There are times in everyone’s life when everything has to come to a screeching halt. It doesn’t matter what the cause. The result is always the same. You have to focus on something important for a period of time to the exclusion of almost everything else. That’s been my life for the last month or more. Finally, it looks as if things are getting back to normal. Now the challenge is getting back into the swing of things and getting back on course.
So how do you do it? Me, it’s a struggle. I am having to train myself not to jump at every sound that isn’t quite ordinary. I’m more attuned to what is going on around me — having a loved one seriously ill will do that to you — and that means the distraction level is off the chart. All the usual techniques to getting into my writing and editing aren’t working. So I’ve had to find workarounds and, in at least one instance, they have me shaking my head, wondering how long before things get back to normal.
Of course, that assumes the life of any writer could be classified as normal.
The first thing I’ve had to do is get my work laptop back up and running. I’m one of those folks who love tech and who have multiple laptops and tablets. My work laptop is an Acer that I’ve had for about four years now. It’s a great machine. Or it has been. But in the middle of everything going on with my mom, the hard drive decided to start failing. Before I could pull everything off, it went kaput. Fortunately, most of my work was backed up. Unfortunately, a couple of things weren’t completely backed up and I now have to redo them. It’s my own fault. I’m usually obsessive about doing multiple backups but real life interfered.
The new hard drive arrives today. So, by Sunday, everything should be back up and running. That’s step one. Until then, I’ve been working on a different laptop, a MacBook Air. It’s a good machine but the screen is smaller and for someone who doesn’t use a Mac all the time, I have to stop and think about what the hotkeys are. That interrupts the flow and frustrates me.
That means I have to get back into the habit or work. Oh, I’ve scribbled notes here and there. I’ve tried to sit and write or edit. But, as I said, the distraction level is high, especially at the house. I’ve tried changing the time and location in the house I work. Nope, that hasn’t helped. I’ve tried changing the music, TV on/off, etc. Nothing has seemed to work. That’s left me with one choice, find someplace nearby I can go and try to work for at least an hour or two a day.
Again, I’ve found the distraction level high when I’ve gone to my usual haunts. The other day, I wound up at the last place I would normally go, no matter what the reason. I stopped at the local McDonalds for a Coke. You have to understand just how rare that is. I doubt I’ve been to a McDs more than half a dozen times in the last 10 years. So you can imagine my surprise to walk in and find it comfortable, quiet and not overrun by screaming kids.
Instead of taking my Coke and retreating to my car, I sat down and pulled out my tablet and an hour later had written more than I had in the last three weeks. I’ve been back a couple of times since then with the same result. I have also discovered that it isn’t the little kids who are the problem now. It is the middle school and high school kids who come in after school and who seem completely unaware of others being there. That just means I don’t go when they will be there, at least not if I want to work.
I guess the whole point of this rambling post is to remind each of us that we have to be flexible. Flexible in our writing — and in accepting that the more we write, the more our craft will improve and that, in itself, is sometimes scary. Flexible in how and where we write. Flexible in understanding that sometimes we have to change our habits in order to help the words flow.
I’ve talked with too many writers who have suddenly hit the wall and can’t seem to find a way to get the words to flow. Instead of altering what they are doing — whether it is when or where they write or simply working on something else for awhile — they continue to try doing the same thing, day in, day out. When nothing happens, they claim they have writer’s block and use that to excuse the fact they aren’t producing anything.
That’s the easy thing to do. But it is also an excuse. Yes, writer’s block does happen from time to time. However, when we usually claim we’re experiencing it, we aren’t. We’ve simply hit a point in our work where it is difficult but not impossible to push the story forward. It could be because we are uncomfortable with what we know is about to happen. It could be our subconscious telling us that we’ve taken a wrong turn and need to go back and look to see how to fix it. It could be that our craft has taken a step forward and the change scares the crap out of us because our writing no longer feels familiar. That is when you just have to push through, listen to your gut and not give in to the call to give up.
It is the same thing with the no time to write argument. Yes, we all have those points in our life when there simply isn’t a spare moment to do anything other than what is necessary to put food on the table and make money for rent. But usually when we say there isn’t time to write, it’s an excuse. We might not recognize it as one and we won’t until we start turning a critical eye to what we are actually doing each day.
I can hear some of you — heck, myself included — saying that there is no wasted time in your day. Really? How much time do you spend playing video games? How about Candy Crush on your phone? That is time you could spend writing. Do you take walks each day? If so, and if you have a digital voice recorder or a smartphone, you can record notes or even dictate your story as you walk. There are programs that will then convert your dictation into text. You can do the same.
So here’s the challenge: how many of you are willing to get back into the swing of things with me? Set a goal of how many words or how much time each day/week you want to write. There is no right or wrong number. It is something you feel is doable. Keep track of your progress. Use it as preparation for NaNoWriMo which starts next month. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goal, just renew your determination to do what you can when you can and then carve out the time. However, if you see that you are writing more than you thought, increase your goal.
Now get back to work. That’s what I’m going to do.