Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Distractions From Writing

Today, a blog, a newsletter and my own life all collided in one place - and it made me think yet again about why, when we call ourselves writers, have projects on the go, deadlines looming, still we faff about and don't write. First was the blog - Kristi Holl has written two insightful posts about what fuels your writing, what motivates you to sit down and put words on the page. Deadlines are great, but if you've been writing for a while and had some stuff published, then that particular carrot (seeing your work in print) is not so important anymore.

So what do you replace it with? Then I read Randy Ingermanson's newsletter that turns up in my InBox every month. He talks about advanced fiction writing techniques, and something he said today struck a chord: "I've heard from a lot of writers on this, and the strong impression I've gotten is that most writers, most days, don't feel like writing. That's as true of professional novelists as it is of the newest novices." (You can sign up for his free newsletter here.)

That made me feel better. In fact, it almost gave me a really good excuse for not writing. I had a dozen distractions today, things I considered important to accomplish. One was part of my third job these days (building a house - I've long given up considering it a small extra!). Light fittings. I drove all over my area looking yet again at light fittings. Nobody has what I want for a reasonable price, and when they do, it's not in stock. By 1pm today, I was grinding my teeth and trying really hard not to thump a salesman. All the while, that last chapter in my novel revision hovered somewhere over my right shoulder, mumbling at me.

There were other distractions. That's part of the problem Kristi and Randy talk about - unless you are going through a period of hot, intense motivation, sitting down to write can be the hardest thing in the world to do. It's not even that you give in to distractions - you go looking for them! Anything except writing. But this last chapter ... it was waiting. It had been patient for a few days, but it knew I was avoiding it, and it was starting to scowl.

After I read the rest of Randy's article, I knew he was right. The only way to write is to sit on that chair and begin. No matter how long it takes the computer to boot up (there are so many things you can squeeze in while you're waiting, and then they stretch out to an hour or more...), when it's ready, you have to sit down and start. No more distractions, no more excuses. Are you a writer? So get on with it and write!


Lorraine said...

Oh,dear! How write ... oops! how right you are, Sherryl. Even though I've been clinging to the writing vine by putting in a few poems to our group for workshopping, I'm thinking that I'm not really a writer this year. I'll encourage, even prod, anyone who is getting on with it, but for me this is a year of 'clearing up' (as I'm sure all my friends will be sick of hearing) but it does have to be done. Then it will be full steam ahead (forgive the cliche) next year. Mind you, there's a cetain amount of writing in the clearing up but not enough to class myself and as true, out-there-and-into-it writer this year.
Here's to the rest of this year but Come On 2010!

Kristi Holl said...

Sherryl, thanks for the plug for my blog! I keep thinking that making yourself write daily shouldn't be that hard. I am wondering if somehow it has to be a lifestyle change. (Example: for years I've tried to lose ten pounds. Stop and start, sweat and starve, on and off, never successful. Then in May I got a high cholesterol reading and told I had three months to get it down with diet before being put on drugs. I hate drugs! I got busy and changed my eating lifestyle overnight! In three months, I only remember one day "falling off the wagon," and it was a tiny fall. I didn't do it to lose weight, but I ended up losing those pesky ten pounds after I realized healthy eating DAILY needed to be a permanent lifestyle change--no buts.) So...if there were a similar scare (write daily or you'll have a stroke), I bet I would write daily without all this angst. Is there a way to make writing daily a once-and-for-all lifestyle change too? I will think on it!

Sherryl said...

Kristi - you are so right about something major making you change your ways when nothing else has worked.
I think the problem with writing is that it's more scary than not writing! After all, light fittings and doing stuff with the kids or grandkids or something urgent on the house makes you feel useful and productive - just not writing-productive. Whereas sitting down to write brings with it the fear that you won't be able to write, or that what you do write will be awful. No wonder we choose the easier option!
But when we don't, then we do write, and we write a heck of a lot more than all those other people who went for the chores.