I’ve made a commitment this year to improve my writing; in terms of volume as well as content and style. To do that, I have to write more and read more. I’m trying to read both authors I love and who inspire me as well as others either making their living as writers or who, like me, want to make their living writing. For that I’ve been reading and reviewing books through Booksneeze.com and Story Cartel.
I just finished Scott Nicholson’s Write Good or Die. It’s a collection of posts by successful writers. I find it a helpful guide to avoiding (hopefully) some of the pitfalls of trying to write professionally.
What I find most writers saying, whether it’s the writers in this book or Stephen King or a host of others is simple: turn off the distractions.
Turn off email, social media, Netflix, television and maybe even music.
I don’t text and drive. Not out of some sense of holier-than-thou-ness or because I have a highly developed awareness of safety. But because 1) it’s against the law and 2) with my nearsightedness I can’t see the screen (okay, so maybe that’s a safety thing).
So, why do I try to text and write? Am I not the product of a generation of multi-taskers? Don’t I get more done when I’ve got multiple projects going at the same time?
It appears that I can’t write and watch Netflix or have the television on in the background. It also appears that I need to turn off email and social media.
But, how will I know what Beth made for lunch or where Lawson ran today?
Who will police Facebook to tell people the article that they’ve shared eight million times is satire?
If I want to write seriously, it can’t be me. At least not all day.
And, what about background music? Can I not have Spotify or Pandora playing softly?
Maybe, but not the old-time gospel music that makes me weepy, or the Broadway music that makes me think “I could play that part.”
What about other distractions?
As I write this, I’m taking advantage of a two-hour office delay along with the fact that I’d previously scheduled the day off to attend a (now-cancelled) meeting. I’ve also promised myself the next cup of coffee after I post this.
All day long to write! Right?
Except sitting behind me is an unfinished, somewhat directionless, art project, there are taxes to do, an office full of clutter, a garage to be cleaned. I need to run lines for tonight’s show and there’s a cat who insists he needs my attention.
Many of the authors I read talk about getting up early to write. That could work, I like quiet mornings. But that interferes with the gym schedule, which admittedly has been set aside during the current winter of our discontent. Don’t judge, I walk at lunch when the sidewalks are clear.
Stephen King talks about shutting out distractions. That’s my goal. Carve out a time for distraction-free writing. Maybe at first it’s just an hour a day. Or even thirty minutes.
What’s your goal? Do you want to write that great American novel? Publish the next award winning play? Create a work of art that will endure and inspire for generations?
Maybe the way to do that is clear out the distractions. Just for a little bit. Silence the phone. Turn off the television. Log out of social media.
Just as soon as you share this post.