Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing Distractions

By Susan

A writer is simply one who writes. It should be that simple—putting words on paper, one after the other, until one produces a cohesive thought. String those thoughts together into a story, build that story into a novel.

Yet distractions abound. They are our excuses to not write. Here are some main distractions as we enter the summer months, and some solutions:

Distraction: Other People.
Children who are old enough to make their own meals but still insist it tastes better when you do it. Spouses who need help finding something. (Seriously? Seriously.) Neighbors, ailing parents, bosses with new deadlines, friends-in-crisis. Other people are my favorite reason to not write—after all, they need me. They want me. My fiction? Not so much.

Carve out your alone time and put it on a calendar. Hang a do not disturb sign around your neck. I've been known to hide in my car to write (in fact, I am doing that RIGHT NOW). Turn your phone off, set a small goal, and get to it. Treating your words as if they are your job (if they aren't already) can ensure that you find a way to say 'No' when you need to. Sometimes, you have to take your writing seriously. Give yourself permission to do that.

Distraction: Other Responsibilities.
We all have lives, and lives are messy. Housework and bills, careers and family. Protect your writing time. Remember that no one is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to write. You write because you love it, because you cannot NOT write. Sometimes, you have to treat your writing with love. Guard it, protect it, baby-talk to it if you have to. Choose words with tenderness, construct your paragraphs with care. Don't allow your life to keep you from your art.

Distraction: The Evil Internet.
Ah, here's the rub—the greatest distraction of all.

I believe the Internet's purpose is to frustrate writers with its abundance. We follow never-ending trails seeking clarity and detail to add realism to our fiction. We get distracted by the photos of a distant acquaintances' last vacation on Facebook. Hours pass and, although you've been sitting at the computer, the word count on your manuscript hasn't changed. Not by one word.

There are times when the only solution is to unplug. (Gasp!) I know, you don't think you can. You need it, right? Well, guess what? You don't. Remember all those short stories you wrote when you were in college? There was no Internet then (okay—maybe for some of us.) Remember all the handwritten pages that were the first draft of your first novel? No Internet there, either. Sometimes, you must unplug to truly get plugged in to your own work. Try it sometime. Turn off your wi-fi and turn on your own writing machine. Maybe just for an hour to see what happens.

We all have distractions, responsibilities and, if we're lucky, people who need us. It all comes down to discipline. Protect your writing. Love your craft, and avoid falling down the rabbit hole in your research. Set goals and stick to them.  Decide to write and don't make excuses. That's the only way to get to the end!

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