This first appeared on The Writing of a Wisoker on the Loose in August 2011.
A few blog posts ago, Leona commented that I seem to get a lot of writing done. I figured I’d share my “secrets” because she seemed quite interested, and I figure it’s always good for people to trade tips about how they get writing done.
Now, as you’re aware, I tend to be very contrarian about some writing advice, and that doesn’t stop here. One of the pillars for getting writing done is to not focus on writing.
Writing is something that requires focus, dedication, and effort. What it does not need is distraction — as readers here well know, when something knocks you out of your “writing groove” you can lose minutes, hours, or even a day of good writing time as you try and re-focus. As a writer, you need to minimize distractions to your writing.
That involves not focusing on writing for awhile — because you need to get everything else in order.
Having enough things in order to write is important — it leaves you without “Open Loops”, as I’ve heard them called; those things that cry for your attention. We’re familiar with those little mind-mites that gnaw at our peace of mind and our inspiration as we try and write — or do anything. You need to close a lot of your distractions out – or at least get them in enough order to write.
So the first goal of writing is to focus on making sure there’s enough order in your life that you can have periods of undistraction. Maybe it means you write spontaneously whenever you want to, maybe it means you have one time a week, or a day, just for writing. Whatever works for you, you need to make sure the rest of your life doesn’t intrude.
* Having major distractors out of the way and taken care of — pay your bills for that week, get the groceries ordered, etc. Nothing kills the romance in your romance novel like the thought “do I have enough cabbage” intruding on writing a love scene.
* Having major personal issues taken care of — are the kids in bed, did you send your boyfriend his birthday present, did you remember you’re driving your wife to the game, and so on. Guilt, needing to apologize, or annoying our loved ones can mean a small-scale apocalypse that keeps you from writing that big post-apocalyptic chapter.
* Having your daily tasks in order. You can’t write a comedy if your life has turned into a sitcom about who forgot to take out the garbage.
* Having your health in order. If you feel lousy, your medical drama tale is going to feel way too personal.
Writing requires the time to write, and the focus to write. You can do yourself a big favor by having enough of your life in order that you have those moments to focus.
Nothing here on writing types? Nothing here on writing when the muse strikes you or at a certain time of day? Nope, that’s a personal choice — but I have found that getting your life in order means plenty of time to write.
For me? It works great. I post 2-3 news analyses a week, write 4-8 blog posts for 3 blogs, and work on at least one book. I do this because with a mix of schedules and spreadsheets, I keep enough order in my life that I can make the time.
This column, for instance? Written between tasks on a day I was sick — but I had enough time to get it out because everything else was in order.
Note from Leona: The serious irony about this particular column is that I literally checked the scheduled posts on Wednesday night and realized Steve’s next column was due out on Friday–and I didn’t have it in hand yet. We both went through a mild case of panic, I think, and he did a lovely job turning this one out in less than 24 hours. So apparently, his advice on this really DOES work! 🙂
Steven Savage in his own words:
I’m Steven Savage, and I am Geek 2.0.
OK … that sounds either pretentious or obscure, and I try not to be either too much. So what do I mean by Geek 2.0?
Geek 2.0 is a lifestyle. It’s about taking the geeky values of technology, knowledge, creativity, and media as far as possible. It’s a way of life – and a way of contributing to society.
I believe in taking Geekiness farther – into the next iteration, into 2.0.
Steven Savage is the author of the Fan to Pro blog and books (Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies; Convention Career Connection; Focused Fandom: Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers; Focused Fandom: Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers; Inhuman Resources; and Progeek Rising), has his own web site, and incidentally is the mind behind the popular Seventh Sanctum site. He also writes for Nerd Caliber and Comics Bulletin.