The other day, in my Burning Questions post, I invited people to leave their burning questions.* Yesterday's post came from one question. Today I'm going to answer another one, this one from Patty, who has a thoughtful blog you should check out.
She asked how she could get to the core motivation for her writing, casting aside all the things we do like comparing ourselves to others or torture ourselves with thoughts of the other things we could be doing. And, I have an answer for that, though I will admit that it is one of the toughest things we writers have to deal with. The pressure to compare ourselves to others or worry that perhaps we are wasting time are two of the most toxic distractions imaginable.
But I like to remember to separate the process from the product and remind myself that during the initial writing, my job is to focus on the process. When writing, it is up to me to concentrate on the writing only, and let all the rest of that crap fall away. There will come a time, all too soon, when worldly concerns will infringe upon you. Then you will be taking your project to market, and that is when you can start thinking about how to position it in regards to the work of others, and so on.
But how, specifically, to maintain this focus on the pure, sweet heart of your project? Here are some ideas:
Give The Whining Free Rein. But only for a limited, pre-agreed upon amount of time, like 10 minutes. But for that 10 minutes, let 'er rip. Stomp around the house, sit and wring your hands, moan, sigh heavily, whatever your favorite is. Worry obsessively about whether the book you're writing is good enough, or ponder all the things you have to do on your to-do list. Then, when your allotted time is up, stop. And get to your writing.
Agree to One Hour. For this one hour, all you are going to do is write. You are going to focus on your writing. You are not going to worry about how to market the book you are writing, or wonder if you'll ever be good enough to land an agent. If your thoughts stray to these topics, you are going to imagine these thoughts are on clouds, gently floating away from you. And you are going to direct your attention back to your writing project once again. In this way, you will stay true to your core motivation for one hour. And then you can do it again for another hour.
Make a Deal With Your Critic. Tell him or her that if she will just take a nap while you are focusing on your writing for an hour, there will soon come a time when you will need her help. (That time will be when you start editing and rewriting.) Note: your critic is not only the inner voice that tells you you're not good enough, it is also the voice that whispers: isn't it time to quit writing and see what they are talking about on Twitter? Until you are done with your hour, the answer is no.
Practice these three techniques to stay true to yourself and your writing. And let me know how they work out for you. Or perhaps you have some favorites of your own?
*Note to Don: Alas, I don't have the answer to your Burning Question, much as I wish I did. I have no idea how they get the caramel into the Caramel Bars. But if you find out, let me know.