Monday, October 1, 2012
5 TOOLS FOR PRODUCTIVE WRITING
I constantly hear the complaint/lamentation that aspiring authors don't have enough time to write. That, because of [insert time-eating thingie(ies) here] they cannot possibly finish a story or meet a word count.
Following are five tools/tips/mindsets that will help you to be more productive. Not everybody is the same, so your mileage may vary, and if these tips don't work for you, I encourage you to find your own. Five - just a handful - of things that will help you to write.
1. Cut Yourself Off. I am not referring to a trick in which you put yourself into a box and then appear to - or actually - sever your body in the middle. No matter how inspirational it might be in those first few minutes, the blood loss will eventually dampen your stamina.
Remove yourself from distractions, especially the Internet. Keeping in touch, up to the second, with everyone in the world isn't actually imperative. The planet will keep spinning if you take an hour off.
For those of you, like me, who may be physically unable to keep from clicking, try FREEDOM. It works on both Mac and PC. If you're addicted to another device, you may be on your own. The first few times you use it, you'll probably rock back and forth or chew your nails to the quick as you discover the depths of your Internet addiction. After that, it'll clear the tempting clutter and allow you to write. Best $10 I ever spent. (So far, I've taken three Internet breaks while writing this post)
2. Strong Like Bull! Most of us have to steal time to write - from social obligations, from our recommended eight hours of sleep, from other optional time expenditures such as Castle reruns and exercise.
Don't skip the exercising. At first, it won't matter. You won't notice the half pound that creeps up over the course of the week, the tightness in the back or the aches in the shoulders. Six months down the road, you'll find you can't get comfortable when sitting at the computer. A year along the way, you'll have weaker core muscles, resulting in worse posture and radiating aches and pains.
I've been writing nearly every day for three years now. This is in addition to a full-time desk job. Exercise, I've found, is essential to making it another three years. If you aren't keen on going to the gym or if, like me, the outdoors is prohibitive for months at a time, find some things you can do at home. I bought five 20- and 30- minutes exercise videos for a few dollars each. I dislike one of them, but rotate the other four. Everyone can spare 20-30 minutes from their day to keep their bodies strong. Despite all my sci fi reading, it appears that, at this point in human history, we're only getting the one body.
3. Surround Yourself with the Soothing Sounds of... Silence or noise, take your pick. I have to write in silence, so I invested in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Others need a movie or music playing in the background. Figure out what works best for you, and get attuned to it.
4. Blinders. This wasn't a problem before I started researching agents and fiction-publishing periodicals, before I started looking at the business of publishing and networking with professionals and other writers. What did I discover? That, no matter what you've accomplished or suffered on any given day, something better or worse is happening to someone else.
You got a flash piece accepted in a magazine? So-and-so got a "Significant" deal with a major publisher. You snarked at someone on Twitter? Writer X had a profanity-laden meltdown on Facebook. E-book sales are up? Paperback sales are plummeting. You sent a query to Agent Y? She pointed out an error-ridden query on Tumblr.
These things happen every day and paying attention to each event does nothing to help your book get written. Nothing. Sure, there are some good tips slipped in amongst all the agony and the ecstasy, but you don't need to be monitoring the pulse of publishing to get those lessons.
Disengage from the drama and focus on the thing that matters first and foremost in publishing: writing a damn fine story.
5. LOVE. It sounds hokey, but it's true. This business will test you in ways you couldn't have anticipated, unless you've worked in the arts before. You will learn like mad. You will be awed and made dreadfully envious by the works of other writers. You will adore and despise your characters and stories in equal measure. You will look at the nights and weekends you gave up for a story that will live in a box under the bed rather than on the shelf of bookstores around the world.
You will be hurt. You will want to give up. And, once you reach a certain point, you'll be drawn back to the words again and again. It will appear that you have a masochistic flaw in your brain and, hell, maybe you do. But, embrace it. Embrace the compulsion and learn to love the process of writing. Not just those first magical 10,000 words or the words "The End" stuck to a sloppy first draft.
Learn to love revision, snipping and spackling. Learn to love criticism that, though it might burn, will make the story bigger, bolder and tighter. Write for the love of the story and not toward the earmarks of "success", and this road will be a lot less painful to walk. Or run. Or fly over.
(Six Internet breaks were taken during the writing of this post)