Give Yourself Permission
There have been several posts recently about how to motivate yourself to write, how to increase productivity, how to “do the job.” I’d like to take a moment to look at the other side of the picture.
(Disclaimer: I’m an indie author and am not on deadline at the moment.)
Recent events—both positive and negative—have pulled me away from the current manuscript. I had a short visit with my mother, followed by a planned week’s vacation which was an organized tour, and we were on the go all the time. When I returned home, ready to tackle the WIP, my mother’s failing health had taken a rapid downturn, and I dropped everything to return to LA. My brother and I spent two weeks dealing with the funeral and trying to get her house cleared out enough to put on the market. She’d lived in the house since 1958 and apparently threw nothing away.
At any rate, all the sorting and wrapping, bagging, and packing was both physically and mentally exhausting. Although I’d intended to use “down time” to work on the manuscript (even brought my regular keyboard), there wasn’t any.
I did have one pleasant break—I met with JSB for lunch one day, and it was nice to talk about writing, and a glimmer of a spark to get back to the book flashed for a moment or two.
At first, I told myself that I had reached a “need to do some research” stopping point before I left, but I faced reality. Even with that information I wasn’t going to be able to write. Constant interruptions, distractions, and the pressure to get everything done wasn’t conducive to productivity—at least productivity that wouldn’t end up being the victim of the delete key.
I gave myself permission to set the manuscript aside and not feel guilty about it. The same went for a presence on social media. I checked emails, but set most of them aside to deal with when I got home.
While writing every day is part of the “job”, there are legitimate reasons for taking a leave of absence. When life intervenes and you have to step away, accept it. The manuscript will still be there.
Now that I’m home in my familiar writing environment, I’ll be catching up with all the “life” stuff that accumulates while you’re away, but also with easing back into the writing. I wrote a post some time ago about getting back in the writing groove, but I thought it was appropriate to repeat my tips here:
Get rid of chores that will nag.
If you are going to worry about cleaning house, paying bills, going through email, take the time to get the critical things dealt with. Otherwise you’re not going to be focused on your writing. If you’re a ‘write first’ person, don’t open anything other than your word processing program.
Do critiques for my crit group.
This might seem counterproductive, but freeing your brain from your own plot issues and looking at someone else’s writing can help get your brain into thinking about the craft itself.
Work on other ‘writing’ chores.
For me, it can be blog posts, or forum participation. Just take it easy on social media time.
Deal with critique group feedback.
Normally, I’m many chapters ahead of my subs to my crit group. If I start with their feedback on earlier chapters, I get back into the story, but more critically than if I simply read the chapters. And they might point out plot holes that need to be dealt with. Fixing these issues helps bring me up to speed on where I’ve been. It also gets me back into the heads of my characters.
Read the last chapter/scene you wrote.
Do basic edits, looking for overused words, typos, continuity errors. This is another way to start thinking “writerly” and it’s giving you that running start for picking up where you left off.
Consult any plot notes.
For me, it’s my idea board, since I don’t outline. I jot things down on sticky notes and slap them onto a foam core board. Filling in details in earlier chapters also helps immerse you in the book.
Figure out the plot points for the next scene.
Once you know what has to happen, based on the previous step, you have a starting point.
And don’t worry if things don’t flow immediately. Get something on the page. Fix it later.
What about you? Any tips and tricks you’ve found when outside world distractions keep you from focusing?
Now Available: Cruising Undercover
It’s supposed to be a simple assignment aboard a luxury yacht, but soon, he’s in over his head.
Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”