Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A MENTALLY CHALLENGED PARAKEET

The setting is around me. I can feel the words, sentences, dialogue bubbling to the surface of my mind. It's here; I get one sentence out, then two. I'm feeling it when... Is that poo I smell?


There is my sorta potty trained toddler smiling at me from behind the TV. Her favorite spot to do the doo. I get up, shuffle over to her, and ask her why she prefers to go behind the TV than in the toilet. Next comes cleaning her and the underwear (yikes), and five minutes of extreme unpleasantness I would not wish on anyone. Then after she's changed, and the clothes are soaking in oxyclean, I finally sit down and... nothing. The scene is totally gone from my brain.

This and similar instances of writing interrupted take place quite frequently for me. I don't have my own office (we live in a tiny one bedroom), our neighbors can be loud as we can't shut our windows (no A/C), we have one desktop computer, and with twitter, facebook, and now G+ it can be so hard for me to just focus.

Don't get me wrong, I love where we live and my little family, but from a "getting my novel done" point of view, our current set up can be rather frustrating at times.

The biggest thing that bothers me is that I realize the problem isn't with my environment at all. It's with me. I'm just not disciplined enough. I don't have a schedule. I get distracted easily. I lose track of what I'm doing easily. I swear my brain is starting to fall out of my ears.

Some days I just want to give up. I figure at this pace I'll never get it done. I've had three days in a row, and one damn scene I'm trying to build, but I can't get it right. Everything I write is total crap and I've re-written it I don't know how many times.

How on earth does anyone stay focused? What do you do to stay focused on your writing? Advice would be welcome.

4 comments:

  1. I have a near ritual with my writing. My kids are usually in bed when I start writing. I have an alarm set on my iPhone for 10 p.m. Which I adhere to every day. Whether I stare at the computer for a half hour or not I go to the PC at 10.

    When I first started I had a lot of problems sticking to the time. When I got in a rhythm with the story I knew where to begin and I always write until 12:30. My maximum cutoff is 2. If I am still writing at 2 I shut off the PC, no matter where I am.

    I may be exhausted at my day job the next day but I get at least two and half hours of writing every night. It is rough getting used to a schedule for writing especially if you have a day job.

    I drink a lot of tea at work, I can't drink coffee. Almost everyone I work with knows that I stay up late writing and most of them cut me a little slack if I am exhausted.

    Good luck

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  2. Hello Lari - first thing is, don't panic.
    From what you've talked about on your post, the challenge you face is moving forwards with your work; so here are my suggestions...

    1- Unplug the internet. It's the equivalent of an office party going on around you while you're still working. If you want to, tell people you're working, go offline, then tell them what you've done when you go back online. Get them to spur you on.

    2- Write forwards. Finish the draft, then go back. However badly you think you have written the previous scene, save it and start to write the next one. If characters appear from nowhere, or events are mentioned that you haven't written about before, keep going. Write forwards.
    When you rewrite in your next draft, that's the time to go in and fix things. Make notes as you go along, but write forwards until you finish.

    In my modest experience (one novel in, completing first draft of the next one) it's only when you look at the story as a whole that you can get a proper feel of how the story should flow, and sound.

    As with all advice, what works for me may not work for you, but I hope you keep going - remember, twenty words written today is twenty words closer to completion. Keep going, keep writing forwards (yes, I do sound like a stuck record) and be amazed how far you've come.

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  3. You and me both Lari, and I don't even have a child, I have a cat. O_o

    You writing is amazing and my only advice is just let it flow to you when it does and if you have to do something else (like clean up after your little one), write a quick note to yourself about what you were thinking and see if you can pull it make into your mind later.

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  4. Cubistx3- That is a great idea with setting an alarm on your phone. It probably induces a pavlovian response to get on the word processor every time you hear it. :) It's a great suggestion and as someone who doesn't have a full time job, I really have no excuse to put myself on a regular writing schedule. I am going to try this... although the time may be different. :)

    Andy- You make a fabulous point. You also point out the main reason I get distracted from my writing. I start writing about a scene in a monastery, and I want to research monasteries on the internet. I see a funny tweet or youtube vid, and spend the next however long messing around looking at funny cat videos. And with regards to writing forward: I HAVE to make myself do that. I get so disappointed in what I "just wrote" that I rewrite it again and again, and don't progress. I have to stop that. It is good to hear it over and over, thanks for reiterating. heehee

    Becky- Thank you so much! I really need to keep a notebook on my more often. I usually can write it down, but my little one catches me off guard sometimes. :P


    Again, thanks to everyone for your encouraging and helpful comments. I really needed them. :)

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