The toughest thing for me on any activity, be it large or small, engaging or mundane, is simply getting started. While this is certainly true for me and writing, the same rule stands for many other activities, especially the menial tasks. But there’s much wisdom in a certain sneaker company’s tagline ‘Just Do It’.
A few friends have told me they enjoy mowing the lawn, because it allows their mind to wander and create. I haven’t mastered that talent, nor do I expect to in any near future. For me, tending the lawn is an onerous task, plain and simple. Furthermore, when I mow the lawn, I cannot let my mind wander. I pay attention to the task at hand — are my lines straight? — am I going to run over a pile of scat? — or a nest of bunnies? — or worse, a ground nest of yellow jackets? — all of which have happened at one time or another. Not to mention my knees are usually killing me by the time I’m done, and nothing stifles creativity faster than focusing on pain. The only good thing I can say about mowing the lawn is, once I start, time passes quickly and the task is over far sooner than I originally dreaded.
That example highlights what I strive to remind myself — Starting is not half the battle, it’s the entire battle!
While I was writing Pindlebryth, I soon discovered that once I got a chapter started, the rest just flowed. Sometimes it took more than half a dozen times until I got the first pages right, but once I did — Voom!
In the spirit of this topic, I was happy to discuss an article from Writer’s Digest at a recent GLVWG meeting – Inkwell’s “Power Hours”. It offered several suggestions to improve the time one spends writing. Here are the bullet items and my take on them:
- Cut Out Distractions — Yeah… like social media… and writing blogs! My biggest excuse, because it ‘feels’ like writing, but it really isn’t. It steals time from the most productive writing time. The author of the column suggests using apps to control this pernicious time leech. I cannot agree. The last thing I need is something to act like a boss and force me to write, or even worse, punish me when I don’t write. It would turn writing from a pleasure to a chore worse than mowing the lawn.
- Do One Thing at a Time — I used to be able to multi-task in my engineering days, but writing is a much more demanding mistress. I could sooner play Bach’s “Tocatta and Fuge in D Minor” (and I can), while washing the car.
- Rethink the To-Do List — I agree, a to-do list is essential. But in the spirit of the Inkwell author’s recommendation, I keep TODAY’s writing-to-do list to 3 items. The rest go on the pile to be reorganized and re-prioritized TOMORROW.
- Write First — See ‘Cut Out Distractions’ and the next bullet.
- Find Your Magic Hour — I have two, but they are unpredictable. If my muse starts on my first cup of coffee, or after 10 p.m., they have empirically found to be quite productive. Other than at those times, writing is a struggle and I usually end up merely editing. Or playing Sudoku.
- Build Boundaries around your Writing — That’s tough to do when you have a dog! Animals live in what I call the ‘eternal now’. You can’t barter with them, promising them they’ll be fed one hour late, or be let out after I finish this page, and they can’t be told ‘don’t get sick on my new carpet’!
- Write in Tandem — ‘A burden shared…’ doesn’t seem like it truly applies here. At least for me.
As for today’s lesson learned, I’ll have to settle on ‘keep open to suggestions’.