Why am I not sitting in my cozy home office, complete with all the joys of a writer’s surroundings?
Because I have several rapidly approaching deadlines, and I am slightly-to-terribly behind on each of them.
And why is that? Distractions.
Follow the Bouncing Ball
My attention lately has been ricocheting all over the place.
Even though I don’t have Internet on my phone and we haven’t had regular TV for years, distractions at home abound.
At any given time lately, when I should have been working, I could be found eating, reading a fun mystery, watching a movie mystery, poring over a book about traveling England, talking to a friend, surfing the Internet, or a combination of the above. (Eating goes with almost everything.)
As much as those external distractions pull at me, I have a bigger problem lately. No one would know it to look at me because it’s all internal.
We all have periods where life hands us things we’d really love to avoid altogether. They can be worries about our kids or parents. It can be unwelcome news about a health issue. The hurt feelings can be from real or imagined betrayal by a friend or loved one.
Because we writers are such thinkers by trade, we tend to ruminate about such things more than is helpful. (I sometimes think I would make a good bovine since they chew their cud three times as it passes from stomach to stomach to stomach.) I can chew on things about that long!
Hours of thinking, praying and planning can (for me, anyway) sink into self-pity, depression and obsessive thinking.
What happens to the writing time when I’m in this state? It goes out the window.
Stop That Habit!
I realized the other day when talking to a friend that I was letting this mental state become such a bad habit that I was falling behind on my deadlines.
I wasn’t over-due–yet. But if something didn’t change, I soon would be.
[Brief note: sometimes the interruptions outside the home are very distracting too! A police car just chased a red sports car through this parking lot and out the other side. But...I digress.]
When we’re talking about boundaries, sometimes the most important ones–and the most helpful ones–are the ones we set on ourselves.
The Great Fixers of the World
I’m a “take action” kind of person, so the things I obsess about are beyond my control. (If I could control them, I would have done it already.) I don’t lack courage to confront, but once I’ve done all I can about a situation, I have difficulty giving it over to God and truly letting it go.
However, much of that, I realized, is simply a bad mental habit. I don’t have a brain disease, and I’m not “addicted” to wrong thinking.
But I have fallen into some bad habits in that regard, and trying harder wasn’t working. It required some drastic action.
That action consists of treating my writing like a 9-to-5 job for the next few weeks until I get caught up and meet those deadlines. (The only exception will be my babysitting days.)
Because my laptop comes with its own distractions, I brought my mini word processor Neo2 with me to the library. It does nothing but word processing, and it is guaranteed to run at least a YEAR on three AA batteries. A blog reader who raved about her Neo2 got me to investigate it.
For only $119 a few months ago, I bought freedom from writing distractions. It has a huge font, which I love, and is easy to read indoors and outdoors. The main thing for my boundaries, though, is that I can’t do a darned thing on it but write.
A change of location to jump-start my new writing schedule was also critical. I needed to get away from the temptations at home until I got a grip on those deadlines.
I will work primarily at the library. It’s quiet during the school day. The mall basement has a food court that is also deserted during the day, and so far my car is working this morning. (I wouldn’t like to sit in the car and type all day though. I need a table for my notes.)
Mental Re-Focus Time
One other thing I am doing, courtesy of a writing coach’s tip, is helping me refocus when my mind starts to drift to obsessive junk. She suggested that I free write for ten minutes, mentally getting myself back on track, then smoothly transition right back into the work at hand.
It’s a simple technique, but it really helps to “re-dump” the worry, remind myself that I’ve done all I can, and then get back to work.
I plan to treat this like a regular job until I get caught up. I will take two fifteen-minute breaks today, plus half an hour back in the car to eat my healthy packed lunch. The rest of the time I’ll be writing. I’ll add a note below at the end of the day and report in!
Take Action Now!
If you are truly stuck and unable to write in your current physical or mental state, don’t give up. Explore alternatives. If you’re drastically stuck–like I’ve been lately–then take drastic measures to get back on track.
No one will do it for you. No one cares about your writing dreams as much as you do. Be determined to do whatever it takes to get back into the flow of your writing!
[UPDATE at the end of the day: I wrote six hours at the library! I am shocked at how easy it was. I was alone in the study room for a bit, then two students joined me. Other than having to blot out one young man's constant sniffling, it was good. I wrote more than 4,000 new words, plus this 900-word blog post! I am thrilled! I didn't take breaks, other than to stretch, so I took a full hour for lunch at a nearby park. It was lovely--just me and my mystery!]