Republished for those of you who didn’t know me then. Plus, since the first posting I’ve completed and published three books. Two more are near completion.
I am writing this morning.
I made sure everything was done in advance. I showered, shaved, dressed. I spent an hour with my Father-God. Then I ate. All this before my preset writing time which begins and 8AM and runs until 12-1PM. I even had Scrivener opened to the book I am working on and my Ideas binder opened as well. Then it started–as always! Distraction!!
Of course, it wasn’t the usual distraction. It never is. No, I saw a moth. Naturally, I could not allow it to keep fluttering around the window. So I grabbed my electronic insect swatter and zapped him into oblivion. Then I was getting ready to put the swatter back when it occurred to me that I hadn’t checked the batteries since last year (I don’t use the swatter during the winters in NH; I specify the state only because if you’re from Florida, you might consider it odd that I don’t use the swatter in the winter. NH bugs hide or come out in the summer.). Anyhow.
I checked the battery compartment and all seemed well. No leakage. So I put the electronic swatter back where I keep it close under my computer desk. Then I realized I needed to relieve myself of some of my morning coffee. So it was off to the loo. When I returned, I thought I was ready to begin. So I sharpened two pencils that didn’t need sharpening. And now I’m writing. And if you’ve gotten this far . . . You’re reading.
What’s with that? Why do we procrastinate? Fluff the nest? Circle around like a dog, five times to finally give in to the need, then plop down? I don’t have answers to this question. I hope you do because I expect you to comment and give us your best shot at what’s really going on.
Is it our natural curiosity? If it were just me that experienced this pre-writing distraction, I wouldn’t be writing this to ask you about it. I’d simply assume I’m weird, keep it to myself (except at readings), and that’s the end of the matter. But, I’ve read enough in the craft to know that this is a universal, systemic behavior. No, a plague.
I’m not alone. Others have spoken or written about this. But I’ve not really been satisfied with an answer that hits the bullseye. Why do writers/authors have to balance the checkbook, sort through old work, sharpen pencils, adjust the chair or organize the desktop before they begin to put words to paper/screen?
Is it fear? Are we afraid that when we finally do sit to face the blank sheet/screen, we won’t have anything to say? Are we afraid to get into the flow. I LOVE being in the flow . . . So it can’t be that. So what is it? Once we know its source, we can either get past it (or as CK writes–Work it).
QUESTION: What is writers’ distraction?
A HELPFUL RESOURCE: This week I received word that Jerry Jenkins, author of Writing for the Soul–and someone well known to many other faith based writers through the “Christian Writers’ Guild”–has tackled this topic in a recent post. I went to his site where he has written an excellent post: “How to Overcome Writer’s Block Once and For All: My Surprising Solution.” I included the link to the post as an added resource for us all. I’m sure it will be helpful. Though he invites you to join his mentoring group, it is not a requirement to read the post and other helpful resources on his new site.
HONESTY DISCLOSURE: The link above is not an affiliate link, but I may receive a small, premium for including his post in my list of resources on this page. It in no way affects you or your reading of his post.
© 2013, David C. Alves
- The Keys to Worry Free Writing (thewritersadvice.com)
- How it happens (bechereremily.wordpress.com)
- Confession: I’m a distracted writer (mimosamorningswriters.wordpress.com)
- Distractions- Work Your Distractions (catherinekanewrites.wordpress.com)
- Cloud-Based Environment Reduces Distractions For Aspiring Writers (psfk.com)
- ✎ 15 Wallpapers for Writers (plottingbunnies.wordpress.com)
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your own creativity? Or at the other pole, blocked as to what to write next? Whether you’ve got so many ideas you don’t know where to dive in next or whether writer’s block has crippled you, organizing your flow will free you to WRITE.
I’ve been writing for many years. As a published author, I sometimes have to write for several venues at once. At any one time, I can have a couple of articles, a book, a few blog entries, a Sunday message (I’m on a pastoral staff at our church), my journals and novel all going at once. Such a writing schedule would be impossible for me if I did not organize my work and my energy. These two make up my “flow” as a writer. In this post, I’ll deal with organizing my work first.
ORGANIZING MY WORK
In order to be prolific and not go wacky, I’ve had to take steps to better organize my work flow.
For me, inspiration and perspiration work together. Part of the perspiration is organizing. That’s because organizing does not come easy for me. Not that I’m disorganized, I simply flow better by hanging loose. Spontaneity is in my bones. So I have to work hard at organization. That’s why I say it’s part of the perspiration of writing for me.
First, I organize my workspace, assuring that it is clean and orderly. I can’t work in clutter. I begin with a clean, neat space. If it gets cluttered while I work, that’s different. At least I know where everything is. Do yourself a huge favor and order Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s excellent little book The Well-Ordered Office (it’s there at the top of my “Featured Book” section. See the link “My Store” under “Good Stuff” in the column to the right of this post). Read this and you’ll get all kinds of organizational shortcuts and helps. Once my workspace is organized, inspiration follows close behind.
I keep a Writing Notebook.
I have for many years and it has always rewarded me generously by giving me the right idea at the right time. In my writing notebook I collect ideas, fragments, images, and lines. I date each entry. I note where I am when I write in it (usually the place and state).
I prefer to use my word processor so that later I can electronically search the text. After all, I have over 16,000 words on 70 pages in my most recent notebook. In my most recent journal, I have more like 34,700 on 149 pages. And these are just two of my volumes. I have over twenty volumes, spanning thirty-six plus years of writing. I could never skim through these to find that idea that came to mind last summer in Ocean City. I have to do a “find.” Then I’m there in no time. I also make it a point to record all my ideas in one place. That also helps to keep me compact and organized.
Sometimes, if I’m in the middle of a project or I know that a certain idea fits with something I’m either working on now, or will be soon, I place relevant things in folders labeled with a working title. Then they are neatly lined up in one of those top of the desk file organizers. I only keep on my desk the files of the projects I’m currently at work on.
Body of Writings and Timeline.
The best organizational idea I’ve implemented though is my “Body of Writings and Timeline.” This MS Word document consists of the writing projects I intend to undertake. It is divided into two sections. The first section is the body of writings I want to look back on when my vocation as a writer is fulfilled. I’ve thought through the themes I want to address. I have an idea of what I want to communicate and feel specifically called to write. After I have listed the works, I spend several hours with my calendar and project a timeline. Which project (book, article) will I work on first? What stage do I want to be in by, say, December (Outline, first draft? Send to readers?) Once I’ve constructed my “Body of Writings and the Timeline,” I actually schedule time chunks.
I work best in Blocks of time, with several ongoing projects in the hopper at once. Others swear by writing daily. I’ve tried that, but I’m too much of a people-person. I get distracted too easily.
Working in bigger blocks of time means a lot less rereading of manuscripts as well. If I’m away from the work too long, I’ve got to start reading all over again to find out where I am. Not so with a chunk of time.
My first book project led me to a conference center 400 miles from my home. I wrote there for three weeks. I returned home with the first draft of my first book, the final draft of my novel, and a blog post.
Begin with a well-crafted Outline.
This may sound like English Composition 101 or High School grammar rerun, but it’s true—a well-crafted outline will save you tons of work. It will keep you focused. A good outline can write the book for you. For Pete’s sake . . . give your time to the outline. Don’t begrudge that time. It will pay off in the long run.
Writers Read. Keep current in your field. Keep current in your craft. Organize your reading. What do you need to read first? Second? Line them up to shore-up holes or weak points. Find out what other authors are doing or saying. Especially if you write in a particular field. What’s being done in that field now. Where is the cutting edge of that field. What direction is it likely to go in the next three to five years given the current trends.
Keep the first thing FIRST. Above all, writers WRITE!! Keep on writing, but write smart by organizing first.
Do the hard work of organizing your work and your energy and say “goodbye” to writer’s block and hello to your positive flow. And be the writer that you know you can be.
QUESTIONS: Have you organized your flow? Tell us how you plan your writing?
Morning ramblings go great with coffee or tea. Just grab a cup. Nice and hot. Then sit down with your laptop or desktop, open and password-save a document, then start writing. Or if it’s a beautiful day, just head out to your favorite spot with a pad and pencil. But don’t plan and think it all through. That defeats the spontaneity of the activity. How do you start? Just DO IT!
It’s OK to begin the way I did when I first started morning ramblings. Here’s my first paragraph:
The idea of morning ramblings is to write with no direction other than to express what is pent-up or to put down whatever needs to be there. Not that I have a plan, I just want to let writing express whatever is there. Later I can play the editor. Right now, this is just to write and flow.
I really want to finish my manuscript and get on with life. I’m not sure why I’m dragging my feet. Is it merely poor planning, lack of interest, or something else? I don’t feel disinterested. I still have a passion for the ministry that this book can have in people’s lives. But every time I think I’m approaching the end of it, there’s something else to do–a footnote, a resource I forgot to list, a quote I want to add.
The writing is completed (I think). But references need placing; syntax needs cleaning up and polishing. And if I had the time, I’d use my thesaurus over word choices.
I’m also unhappy with changes in perceived audience. One minute I’m talking to folks in my congregation, the next I’m talking to other pastors or seminary
professors. Yet in my intro, I make it clear that this is not an academic work. I wish I’d get it straight. I also am plagued by curiosity as to whether this is all unique to me or whether other writers experience the same thing, and have learned what they’re dealing with and how to push through it.
I suppose I could be closer to the end of my work on the manuscript if I were working on it instead of this morning rambling, but then again, everyone needs to vent from time to time. What better place to do that than here? Well in my memoir, but that is on the shelf for a couple of years more too.
There you have it. Now . . . back to completing what I started. Hopefully I can submit it to the waiting editors by next week?
[I was referring in this rambling to my first book, We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . .So What? (Featured on the right; available at Amazon.com)]
That’s what it’s all about . . . whatever you want it to be. Some of them might even turn into a post for your blog, and actually help someone. [By the way, this was a morning rambling that turned into a blog. So you never know.] But don’t write with that in mind. Just write!