At the time I’m writing this I have (at least) four big projects going, including: getting the finish work done on a book, getting a new chainmail project set out, putting together a story for a national completion, and gearing up for writing the third novel in a trilogy. I also have my wife at home recuperating from surgery, a Cub Scout den meeting tonight, dinner to make, shopping to do, and worky icky manager stuff demanding my attention. It isn’t always easy being a writer!
There are times when being a writer is really great; there are times you get into a flow and get some good work done.
There are also times when you’re a couple lines into your flow and someone comes and bangs on the door…
There are times that you want to work, but there are just a few too many things pulling you “out of your zone”.
We want things to go perfectly when we write, but let’s face it. Perfection is an ideal thing not a real thing. Fortunately there are things that we can do to help ourselves be better and more successful even when the wife/husband/child/pet is sick, the phone is ringing off the hook, random people are at the door, and your social media is infested with trolls.
Learn about yourself and your work style and then put that learning into action…
We’ve talked about this one before. You will be well served to learn about how you work as a writer: do you prefer to write in the morning or the afternoon? Do you like the stimulation of a busy place? Do you like to listen to music as you write? Do you need a lonely quiet place? Does a lovely beverage help? If so, which one?
When you learn these things the next step is to start putting them in place in your schedule.
If you write best in the morning, make it so that you can write in the morning. This may mean coordinating your schedule with other people and things. If you have a “day job” this means the “day job” gets relegated to afternoons or evenings. If you have to take the young’uns to school, you may want to figure out a car pool so you have more morning time to work.
If you like music, figure out what works for what you’re writing and build a sound track.
If the phone is what’s getting to you, you don’t have to answer. (Actually when I’m in my office my phone is usually on the other side of the house (which is why I never seem to answer phone calls before about two in the afternoon…)).
When you learn about your writing habits and what works for you, and then put that learning into action, you are actively reducing the distractions and other problems that can get in your way.
Plan and communicate with those family members…
This is a hard one. Your spouse/bf/gf/whatever always needs attention. So do your children. And of course the dog, cat, hamster, raccoon, or purple spotted land squid is going to do it’s best to stick its nose in as well. (And we haven’t even gotten to the mail man, the door to door salesman and the old friend from high school yet…).
One of the best things here is an office with a door (or perhaps even an office outside the house). This is actually one of the reasons I favor writing in restaurants for some projects (the caffeine refills also really help!).
I like my office time. But I also know that you can’t just wall yourself off. Family members get hurt feelers, and the cat… Well he/she/it can get just plain vindictive. You need to communicate and do a little teaching. Help those family member and others understand that you are working and as much as you love them there are things you need to get done.
It’s complicated. You can have some real struggles with this one (enough to get their own post at minimum…). But you do have to set some boundaries and find some balance.
Don’t stop, redirect…
Even though it makes things harder sometimes, there is a reason I’ve always got more than one iron in the fire. There is also a reason I try to plan ahead and know what needs to be done on which projects and when.
Having multiple projects, and plans for those projects, allows me to redirect when I’m really struggling to get work done. If the baby’s crying for attention, the ferret wants to nap on your keyboard, and your mother in law reeeaaly wants you on that conference call about the family reunion it’s probably not a great time to be working on new writing. But, it’s a funny thing…
Babies like a soothing tone of voice no matter what the words are. What about reading your work aloud while you’re holding the baby? That’s more the review/editing side of things, but it can help you think about what to write next.
If the ferret’s on the keyboard, maybe it’s telling you to get off the computer for a few minutes. Pick up the weaslekin and head for another room. You might not be writing at that moment, but you can still be figuring out how to pitch your story to an agent or editor. You can also be pondering that one detail on page 47 that just kind of feels wrong.
As for the mother in law… It’s a conference call. Unless there’s a camera on she’s not going to notice if you put the call on speaker and clean up your desk (you know you need to… And dust those shelves while you’re at it…).
The point is, even if you’re stuck beating your head against the wall with one part of the process there is still probably something worthwhile you can be doing, something that will be moving your writing forward. It’s generally a better idea, and a better feeling, to be getting something done than to be banging your head against a wall and getting pissed off about it.
If you can’t seem to get rolling on what you’re trying to do. Find some other productive part of the process to work on and let your subconscious work on the hard stuff. It works amazingly well (definitely better than stopping completely or having a hissy fit…)
You have to make choices…
Let me bottom line it for you dear reader…
As much as I love writing these posts, if my wife is in pain and needs my help I’m going to be over there helping her and not in here writing this post. That’s a choice I’ve made.
As much as I want my story in that contest, I’m still making sure the light bill gets paid.
On the other hand…
As much as some people tell me I can’t do this I’m still getting the book done, I am still going to write. (Actually, those people are fun sometimes! Like when they tell you you’ll never be able to do this and then you pull out a royalty check… (And it doesn’t even have to be a big one…))
You have to make choices about what’s really important to you. It is the important things that will get done.
It helps to figure out why the stuff is important. I do the worky icky manager stuff because getting it done supports the writing stuff that I want to do. Another guy I know once spent two hours getting the lint out of the track for his closet door because he really didn’t want to face cleaning the bathroom (the avoidance was important to him).
Sooner or later we have to make decisions about our writing. We have to decide what we really want and how to go about getting it. We have to decide how we work best and to organize our lives so it can happen. We have to decide what is really important and seek after those things.
When we genuinely make these decisions we can move on to figuring out how to make them happen. When we are honest with ourselves we can find ways to put down or deal with the distractions, and some of them may even go away on their own once the decision is made.
We do have to keep our decisions and reasons out in front of us (it helps us to stay on target). But we start by making the decisions and then succeed by following through.
Remember style points are only added after successful completion of the project! There will always be things we could have done to make it better.
If we continue in writing there will always be things to learn from and do better (or change completely!) next time.
But nothing succeeds like success. You have to finish a project for it to be done, and that means finding your way past the obstacles and distractions.
Speaking of getting it done…
I think we’ve finished the post dear reader…
So what say we all go out and get some other stuff done, and I’ll see you next post!