While searching for the online page of this month’s LOCUS column by Cory Doctorow, I came across this older column:
Its short length is packed with useful tips for avoiding distractions while at work on a writing project. I’m already ahead on the admonition not to keep instant messaging, etc., active while writing. I never use IM or anything like it. I especially like Doctorow’s advice to write for 20 minutes every day. He equates that time to a page and points out that a page a day equals a novel in a year (or less, I may add). Writing every day keeps the momentum going. He also suggests leaving a “rough edge” to pick up when you start the next session. Stop in the middle of a scene or even the middle of a sentence. I’ve found this practice does help to maintain the writing flow, although it took me a while to overcome my compulsive neatnik urge to tidy things up by closing my session with the end of a scene or chapter every time. (However, I must admit that 20 minutes don’t usually equal a page for me. I assume he means single-spaced pages?)
Now, if only I could claim to write every day. I embarked on “retirement” with that intention. Maybe I should take on Doctorow’s discipline of the daily 20-minute session when I can’t fit in the thousand word goal I originally set for myself. This past week, for instance: On Friday my computer freaked out; nothing appeared on the monitor. The hope that the problem came from a defective cable or even something as simple as a video card proved illusory. When our son who serves as the resident computer tech managed to get some sort of display to appear on the monitor, it became clear that the machine had suffered a nervous breakdown. So we mounted an expedition to Best Buy to acquire a new computer before dinner. The next day, we drove on a 5-hour round trip (not counting the lunch stop) to pick up a 2-month-old St. Bernard. The day after, Sunday, was filled by church in the morning and catching up on all the routine stuff I hadn’t been able to do on Saturday, plus constantly supervising the puppy. Monday we took the puppy to the vet. Tuesday I had a dental appointment. Yesterday I had to do an interview over the phone. Plus, each day, constantly supervising the puppy.
The other day we were fantasizing about buying a second house (a very small one, of course) just to hold our books, like Forrest Ackerman. I suggested we could also use this hypothetical house for a writing office, where no mundane distractions could provide excuses not to write. Of course, the space would still be full of books . . . .
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt