I love it when I am obsessed with a story I’m writing. My wife? Not so much.
I call it being in the zone. Obsession leads to loads and loads of productivity. My wife calls it being zombified. That’s the time when she can’t keep an adult conversation going with me because my mind is in la-la land. But she’s lived with me for 42 years, so I guess she’s learned to deal with it.
Like I said, I love to be obsessed with a story, so much so that I can pick up and start writing on it at any given time.
Unfortunately, those moments of obsession don’t always happen. Sometimes it’s, as the old saying goes, simply an “application of the seat of the pants to the chair.” That’s especially true when you’re trying to get started on a new novel, as I am, or when you’re struggling through difficult parts, as I know I eventually will be.
Fortunately for me, I’m a college professor, and theoretically we get our summers off. I say theoretically because those summers have ended earlier and earlier each year. Used to be we would show up at the end of August, ready to teach our classes. Now we have meetings in July, and it’s all downhill from there. In addition, there are always other obligations that get in the way of good writing time.
I talked to my good friend, Celeste Walker, about it once. She’s a “full time” writer, a term that I use loosely, because she has many other things she does, including help manage a farm, edit publications, and manage a family. I asked her if she ever had family or friends who don’t respect her writing time, thinking that since “she’s not doing anything,” she would be available to do errands that were important to them. “All the time,” was her response.
I have people telling me they envy having my summer’s off, but so far, I haven’t stopped running ever since graduation. There is always something to do. Many are things that other people want me to do, but many others, I will have to admit, are things that are self-inflicted. Do I really need to run to the bank, run to my office, talk to the neighbor, check on the dogs, etc. when I should be writing?
Hence, I suggest, and I say this for myself just as much as for anyone else, that we dedicate writing time as “sacred time.” For me, two hours at a time is all I need. During that time, I will concentrate on the project at hand. Whether I write actual words, or just go through what I have written before is unimportant. What IS important is that those two hours are NOT time for:
- checking email
- checking Facebook
- responding to texts
- scanning TV
- calling people
- doing any of the hundred other excuses we have for not writing.
Like I said, most of my problems are self-inflicted. If I were to set a specific two hours every day to write, refuse to answer my phone, email, or texts unless it’s an emergency, maybe even not answer the door, my wife would understand. Some of those in the world wouldn’t, but I don’t care about them. But it’s a matter of discipline, and despite writing 22 books, it’s something I still struggle with.
So that’s my recommendation for today. If you take it up, great. But I am going to try it and see if it works for me. Two hours out of a day is doable. And I know I could get a lot of writing done in two hours if I gave myself the chance.