Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writers write

A writer is someone who writes. That's about the simplest definition imaginable . . . and one of the hardest for some of us to put into practice. A writer writes. If she is out playing tennis, weeding the garden, reading the latest thriller, surfing the Web, or checking what's new in the refrigerator since the last time she looked--she is not writing, except if she can convince herself that she is "brainstorming" or "doing research" (cough, cough).

As a work-at-home writer, I occasionally joke that my house is never cleaner than when I'm facing a deadline. I know the pressure is on when scrubbing floors and alphabetizing the spice drawer sound more appealing than sitting down to write. Alas, a harried editor confronted with my tardiness will not be impressed by my dust-free baseboards. So I soldier on.

The closer the deadline looms, the more convinced I become that I can't do the story, can't string two words together to save my life, and furthermore, haven't had an original thought since 1992. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a spark will sparkle, an idea will sprout, and I'm off and writing.

If you're trying to write but can't seem to resist the call of the coffee pot or the siren song of the satellite dish, try this:

Get out of the house. Take your laptop or notebook to a library, coffee shop, or park. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes getting out of the oppressive silence or familial interruptions of one's own home and writing amid the bustle and conversation of strangers makes it easier to concentrate. Don't know how it works, but it does.

Set a timer and promise yourself that you'll reward yourself with that cup of coffee or TIVO'd episode after you've written for, say, an hour. The mental break might be just what you need to smooth that knotty plot problem or clumsy phrasing. Just make sure it's a BREAK, not a permanent abandonment of your project.

Above all, don't give up. Remember this prescription for diligent writerhood:

Apply seat of pants to seat of chair.




Norm de Plume said...

Leaving one environment for another reinforces the task that I am here to write. Removing personal distractions helps too. Great idea.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Distractions are a major problem for me. Not only household distractions, but also writing distractions. Many times I avoid the BIG writing project and work on smaller writing tasks which are easier to access and complete. Thanks for the great tips.

Mary Jane Honegger said...

Your suggestions remind me of something I read about J.K. Dowling, of Harry Potter fame. She says the idea for the boy wizard popped into her head while sitting on a delayed train. Years later, she had several books outlined, and decided it was time to finish the first book. In her words, "...full time teaching, with all the marking and lesson planning, let alone with a small daughter to care for single-handedly, would leave me with absolutely no spare time at all. And so I set to work in a kind of frenzy, determined to finish the book and at least try to get it published. Whenever Jessica fell asleep in her pushchair I wold dash to the nearest cafe and write like mad. I wrote nearly every evening. Rowling followed your advice. Once she decided to write, she found a way to make it work for her - I don't know how clean her house was.