Saturday, September 30, 2006

On (not) writing

I'm trying to spend as much time as possible writing. It's hard; my life is full of distractions, of things that aren't writing that I can be doing at any given moment. I've got movies and TV on DVD, I've got laundry to fold, I've got a pile of good video games, I've got household chores galore, and I've got four inside cats that constantly clamor for my attention.

The cats were a problem, because they all like loafing in my lap whenever I sit down. But I've figured out how to deal with them: I'm training them to lie down in such a way that they aren't in the way of my keyboarding. As an added perk, in those breaks between sentences petting the lap cat is very calming. And the cats are good listeners if I need to work through something out loud.

I think at this point, my biggest distractions are on the computer itself; I don't even have to leave my chair to indulge in time-wasting. I've started keeping the play discs for my games out of easy reach. With some of my games, I've even managed to misplace the play discs; though it was unintentional, it helps a lot knowing that even if I really wanted to play Rainbow Six, I'd have to spend a lot of time digging through stuff to find the CD. And that's a lot harder to rationalize than gaming itself.

A bigger problem is all the stuff that's easier to rationalize. Writing here on Random Thoughts almost counts as Writing. E-mailing is definitely a kind of writing, too. Reading good books is writing-related; I can let myself be inspired by others. Reading the blogs of professional authors is almost the same as writing, isn't it? Organizing a "Writing Music" playlist on my iTunes feels somewhat writing-related too. And I definitely need a snack and some tea; I can't be expected to write when I'm hungry or thirsty....

My other struggle is fighting all the ways I distract myself during the actual writing process. The list of tangential distractions would have to include:
  • "I had better make sure I'm using this word right; where's my dictionary?"
  • "Writing problem. Let's flip through my e-book collection and see how other writers solve this problem."
  • "I just had an idea for something else. I should stop and make detailed notes."
  • "I'm getting frustrated with this passage. I should take a break and do something else for a while."
  • "I should re-read everything I've written so far. It might need some quick editing."
I actually really enjoy writing. But it's hard work. And I'm fundamentally lazy. So it's always easier to distract myself than get down to the fun -- but frustrating and difficult -- work of putting words on paper.

But I'm getting better about it. I owe a debt to the voice in the back of my head that says, "you should be writing," whenever I engage in a time-wasting activity. It's an easy voice to heed, partially because it's always right. And partially because the voice won't shut up. It starts as a gentle reminder. I'll start up a game of Splinter Cell, and I hear the whisper: "just so you know, time spent playing games is time spent not writing." Five minutes into the game the voice starts getting louder and more insistent. Another five minutes, and the voice starts singing. By the time I hit the twenty-minute mark the voice is a full choir, with the sopranos arpeggiating the word "writing". I think a few times I've gotten Sam Fisher's ass shot off because the embassy guards were alerted to his presence by a full 200-member chorus chanting in rounds, "you should be writing, turn off that game, your word processor awaits!"

I've also started using non-writing moments as exercise breaks. If I notice myself spending time at the computer feeling blocked or distracted, I make myself get out of my comfortable chair and exercise a little. A full workout would be another distraction in itself, so I just do a few minutes of push-ups or crunches or dynamic tension exercises, or I just stretch. Then I sit down to write again. The theory is that even if I'm not writing, I'm at least getting in shape. And eventually my dislike of push-ups will condition me to write more.

Okay, enough distracting myself. Back to the Actual Writing, wish me luck!

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