Did you ever get a fabulous idea? One that occupied most of your waking thoughts and even your non-waking thoughts? One that you just KNEW had to be written down and shared with the world? Well, if your in my little neck of the woods, reading this little blog, then chances are yes. This happens to you all the time. And the thing about getting that fabulous idea from your brain onto the page/into the computer is a nasty business.
It’s called a first draft.
Ah, I can already hear the chorus of agreement. Not that editing is a cup of tea, but once it’s out there you can DO something with it, am I right? So what happens between getting the idea and finding yourself two, four, six or more months in the future without a completed first draft?
For the most part, (aside from busy schedules and making time for writing in the first place) it’s the little things. In my opinion, three little things.
Okay. Are you ready for this? I’m going to tell you straight up, this isn’t groundbreaking news here. Not going to blow your minds or even get a “Huh, didn’t think about that.” The best I can hope for is, “Oh, that’s a good point.” But if you find this in any way beneficial, it’ll be worth it.
Number One: Social Media
I’m sure you’re not surprised by this. How many times have you opened your laptop/desktop and thought, “Oh, I’ll just check my email/Facebook/Twitter/Fill-in-blank real quick” only to look at the time and find 90+ minutes have passed? The problem with social media (in general) is that it’s addictive and easily becomes a time sucker. I totally get that you HAVE to keep on top of your email, especially when your work involves it. But if you’re seriously trying to squeeze in writing time, or make the most of the time you have, one of the best things you can do is set up parameters for yourself. i.e. I will only check my email once in the morning and once before bed. Or I will only check my Facebook for one hour on Thursday night to keep on top of any MAJOR announcements. (I really did have to do this because I was developing a serious addiction, lol.) And so on. So really, this is a simple fix: When you sit down to write, close your web browser, put your phone face-down and just out of reach, and focus exclusively on your writing for the amount of time you have (however much or little that may be).
Number Two: Netflix (and other mind melting activities)
This one goes along most of the lines of Number One in terms of addictiveness. (Yes, you’re right. That’s not a real word. I don’t care. #Frindle. ANYWAY…) You sit down for a little mind melting and end up unlocking the “You have watched Five Episodes in a row!” achievement on your X Box or getting the “Are you still alive?” message on Netflix itself. And again, I get the need for mind melting. You can’t be productive 24 hours a day 7 days a week without it taking a toll on you. It’s the whole strawberry thing: The berries that never take anything for themselves produce the smallest, most bitter fruit. While the berries that soak up the sunshine and rich nutrients from the soil produce the biggest, sweetest fruit. So if your creative juices are stifled and you just CAN’T write at that moment, go ahead and watch an episode of your favorite show, or play a half hour of Majong Titans (a personal favorite), or whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. Just make sure, like anything else, that you’re setting up limits. After all, writer or not, five hours of Netflix in a row can’t be good for your health.
Number Three: Research
Okay, before you fly off the handle and try to punch me in the face about this, just let me explain. Research is VERY necessary to a lot of different genres. Most of them, now that I’m thinking about it. And I’m not about to discourage anyone from doing the necessary research for his/her novel. But let me tell you a little story. My YA fantasy novel is set in a fictionalized Norway, and I wanted the towns to have Old Norse names so they would feel authentic. Well, my characters travel for the majority of the book and are constantly in new places. Every time I got to a new place, I OBSESSED with finding the right name for the town at that very moment. Do you have any idea how much time I lost writing???? I’d spend an hour looking up a name, only to get back into my story and have lost my “flow.”
I know. Really dumb of me. But hasn’t it happened to you? Looking up, say, a specific element of science for a joke in your Sci/fi novel? Or getting a detailed description of how a crime scene is inspected for your mystery? Maybe scouring the web for the latest slang amongst teens, so that those of us who gradated 10+ years ago don’t sound so out of date in our YA contemporaries? Of course, you want these things to be as accurate as possible for your novel. But when you’re just getting it out there (almost word vomiting, if you will) there’s really a better way. I finally learned to just write (TOWN NAME) and highlight it yellow so I would know to go back and fix it once my story was down. It made a world of difference in getting my first draft finished, just by not fixating on every little detail. So when you’re writing and you come to something that will have to be researched, might I suggest just typing (SCIENCE JOKE) or (GET DETAILS ON CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION) or (IS COOL STILL COOL?) *Also, what is LAME SAUCE? Someone explain this to me. Maybe Fleek too, if you get that.* Remember, you can always edit to make something better, but you can’t edit a blank page.
Write on, Friends….
Sound off in the comments: What other things take away from your writing time? How can you fix it?
(As a side note: This article is specifically about things we do during our “writing time” that interfere with our productivity. As a practically single mother of four, I am fully aware that writing time can be hard to come for many individuals, and am simply sharing my thoughts on how to make the most of what writing time you have.)