Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back in the Saddle

My laptop died recently...

It was a real tragedy.

The loss of my old laptop decimated my work output. Yes, I could hook it up to my big, honkin' TV, but the angle was all weird and cricked my neck, the desk was too low and the chair was too high. It was uncomfortable and hard to really sink into the work. Sure, sure, I occasionally managed to pull off the odd brain-melting 3600 word day, but that was usually more akin to a non-drinker suddenly going out on a raging bender, rather than someone who's spending a regular evening having drinks with friends--I paid for it the next day.

I've never considered myself one of those types of "writers", the type that can't get anything done unless they have the absolute perfect writing area set-up with the perfect music and the perfect temperature in the perfect spot with the perfect level of noise. I've always considered that kind of stuff nonsense, nothing but ready made excuses for the non-writing writer set. I believe this because I hold to the idea that if you really want to be a writer, then you will write. I realize it can be tough to make the time sometimes, but... that's the rub, right? If you want to write, you will find the time to right. Granted, I have always been lucky enough to be able to work just about anywhere, at least, as long as I had reasonable access to my WIP, and I guess I can still say I can work just about anywhere really, but sitting on that too-soft ottomon with my head tilted too far back? It was a mile too far for me. I couldn't do it. My writing time suffered.

Yeah... We happy...

Except for Windows 8. What a crapfest, amirite? 

Other than that, it's good to be back and--after a bit of wrangling and wrestling with Windows 8--all set up. But here now, I am faced with a new question: How do I get started up again? Interrupting your schedule and/or routine or having your schedule and/or routine interrupted is a tough thing for a writer. Too much time away from The Work makes it harder and harder to sit down again and get back to things. It's hard to re-capture that rhythm and really dig in again in a really productive way.

So what do you do? What will Ido?

1. Schedule
You have to make time. Make time to settle in. Make time to stare at the screen. You need to force yourself to get back in front of the keyboard, so schedule some time to do it. Plan on it and stick to it. Make sure it happens. Sounds simple, right? Well, in that case, stop making excuses, sit down, shut up, and get back to work.

2. Backtrack
I find it easier to get to work on a normal day, if I spend a little time when I first sit back down going back over the latest stuff from the last writing session. It's kind of like warming up the engines, y'know? Like ramping the power levels back up into the green. It's hard to dive in cold, so instead, take some time, read through a bit of your most recent stuff and maybe fix what will most likely be a plethora of somehow now appallingly apparent mistakes. But it all looked so good the night before...

3. Take off the brakes
The flipside to taking some time each day to backtrack over your most recently completed stuff is that you can't spend too much time there. You don't want to get stuck in that mud, spinning your wheels, covering and recovering the same ground over and over again. Do that and suddenly you're that kid in the Critique Class bringing the same 100 pages to be reviewed that you brought ten years ago. Push, Sisyphus, push! At a certain point, you have to stop looking back and start looking ahead. You have to dive back in and just get started writing. Once you push your giant boulder to the top of that hill, take off the breaks and just go for it. You can always come back later. Keep that in mind: Just start writing. You can always come back later.

4. Consider
But before you do all that other stuff, take a moment or two, or a day, maybe just a little time while washing the dishes, whatever... Take some time and think about your story. Where's it going? Where do you want it to go? Where did it start? Is that the right place? And... if you were going to change something, what would it be? A scene? A character? A chapter? The beginning? The middle? The end? The whole thing? Could you delete it all and start over? Do you dare?

We'll see...

Get to writing,


Mark Teats said...

Welcome back to the land of the living. The laptop is the Samurai sword of the new world, or for us Mac users the Uzi. To be without one for any length of time can be crippling to works in progress. Now get to writing! (And do not send this new laptop through the washing machine.)

Lisa said...

Nice blog, Jon.
I too find that often ideas come to me while I'm away from the writing desk, just thinking about the world. The trick for me is to remember to jot them down before I lose them.