Write, Write, Write…but When?

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Nick Slosser, The Whole Works

“Write, Write, Write…but When?” by Nick Slosser

Recently, John Caruso blogged about finding the time to write.  Although he beat me to the punch, I think I’ll go ahead and comment on the same subject, because more than any other potential roadblock, making time—productive time—is the single deadliest one (for me, anyway).  Like John, I don’t get to choose how many of my waking hours are devoted to writing, nor even which ones.  Sometimes the only hours I can scrounge fall between my wife falling asleep and me falling asleep.  Although I can do the night owl thing and still function the next day, not everybody can, and even I find some daylight time is required.  But when?  And how?

Read:  Here I agree with John one-hundred percent.  Nothing makes me want write like reading a good story, especially a short story.  When I read a story, good or bad, from start to finish, invariably—and I mean invariably—something will have taken root in my brain that I can cultivate into something writable.  It doesn’t always have to be a whole story idea.  Maybe it’s just a nifty title or a brilliant description or a whole scene of fresh and provocative dialogue.  Or maybe it’s a clever twist as yet unknown to the world that only needs every other aspect of the story to lead up to it.  Regardless, reading inspires writing.  But reading alone doesn’t solve the problem.

Refuse (as in the verb, not the noun):  If you’ve set aside a chunk of time to write, and you’ve been planning for it all week, refuse to change your plans.  Things come up; they always do.  Maybe it’s work to do around the house, maybe it’s something fun, like hiking with friends or getting smashed at an all-day beerfest.  Sometimes it’s hard to say, ‘No thanks,’ when it means missing out.  But if you let them, these other things can hijack all your daylight hours, leaving only late-night scraps for writing.

Relocate:  When there are so many pressing things to do, writing can often come last.  Consequently, trying to write at home can be difficult.  Dishes need washing.  Clothes need washing.  Dogs need washing.  (I don’t have a dog, but I have cats who like to sit on my arms when I’m trying to type.  I’m not kidding.)  When I have a chunk of time, I tend to travel to a laptop-friendly coffeehouse with nothing except the story I plan to work on.  If I bring other stuff—bills, a reading book, sudoku puzzles, etc.—then I accomplish nothing.  The point is to avoid the distractions of home—all of them.  Sometimes I don’t even bring my cell phone, but I only recommend that for advanced luddites.

Reserve:  Ernest Hemingway said that he learned to stop writing before he finished a section or chapter, and that way, when he started up again he would know exactly where to start and would waste no time getting on with it.  This actually works.  Instead of facing a blank page, wondering how to begin, if you reserve the last several paragraphs for the following day, then sitting down to write becomes a much less daunting task.  If that doesn’t feel right, then at the very least, think about the next section throughout the day, so that when you do sit down to write, you’re not sitting down cold.

Regorge:  In another blog entry, John mentions “vomiting in the morning and cleaning up at noon.”  (Okay, regorging and vomiting are not the same thing, but I had the ‘re–’ thing going, so bare with me.)  Some of my best progress has come from spewing chunky bits onto the page, then rewriting it all later.  I’ve discarded whole passages—long passages—sometimes entire chapters—and yet as I was doing it felt that I was making progress.  Just figuring out the passage didn’t work usually meant I’d gained a clearer idea of what I was trying to do and how I wanted to do it.  Beginning sentences are especially tough, and I’ve found vomiting to be the surest way around them.

Rest:  Sometimes the writing is just not working.  Then take a break.  Let it lie.  Work on another project or get up and take a walk.  Recharge the batteries.  Forcing it won’t work, especially if you’ve been burning the midnight oil too much.  Sometimes not writing is the best thing you can do for your writing.


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