Friday, June 12, 2015

Detours




Ah … sitting down to write … my laptop in front of me, a solid hour which, from this angle, doesn’t appear to contain anything else that requires me. Hmm. Since I have so much time, maybe I should check my emails and Facebook notifications really quick first … after all, it’s been a whole half a day since I’ve looked, and someone might have responded to a message I sent them yesterday. It’d be nice to read her answer. There. That didn’t take long. Nobody wrote, so I can start working now.

Okay, I’m looking at this line, and really, I don’t know where I was going with that. I typed it when I was so tired last night. I better read the lines before it, rekindle the thoughts, and see if I should rephrase it. There, that’s better. What is supposed to happen next? Wow, I didn’t realize I should have been thinking of this before I sat down to write ….

Ten minutes and a couple of internet searches to lubricate my mind later, I type two more sentences. That leads me to a string of dialogue, which goes faster, but after that I’m stuck again. After a few more minutes forcing myself to sit still and think, I write some more sentences, dragging forth almost every word. Then I’m in a spot that requires a bit of research—oh no, how long would it take them to drive to this place? Should I describe it as a short drive or a long drive? I could look it up later, but maybe it’s faster to just look it up now. Wow. My internet is so slow today ….

Now I’ve written half a page. It came so reluctantly that maybe I can take a Pinterest break. Okay, that was fun … now to get back. Groan. I put my head in my hands. I’m stiff from sitting at my desk, and I have no idea what to write next. Even though every nerve is begging me to jump up and walk around, I force myself to stay put and write the next words. I have to write until four o’clock, you know. Oh, you know what I forgot to do? Put that one book my friend recommended to me on my Goodreads to-read list. I should go do that now. It will only take a second ….

Hopefully that brought some laughs, but more often than not, my writing sessions resemble the above scenario. I’d be more ashamed to admit it if I didn’t know that other writers suffer the same temptations. So, if you’re one of us, you’re not alone—I have my good days, but usually, I take quite a bit of time getting focused and “in the zone” to make a lot of progress. Being focused is the point at which writing is a joy; we’re in the characters’ world, we’re having fun choosing words and shaping sentences, and the story is living.

(Image courtesy of jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net)
What can we do to get there quicker and and stay there longer? Well, although I’m not an expert at doing things right, I still see some hints to accomplishing a more productive writing session:

  • Outlaw the internet.
  • Think about what’s supposed to happen next in my story before I sit down to write.
  • Establish a goal for the session and don’t get distracted until I reach it.
  • Treat my story like a friend: concentrate only on it. Even if it’s difficult at first, if I stick with it, the words and interaction will usually start flowing.
  • If I hit a snag that doesn’t stop me in my tracks, jot myself a note there and move on.
  • If I hit a snag that does stop me, get up, move around, and ponder, but don’t go do something else that requires full concentration.
  • Permit myself to keep writing past my time limit if things are flowing.
  • Feel satisfied with the session’s work and realize that, no matter how many (or few) words I put down, I’m that much farther along.

What do you do to keep yourself focused during your writing sessions?

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog

6 comments:

  1. Here's a tip if you are anything like me: Never keep a book you are in the middle of within arms reach when you are writing. :)

    I also like to have a word count goal for the week as some days are more productive than others and I find it easier to reach a weekly goal with lots of days to make it, than a one day goal and only one shot of reaching it.

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    1. Hey, those are great tips, Rebekah! Thanks for sharing. Hmm ... books do seem to be a problem. And I like your idea about the weekly goal!

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  2. Great post! I'm on my third try of writing the last chapter to a story, and it is just not coming. Next time I work on it, I'll keep these principles in mind.

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    1. Thank you! How exciting that you're on the last chapter of your story. I hope it goes well!

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  3. This is sadly the case for me all too often! Just a few days ago this happened and I was near to tears because I didn't know how to get into the scene. One thing that helps when wanting to concentrate on writing is to disconnect from the internet. Also making writing first on the docket helps. Once you have that done for the day, you can do whatever else you need to do later :)

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    1. Getting into a scene can be so difficult; I certainly understand. And yes, I think sometimes physically disconnecting from the internet might be called for. : ) And that's a great tip about getting you writing done first!
      Thanks for sharing!

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