The Book Marketing Tip for October 29, 2012:
When writing, focus on your writing. Don’t let life, job, family, anything else distract you.
OK, writing is an incredibly introspective exercise. It takes concentration.
In our heads, we organize our thoughts, select words, type them in the order that has the best impact, and it is all done by memory. When that train of thought…
Sorry, had to get the phone. OK. So, when that train of thought is, uh, interrupted, the thoughts, or was it ideas, are lost. Hmm. That wasn’t what I was going to say. Whatever.
Writing is an incredibly introspective process. We form thoughts in our head, arrange them carefully, select words, and type them in an order that has great impact. We hold on to other thoughts as paragraphs are crafted, chapters are herded, and we plod along for weeks towards that incredible climax that will make the novel a runaway bestseller.
We are incredibly busy when we write.
However, the world doesn’t see it that way. We are sitting in a chair, lips pursed, typing away on a relatively blank screen. To the world, to our boss, our families, our friends and even total strangers, it seems as though we are hardly as busy as a television viewer. Certainly, a quick moment of the writer’s time isn’t too much to ask, they think.
- Honey, could you take the trash out?
- Hello, Mr. Rozansky, I’d like to tell you about our bookbinding services.
- David, sorry to bother you, but just needed a quick answer. You don’t hyphenate a compound adjective that starts with “very,” do you?
- Can I refill your coffee?
- Daddy. Daddy! DADDY!!! Look what I can do.
The biggest complaint I hear from writers is that they have trouble finding the time to write without these distractions. Many successful authors have a writing space, a desk in a spare bedroom or a coffee shop where they can hide in a corner. It’s not easy, because we are programmed not to interrupt a speaker, but thinkers are considered fair game.
When a writer can focus on writing, uninterrupted, it is not difficult to crank out about 3,000 to 5,000 words in an eight-hour day. It is only a matter of typing speed and organization.
However, even a small interruption can set a writer back an hour or two. Once the train of thought is broken, the writer “loses the flick,” as we used to say at the air traffic control center. The writing process does not hold the train of thought in memory for more than a few seconds. Without concentrating to keep reloading the data into the brain’s storytelling buffer, the line of words, thoughts and ideas are lost. Forever!
Once the tiny interruption is resolved, the writer must return to the screen, read what is written, and try to re-create the story from that point. All too often, the second (or fourteenth) re-creation of the scene simply waters it down. The impact is lost as the writer simply tries to keep the story going.
I am often told by writers that their best work is done in a flurry of uninterrupted activity, perhaps getting up late at night and sneaking away to the basement to write all through the night. The wee hours of the morning can be the most productive time of the day, because everyone who is willing to interrupt a great writer is asleep.
If a writer is bothered with numerous distractions rather often, it does more than just interrupt the train of thought. That writer begins to act a bit neurotic, edgy, and cranky. The author is behaving like a mouse in a maze where the cheese is always moved. Pretty soon, the writer begins to anticipate the distractions and in response, begins to write disjointedly. Thoughts and ideas are forced together too quickly, in an attempt to put as much of the train of thought on paper before the next cataclysmic distraction occurs.
When it is time to write, it is time to write. Take care of the chores first, then let everyone know that writing time is sacrosanct. There are to be no distractions. None. Not a one. Unless the house is burning down around me, I don’t want to hear from anyone (and it better be this side of the house!)
Find a quiet location that is all your own, where the world won’t bother you. Close–and lock–the door. Don’t think for a moment that you can write while watching TV, tweeting, tending to small children, or eating lunch. Oh, you can get words down on paper, no problem. But it won’t be your best work, and your best work is all that people ever want to read.
[Postscript: While writing this blog, I was distracted by my daughter three times, once by the dog, once by a phone call from my travel agent–oh, wait, here’s my daughter again giving me a cracker–and twice by urgent texting from a writer who will be late with a final draft. Finding quiet writing space is really not that easy for me.]
How do you handle distractions when you are writing?
Recommended reading: Write a Lot