Sunday, August 5, 2007

Distractions while… wait, what were we talking about?

Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to support ourselves by writing fiction. Even those of us with “day jobs” that we love daydream about being able to spend all our time thinking, writing and appearing on Oprah to promote our best-seller.

The problem is, even when your only writing concern is whether Mingus or Modest Mouse provides a better soundtrack for your typing (or teeth-gnashing), other stuff can get in the way. Like, say, the rest of your life. If you’re worried, stressed-out, depressed, anxious or any of a million other words that worm their way into your vocabulary when you’re grappling with something difficult or painful, writing seems like a pointless distraction at best.

So how do you let your mind wander off into a story if it’s busy trying to figure out the way back to Happyland?

One time-honored method is to drink. The upside is that it definitely helps you relax and, by extension, allows your mind to skip off in any direction it wants to. The downside is, of course, alcoholism, public nudity and embarrassing phone calls. So scratch that one.

You can also treat it like writer’s block: Power through it by staring at the screen until something good trickles out through your fingertips. That can work too, but your mileage may vary.

Or you can ignore writing altogether, but the pitfall here is that your ideas may shrivel up inside your head and when you DO finally feel ready to write, you discover that sometimes inspiration has an expiration date.

The best way to deal with this, in my experience, is to write like you read. Everyone can get sucked into a good book, right? Allow it to carry you away from your couch (or, if you’re me, your semi-padded Brown Line bench seat) and off into some other, more exciting place. That’s what you need to do with your story—just start throwing ideas out there, follow them around, poke them, prod them and try to let yourself get carried away. Except without consciously trying. It’s Zen, people.

And in the end, if all goes well, you wind up with a manuscript. Getting the Oprah appearance will be covered in a future blog entry.

Anyone out there playing the home version of Read Ink have any experiences in this vein? Want to share?

1 comment:

petev said...

i gave up trying years ago. the words just never had any kind of flow. too much wandering and distraction from the point.
the realization that i would not be a writer was a painful one, but the correct one, knowing i have spared myself and a few others some serious agony.