was painting my nails just before I began because a) I could type/write with semi-wet nails and b) it kept me from doing other things like moving my butt out of my chair. I had been inspired by Victor Hugo who famously had a servant take his clothes away, leaving him no option but to stay indoors and write. Painting my nails was tame, and warmer, by comparison but it served the same purpose and worked for a while.
What I did finally discover, and it came as my confidence grew, was that there’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you must write, then you must.
But some good, and odd bits of advice have stuck with me:
- Don’t eat. This is rubbish though. This lady (don’t remember her name, which is good cause I wouldn’t want to heap ridicule on her) advocated naps, walks, music, dancing, but NOT eating. She specifically said, Do not take a break from writing to eat. She had problems. I take relish in breaking this ‘rule’ regularly.
- Anne Lamott is a writing hero of mine. Her book Bird by bird has to be one of the best and funniest books about writing, ever. Here’s what I wrote as a takeaway from her. “Align myself with the river of the story – the river of unconsciousness – of memory and sensibility, of my characters’ lives, which can then pour through me.” Any time I fight this one, it’s a disaster. Go with the flow when not editing.
- Silence the inner-critic – I think I’ve become pretty good at this. This and the advice above are how I’ve written the first draft of my book. If you go with Anne’s advice, you will pretty much silence the critic or will at least be so caught up in your characters’ lives you won’t notice anything else. But you must not have the demon in your ear saying horrible things like you’re no good or you’re a fraud, you need a happy womb for your word baby. Remember, we’re all practicing the writing thing, all of us. Out of quantity comes quality, so just knock out the words and keep.on.going. Keep them tumbling. And no one but YOU can tell your story, just as you’re telling it.
- Have a lie down, but stay awake. Yes, it’s the opposite of a nap and that’s a big negative. I know. But seriously, a friend mentioned this to me and I tried it because sometimes my ‘best’ ideas come as I’m just drifting off to sleep. And we’ll never know if they are truly my best ideas because the ones that don’t get recorded (over half of them!) are lost FOREVER! This haunts me as someone who can live in an idea or use it as a scene or poem or that plot twist I desperately needed. Laying down is just relaxing. Then from this relaxed state, the ideas flow…but instead of rolling over and going back to sleep or repeating them over and over and telling yourself to remember them, (it doesn’t work, just write them down!) you are poised to record those glorious words.
- Write it down. Sounds completely obvious, but the obvious is worth stating. I have paper and pencil near my bed, in the car, with me at all times. Failing that, most of us have a phone with a note function that will do in a pinch though I wouldn’t want to write tons in that medium.
And now I’ll leave you with this from Carl Sandburg, “Beware of advice – even this.”
Thanks Carl. 🙂