When I began to write, I had a lot of dreams about my future as a novelist. I dreamed about crafting a bestseller that would become a movie. I fantasized that bookstores would fight for the opportunity to have me sign my work. I made mental lists of the furnishings for that home on the beach I’d buy with a fat royalty check.
Best of all, I envisioned my routine: I’d spend eight hours a day with my characters, my coffee, and a collection of my favorite snacks. I’d write without interruption, ensconced in an office chair that rocked, swiveled, provided plenty of lumbar support, and yet had enough cushioning to stave off stretched leg tendons and butt cramps. I imagined that other members of my household would cater to my creativity. On top of that, even my dogs would recognize that distractions could drive off the muse and they’d stop begging for biscuits every fifteen minutes.
Well, I have nine books in print now and my dreams have given way to reality. I don’t have a bestseller (yet), I don’t have that house on the beach (although with global warming I’m not certain I want to live right on the ocean), and bookstore owners aren’t ringing my doorbell (probably a good thing because that makes the dogs bark and that’s a major distraction).
The reality of my life as a writer is that I’ve got . . . the chair.
But, thanks to what I don’t have, I’ve developed a fine sense of what I can’t control and what I have to accept and roll with—like those distractions I’d hoped to banish from my writing refuge. Over the years those insidious interferences have taught me a lot of lessons about patience and persistence. And I’ve learned how to channel those frustrations into fuel for my fiction.
- Build distractions into your writing day to reduce your annoyance level. Interrupt yourself so you’re better able to cope with distractions caused by others. Make more coffee, pay a few bills, straighten the office, walk the dog, pull a few weeds, fix a faucet.
* Use that “interrupted time.” Order your subconscious to get to work while you’re away from your keyboard. Tell it to channel resentment into creative force. Tell it not to get mad, but to get even by coming up with some brilliant similes and metaphors.
- Tag a distraction with a treat. Have to help your husband hunt for the digital camera? Pay yourself off with a chunk of chocolate.
- Make a game of it. Place a bet with yourself about how many times the phone will ring (Telemarketers have a sixth sense and can sniff out a focused writer from the other side of the continent.) or what will go wrong with the furnace/washer/refrigerator next.
- Make noise a part of the routine. If you crank up the music, the dogs’ barking seems less annoying—heck, you might not even hear it.
- Recognize your nature. Even if you have a perfect situation for writing, if you’re a little bit like me, chances are that discipline will often disintegrate and you’ll find a way to interrupt yourself—staring out the window and wondering what your neighbor is up to, realizing you’re got a ragged fingernail, trying to remember if you took your vitamins, getting up to see if the FedEx truck rumbling down the road has something for you.
Now that I’ve learned to go with the flow, I’m making better use of my non-distracted moments. In fact, in working on the sequel to Hemlock Lake, I’ve been able to distract myself into putting aside my self-imposed rule about writing scenes in chronological order. So far, it’s working great—unless I’ve been too distracted to notice that it isn’t.
If you have tips or suggestions, please share them in the comment area below. I’ve been focused on this blog for thirty minutes now and I could use a little distraction.
Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She teaches novel-writing in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.
She is the author of Hemlock Lake, Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death, and the co-author of Sometimes a Great Commotion, The Big Grabowski, The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, and The Hermit of Humbug Mountain. Visit her virtual home at www.deadlyduomysteries.com
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