Lighting the Fire

Good morning, writers.

The hardest part about writing seems to be getting started. I might get an idea and scribble it down on a piece of paper at any time of day or night, but actually sitting down and turning it into real writing takes a focus and determination I don’t always have. It’s so easy to trail off onto Facebook or running errands or cleaning up the clutter around the house.

 I think about taking my laptop elsewhere, but everything I really need is right here in my home office. Like the balky pellet stove that heats my house, all it takes is the spark that starts the fire and the ability to ignore all distractions until the stove is pouring out a steady stream of orange warmth. (Excuse me while I go punch the reset button and remind the dog that it’s time to work. I can’t chase her around the house trying to reclaim the shredded envelope in which the mortgage bill came.)

 Where was I? Oh yes, distractions. When I worked in newspaper offices, I got pretty good at ignoring phones, faxes, people coming and going, e-mails coming in, and mail piling up. I had to; I had deadlines to meet. I had people waiting for me to finish whatever I was doing and schedules that would not change for me. Anyone who has worked for a newspaper knows how it goes. You’re running a marathon and you can’t stop for anything, not even to eat or go to the bathroom. If your mother calls when you’re on deadline, you tell her you can’t talk. If you smell smoke, you mutter, “Just let me finish this story.” It sounds stressful, but some of us thrive on that kind of pressure. It makes us get things done.

 Now that I work at home, I don’t have that pressure as often. (Wait. Is the mail here? No, false alarm. That reminds me: I have to go to the post office.) Distractions. They’re everywhere, but once we’re immersed in our writing, they disappear. Truly.

 So how do we get to that point? This will take more than one post, but here are three suggestions:

 * Do not look at anything on the Internet until you have done your minimum daily requirement of writing (MDRW). If you need to look something up, mark it and do it later. The Internet will take you off track faster than anything I know.

 * Get a timer and use it. Set it for 15 minutes and start writing. You cannot do anything else until the timer beeps. That’s not very long, but I’ll bet you’ll want to keep going beyond 15 minutes.

 * Get organized before your writing session. The night before or at the end of your previous work session, make a list of what you plan to do in order of importance. Then start with the first thing and just work through the list. That way you don’t waste your writing time figuring out what you want to do. Don’t put too many things on the list, just a reasonable amount that you can accomplish in one session. Otherwise it will be too overwhelming.

 I will have more tips soon. Meanwhile, I just checked the pellet stove. It took three tries, but we have heat, the dog has gone outside, and I’m writing. How about you?

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