I started this series on the Writing Bogs a couple weeks ago and left you with a cliffhanger ending after Bog #2. I know you are all desperate to find out what the next bog is. Well, yearn no longer, because here it is.
To recap, the first bog (and please, y’all, in order to save me massive linkage fatigue, I’m creating a master list of links to posts at the end) is getting sidetracked before you even get to the computer. You simply can’t make the time for it
The second is, getting sidetracked on the way to the computer. You’ve set aside the time, the house is quiet but all of a sudden it is imperative that you do laundry. Or wax the kitchen floor. Or trim the dog’s toenails. That kind of thing.
The third bog, and the subject of our post today, is actually making it to the computer–hooray–but no words come. Everything you write sounds stupid and vacuous. So you flip on over to TMZ (or worse, watch it on TV), and check out the latest photos of Angelina Jolie’s baby bump.
One of the absolute best ways to get yourself out of this bog is to be prepared. The muse is a way more organized type than she would like to admit, and she really likes it when you are prepared. Now, I am just as creative and free-spirited as you are, and I hate the idea of preparation, too, because it smacks of discipline and routine and all those things we rebel against because we are creative types. So when I say preparation, I mean it in the loosest of ways. You can prepare by reading (or even glancing) over what you wrote during your last session. Take a few notes if you feel so inclined. A great time to do this is right before bed–especially if you are going to get up early to write. Whenever your writing session is scheduled, try to do your prep time at least a few hours before. This gives the subconscious time to ponder things for you while you are busy doing other things. And it pleases the muse, because she equates preparation with worshiping her.
Quite by accident, I actually wrote a post related to the subject of being prepared earlier this week, called, Morning Routine. Be sure to read the comments, too, there are some good ones. Another related post is, Writing While You Sleep.
Another tip for preventing a lack of focus during your writing time is to take a few moments at the beginning of it, breathe deeply and state your intention. Ask the universe or God, or the muse for help if you feel so inclined. State that you are going to be focusing on chapter four of your novel for the next hour and you’d appreciate it if the words flow right through you onto the page. This little ritual becomes a bridge from the chaos of the day to the calmer state required for writing. And even if you don’t think the universe or the muse pay the least bit of attention to you, it serves as a command for yourself.
Finally, this is a tip I learned from Sena Jeter Naslund. In my first workshop in the first residency of my MFA studies, I had the privilege of having Sena as my workshop leader, a fact which I love to lord over students who began the program later because Sena got so busy she quit leading workshops after the second residency. But I digress, and I’m pretty sure the muse does not like name dropping or lording things over other people. The muse will, however, like this tip. Sena said that she would sit down and write one word. Then she would tell herself, “Okay, you’ve written one word, now write another. You can do it.” And then she’d get a sentence and she’d tell herself, “Now, you have a sentence, I bet you can write another one.” Like a mother teaching a child, or a caregiver dealing with someone who has dementia.
Oh, here’s a bonus tip–shut down everything on your computer except for the files that have to do with the story you are working on. Don’t have 10 tabs open on your Firefox browser, and do not, under any circumstances, keep your inbox (or inboxes) open. Lessen distraction as much as possible. The idea is to write, not to suddenly have to study the latest poll numbers from the New York Times.
Next up, the fourth bog which when you are actually writing, but something doesn’t feel right. The words are inauthentic, the scene doesn’t work, it just all feels wrong. We’ll get to this one and finish the series soon, I promise.
Here is the complete list of the posts in this series: