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Writer…Interrupted: How to Minimize the Fits and Starts

When I’m writing well, I feel happy and exhilarated. When I’m not, I stare at an empty screen or page, chafing at my lack of productivity.

I look at it this way: A little old man in a green plastic visor is in charge of my internal filing system. He climbs up and down ladders to dig into the filing cabinets inside my mind. Some days he’s agile and quick. Others, not so much.

I’ve often been told “it’s amazing how much you get done in a day” and “slow down, you’re making the rest of us look bad.” But writing’s tough—full of distractions and delays. It’s frustrating! Writing blogs are full of great advice for avoiding writer’s block. Aspiring authors have asked me how many hours a day I write. Do I hold myself to a word count?

writersblockcatThose questions can make me feel like a slacker!

Here’s the truth:

It’s hard to stick to a schedule. Lots of authors say they block off time and that time is sacrosanct. Sounds great, and it can work for a few days, until my schedule gets crazy. Maybe we’re having company, or our daughter’s coming home from college—any excuse will do, really. I fall off the wagon, lose my self-discipline, and then I’m back where I started, getting distracted by laundry/cats/HGTV.

I may go for days without actually writing anything. But that doesn’t mean I’ve checked out completely.

But when I’m writing, I’m always writing. Just because my schedule’s shot to hell doesn’t mean my brain isn’t still working on the story. That’s why I miss that turnoff while I’m driving, or why I’m still in my pajamas when my husband gets home from work. Even though I might not seem to have done anything that day—I’m working, even if there’s no word count to prove it!

Writing is difficult, but there’s hope! There are many ways to jumpstart your productivity. These have worked for me:

Stand up.

Change it up. Take a notebook or your laptop into a different room, or to a coffee shop.

Plan ahead so you have someplace to write toward if you get stuck.

Write out of order. If you’ve been looking forward to writing a certain scene, give yourself permission to write it then fill in the gaps in the narrative another time.

If you can’t get deep in the zone, do the housekeeping stuff, like working on a transitional scene or cleaning up a scene you’ve already written.

If you get interrupted, try to leave yourself a clue—where were you going with that thought?

Most of all, give yourself a break. Be kind. Treat yourself the way you’d want your best friend or significant other to treat you when things aren’t going well.

I’m my own worst critic. I blame myself for everything that goes wrong or doesn’t happen fast enough. I’ll try and stop if you agree to do the same.

Remember that your subconscious is working. All. The. Time. Those moments of brilliance will happen. The little old man in the archives works overtime.

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