Tag Archives | getting writing done

What Makes You Stop Writing?

Stop_symbol_plate_238801_lThe other morning, I had a lot on my mind.  Tasks to finish, things to get organized before a trip, stuff to do.  I rose early, as I always do (my eyes pop open at 5:30 pretty much routinely), got my coffee and went to the computer.  I looked at email but didn't answer it because I was going to get right to my writing.

Except I didn't.

Something caught my eye on the internet and I clicked on it.  And from there I saw something else that interested me.  And on and on.

After a few minutes, I stopped and told myself I really should get to my writing.  But then there was that other fascinating headline….

And after a few more minutes, I realized my mistake that morning: I knew I was overwhelmed with to-dos in my brain, and even so I didn't have a clear plan for writing.

If I'd known what I wanted to work on (one of my good curses at the moment seems to be too many projects) I would have had a better chance of getting to it.  And, if I'd realized ahead of time that my brain was a bit overloaded, I might have thought things through a bit more.

All this made me start thinking about what stops me from writing.  Because once you know your enemy, you can figure out how to fight it.  My anti-writing enemies are:

1.  Overwhelm.  As above.

2. Tiredness.  When I'm worn out, my brain doesn't work well.  Sometimes I have the actual time to write, but not the mental energy.  Writing requires hard mental work.

3.  Other work.  As in, the necessity to make a living.  Oh yeah, that.  I'm lucky in that I love my other work–teaching and coaching and some ghostwriting.  But it is still not my own writing. (Though when I dream big dreams and envision my life devoted solely to my writing, with no teaching or coaching it makes me happy for about two seconds.  Then I realize I'd really miss it.)

4.  Laziness.  Sometimes, honestly, I just don't feel like writing.  I want to loll on the couch and watch TV or sit on the back deck with a glass of wine.

5.  Fear.  Of what?  Of everything.  That my work won't be good enough.  That it will be really good. That I won't be able to write it the way I want to.  That I'll go in so deep that I won't want to come back.  That people won't like my work.  That they will.  That….well, you get the picture.

6.  Distraction.  As in, mindless internet surfing.  (Do we still call it that? Sounds a bit archaic now.)I think we all battle this.  We've got so much information coming at us all day every day.  But I tend more towards distraction when any of the above listed elements are present.

Those are my top six that stop me from writing.   What are yours?

Photo by brokenarts.

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Keep Calm and Carry On With Your Writing

Xmas_christmas_christmas_227801_lRaise your hand if, with 13 days to Christmas you are overwhelmed.  Raise both hands if, with all the extra to-dos on your list, your writing is suffering.

I thought so.  Me, too.  There is shopping to finish, presents to wrap, decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, and on and on.  And even if you don't celebrate Christmas I'd wager that you still get caught up in the hoopla.  It's pretty impossible to escape.

But this is probably one of the most important times to write.  For one thing, this time of year, with its early dark, is always an incredibly creative time for me, with numerous ideas popping up.  It would be a shame to waste it.  And for another, if you give up on your writing now, all could be lost until the new year.  I speak from experience–this has happened to me.

So here's my advice: keep calm and carry on with your writing.

The whole "keep calm" thing has become a cliche, but it has a great origin.  Rumor has it that this is what the queen mother said during the blitz of London, when bombs were dropping all over the city every night.  Every freakin' night.  Go take a look at this map of how many bombs were dropped on the city from July 1940 and June 1941.  

And now tell me: does the stress of this holiday season equal the stress (not to mention utter terror) that Londoners felt during this time?

I didn't think so.

But how, exactly, to keep calm and keep writing?

For starters, remember that the calm part is like happiness–a choice.  You can choose to get all stressed out and dramatic about your life or you can do what writers have done forever–put all that drama on the page.   And remember, too, that throwing words on paper can be an incredible antidote to stress!  Write out your anger and frustration.  You'll feel better when you're done, I guarantee it.

It might also help to take the time to meditate, or walk, or do yoga or Qi Gong–whatever it is that calms and centers you.  It is very easy to not take the time for these activities when you're in the midst of an especially busy time.  (I'm writing to myself at the moment, I'll confess.  I had a great meditation routine going but its been a week a few days since I've done it.)

Creating calm is often a matter of making time for it.

Ah, but you say, how can I take time for creating calm when I barely have time to write?  The point is, you'll be better able to focus and get your writing done if you've spent a few minutes sitting quietly or taking a walk around the block.

And now, about that writing….um, yeah.  Do me a favor and keep in mind one thing: you don't have to write 5,000 words a day to make progress.  Perhaps it is time to lower your expectations for yourself.  Instead of 5,000 words a day, aim for 500. When you're in the thick of it, maybe 500 is even too much.  Go for having the time to look over your work and maybe make a note or two.

The point is, be easy on yourself.   Put it all in perspective.  Remind yourself that this too, shall pass.  And if things get really overwhelming, go look at that bomb map again.

How do you cope during the holidays? I'd love to hear.  Please leave a comment!

 

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What Do You Focus On?

Estock_commonswiki_328901_hWhat you put your attention on grows.  It's that simple.

So if you put your attention on how wonderful it is to write every day, that writing habit will grow.  If you focus on how much fun it is to submit to agents (I'm feeling funny today), you'll do more of it. If you think about your novel when you're not writing, you'll spend more time on it.  That's just the way of the world.

So, piece of cake, right?  Just focus away and off you'll go.

Would that it was that simple.  Because in reality the art of focus is incredibly complex, or at least we humans make it so.

It takes discipline and work to train your attention to writing every day.  Usually, what happens in our brains is a thought process like this:

Oh my God, I didn't write today!  I'm a lazy idiot!  I can never get a writing habit going! I'll never finish my novel!

And then we're focusing on the exact condition we don't want to create–not writing.

Negative thoughts, like all forms of fear, are sneaky beasts.  They can be so ingrained that they form a constant low-level litany of which we're barely aware as we go about out days.  It's the proverbial vicious cycle:  you think negative thoughts–>you create negative conditions–>and then you think more negative thoughts.

Heavy sigh.

What's a writer to do to get her focus on the right things?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Attentional Training.  This is pretty much a fancy word for meditation that I learned in a book by Jonathan Fields.  You can do any version of it you want: zazen, TM, insight mantra, or just close your eyes and take a few deep breathes throughout the day.  Honestly, it's a pain in the butt, and it is helpful for every aspect of your life, including your creativity and your spirituality.  If you're like me, you'll probably be convinced that you're not doing it right, but no matter how you do it, the practice really helps.

2. Active Attentional Training.  And this is the same as above only, as the name implies, in an active fashion.  So, it's when you are performing sports, or playing music, or, more to my tastes, knitting, sewing, weeding, even mowing the lawn (I do actually do that once in a while–with a push mower even).    You're doing AAT when  you're involved in a repetitive activity that does not require constant attention, or if you're engaging in an activity driven by speed, novelty, or intense bursts of concentration.  A recent example of this for me was doing homework for a class I took at church last week.  I had to read some fairly dense texts and process them mentally.

3.  Eternal vigilance.  Like I said earlier, it is a constant process.   You have to watch and monitor your thoughts endlessly.  But, they are your thoughts, and you are going to have them whatever you do, so you might as well work at turning negative ones into positive ones.  It's a lot more pleasant than, say, rerunning the fight with your boyfriend all day.

4.  Show up.  What's the famous Woody Allen quote? Something along the lines of, "99% of success is showing up."  So very true.  If you keep showing up at your writing chair day after day after day you're training yourself to eventually start focusing.  Because staring at a blank screen does get boring.

5.  Respect the work.  When we don't show up, when we don't focus our attention, we're not respecting the work, or  ourselves.  And what's the point of calling yourself a writer if you're not respecting your profession?  Respecting the work leads to better focus and better focus leads to better work which leads to more respect. Another one of those cycles, this one not so vicious.

So, there you have it, some tips on focus.  Got any of your own you'd like to share?

Photo by Julo, from Wikimedia commons.

 

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