I’ll admit it. I’m a newbie to the writing life. Sure, it’s been two years since I started making some headway on this writing journey, but I’m learning all kinds of things on this adventure. And like most adventures, there are discoveries to be had. Every writer has their own process, or even quirks, when it comes to writing. Now that I’m getting (or more like attempting) to be consistent with writing, I’m learning a bunch of new things about my own writing process.
Short Attention Span
Ok, so this does not only apply to writing, but it shines through every time I sit down at the computer. Sometimes I think I have ADD “Attention Deficit Disorder.” It doesn’t have to be a bird outside the window or even an unidentified noise. “I am my worst distraction,” I always say. All it takes is a random thought: Oh yeah, I wanted to light some candles or I forgot to turn off the light in the other room. This is a real problem for me. One day I was having an especially difficult time at work focusing on the task at hand. So what did I do? I searched online for a motivational poster on focus. What else could I do? I found the perfect one for a Star Wars fan like me: Luke Skywalker attacking the death star. Because of this lack of focus and short attention span, I have discovered that thirty minutes is about all I can do at one time except for the rare occasion of being on a roll or if I’m editing. Whether I’m writing a new story, blog, or editing a work in progress, I set a timer on my phone for thirty minutes. This has two purposes: 1) it forces me to keep working for another fifteen minutes when it feels like I’ve been at it for an hour, and 2) it reminds me I’ve been sitting long enough.
Basic Story to Final Draft
A few weeks ago I posed a question in my Facebook writing group to see if I was the only one who ends up with more questions and quandaries with each edit. One person replied that she settles those things during the rough draft stage and uses the editing stage to fix the grammatical and technical stuff. It did not surprise me that I am backwards. I learned a long time ago that my brain is wired opposite from the majority. High school algebra class was a prime example. I picked up the difficult formulas quicker than the easier ones. In adult life, I’ve noticed that if there is an easier solution or method to accomplishing a task, I’m not the one who thinks of it. The way I go about things tends to be more complicated for others, yet it’s easier for me. No wonder I confuse people when I explain things to them. When I write, I get the basic story on paper while fixing grammatical and spelling errors as I go. Then it’s during the editing process when I look for inconsistencies in the story line. What typically happens is the story expands while I’m editing. At times the final story ends up being twice as long as the original draft. There is no right or wrong way to write or edit. Every writer discovers what works for them and then goes with it.
Best Time & Place to Write
Writing advice on when to write will vary from person to person. Some say to squeeze in thirty minutes in the morning, while others suggest staying up later to fit in some writing. For me, neither one is the “best” time. Since my brain wakes up about two hours after my eyes open, mornings are definitely not an option. By the end of the day, my brain is fried like an egg that’s been in the skillet too long. While the occasional late night does work for me, I’ve noticed that anywhere from afternoon to evening is best, depending upon my schedule. As far as the best place goes, I can concentrate better when I’m somewhere other than my house, like the library or Panera Bread (my favorite place). However, most of my writing is done from the comfort of my couch. I do have a desk at home, but it’s usually cluttered with papers and personal financial stuff. Besides, I spend close to forty hours every week at a desk so writing at my home desk doesn’t inspire me much. But no matter where I write, there has to be some level of noise to help me concentrate. Music is better, but people talking or some other type of activity around me works as well.
This is a trial and error aspect of this writing journey. I set goals (which I rarely meet) then schedule writing accordingly. I’ll first print out a monthly calendar, and then I use a red ink pen to note my deadlines. From there, I assign all my tasks (everything from household chores to writing projects) to a specific day with the approximate time to accomplish them. Each week, I print out a weekly calendar and get even more specific with a schedule for each day, complete with times. Yes, I know this seems extreme, but I’m returning to my college days when I would sketch out a schedule for the day. It started as a way to stay awake in my 7:30am classes, but it turned out to work for me. Before you think more highly of me than you should, I don’t always stick to the plan exactly how it’s written. Life is unpredictable so it’s a necessity to be flexible.
Writing discoveries are different for every writer; these are mine, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be the only things I discover on this journey. It’s only a start. In fact, life should be a learning experience until the day we die. When we stop learning, the fun gets sucked out of our lives. And no one wants to live life without fun. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or neither one, there are things you’ve learned about yourself during your lifetime. I’d love to hear some of them in the comments. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll inspire a new story for me to write.