Happy New Year, everyone!
Hopefully 2018 will be a more productive year for my writing than 2017. I finished 2017 with a lot less fiction than I had intended and fell short of my poetry goal by about 30 poems. I’m going to learn from that lesson and refrain from making specific commitments this year. Instead, I’m going to have a general writing goal of spending at least one hour a day on writing-related activities, whatever they might be. I think this will be more productive than not completing the things I say I will. If nothing else, I won’t feel as guilty about not finishing things.
When I was screening the comments in my blog’s spam folder, I came across one that might contain a legitimate question. Since I am not sure it is genuine, I decided not to post the comment; however, I am going to respond to it here. The question was: how do I “center [my]self and clear [my] head before writing?” The person who asked this question also writes, but struggles to be productive during the first 10-15 minutes of a session and would like some advice. So, here is my response:
- I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, so I generally don’t have problems with focus while I’m writing, provided I have a general idea of what I want to do. In fact, I usually spend a lot of time thinking about what to write (consciously and subconsciously) before I start working on it, so much of the prewriting takes place in my mind instead of on the page. Also, I sometimes call my mom when I am toying with different ideas to see what she thinks about them, and those conversations have certainly helped to generate ideas and motivate me to continue with the novels I’ve written.
- Usually, if I start to write, I don’t have any problems doing it; however, that doesn’t mean what I write is always good. I’ve deleted quite a bit over the years because it wasn’t salvageable.
- One of the things I learned in graduate school is that it usually takes 15-20 minutes to become immersed in an activity. So, if you are struggling during those first 10-15 minutes, it’s pretty normal, since it takes that long for your brain to get in gear (so to speak). I have the same issue, but most of the time, it doesn’t take that long for me to get in sync with my writing. In addition to doing most of the prewriting in my head, I usually start a session by revising previous scenes in order to recapture the mental state I was in when I wrote it. Even though doing this helps a lot, there are still times when I start a story or scene half a dozen times before it feels right and I am able to finish it.
- As for advice, don’t worry about the quality of the first draft; you’ll be revising it. The important thing is to get something down that is decent enough to work with. My first drafts are often about half as long as the final revision, since I focus a lot on dialogue and the plot sequence in first drafts. I add in descriptions and make changes as needed during the revisions. Revision generally doesn’t suffer from writer’s block the way that first drafts do, and making revisions can invigorate the creative juices (so to speak).