Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Update: Distractions

This week has definitely been filled with distractions. How do you write in the midst of distractions? I'm still trying to figure that out. It's one of my biggest struggles. But I'm a fighter! Let me share the techniques that work for me to beat those distractions down.

Distraction #1: Work. This week has been super busy at my day job. And since I write, edit, and proof at my day job all day long, a busy week usually saps me of energy that I'd like to direct toward my own work. 

What helps: A brief timeout period after I get home from work. I deliberately try to make this time quiet (which means no TV or radio) and totally for me (which means reading a book is okay, but doing Twitter or Facebook isn't, because those are "social" media that are about others, not just me). A workout sometimes helps, especially if it's a walk at the park where I can gaze at nature and zone out. Meditation could work too, I suppose. The idea is to totally switch gears and do something you find restful, so you can regather your energy to write.

Distraction #2: Stress. I've had deadlines on top of deadlines at work, and it's been a bit overwhelming. I find that stress of any kind makes it hard to settle in to write. It's tempting to just sit and watch TV and not think too much. It's hard to settle at the computer and be creative. 

What helps: Stubborn determination. I'll say this: If I can get over the hump of reluctance and get into a writing flow, I can get lost in it, which helps a lot with overcoming the stress. I did that last night, and wrote to near midnight. So, the best cure for stress is to push through until you hit that writing flow. If you have to vent on paper for a while, go ahead. If you're like me, you will eventually get out of your stressful thoughts and into an idea that excites you, and you'll be writing.

Distraction #3: "I stink" syndrome. This week was particularly difficult because I got feedback I wasn't expecting to get. Some came from my critique group, and it was true. I just wasn't ready to hear that what I'd worked so hard to get—unique character voices—was actually a weakness in a sense, because I overdid it. It made an important character unsympathetic. Yuck! And that was followed three days later by a critique of a personal essay that friends and writers/editors I trust have loved, but that didn't win a contest because it wasn't good enough. Again, the criticism was accurate. This time, it was hard to take because I can't believe my writer/editor friends in particular didn't pick up on this problem. Argh! It made me cranky. It made me wonder if I'm wasting my time writing.

What helps: A look within, and community. Ultimately, a writer is someone who wants to write, no matter what. So I took a hard look at what I want. And I still want to write. So... I just have to keep working at it, and be realistic that things take time to learn. James Frey says he spent 9-10 years learning to write before he became a hit. Whatever you think of him, you can't argue that he's a good writer. He worked at it. And I have to work at it too. I can do that.

The other thing that helped was community. I mean, you need to find connections to other writers who will support you. I found that support yesterday on Twitter. There's an #amwriting hashtag where you can tell others what you're working on. And I did. I said, "It's either write or procrastinate. So I'm writing," And a fellow writer popped right in with a response that essentially said, "Way to go! You can do it! Climb the mountain! We're with you!" Man, I needed that. A little encouragement goes a long way. I wrote close to 2,000 words last night because of it. Thanks, Gene! (@genelempp on Twitter, if you want to give him a follow.)

So, those are my tips for you. Do they really work? They do if you're willing to work them. Know what I mean? A writer has to be writing... But if you will commit to the words, they will come out onto your page. And they'll get better.

Onward and upward, my artist friends! We're going up that mountain together!

Copyright 2011 (c) by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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