Thursday, April 30, 2009

Writing Amidst Chaos or How to Avoid Avoidance

Take a look at the headlines. If you dare.

A tanking economy. Job losses at historic highs. Pirates pillaging. Mothers killing their children. Fathers killing in front of their children. Floods. Tornadoes. Wildfires. And now the swine flu.

In the midst of all this real life drama, angst, and worry it’s a challenge to keep focused on the task at hand—whether it be work, college, or writing.

I’ll be the first to admit it. Lately it’s been difficult for me to maintain the strict, disciplined schedule required to produce the pages necessary to meet writing deadlines and commitments.

A new job. College courses. Family responsibilities. A possible pig pandemic. Just what the aspiring author needs to create a positive, affirming, emotionally and creatively inspirational work environment, right?


It doesn’t help matters (especially when one is prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder) that winter just won’t give way to spring and the days are cold, rainy, and depressing as you know what. Add to that the fact that—generally speaking—it helps to be in a ‘happy place’ when you write comedy, and you have the classic setting for activity avoidance—the activity in question being writing of a humorous nature, of course. It’s hard to be funny when you’re grumpy.

A couple of days ago a co-worker was inquiring about my writing process. The conversation went something like this:

Coworker: So, when do you actually write? Do you go home after work and write?

Me: That depends.

Translation: (If I can drag myself away from Nancy Grace and Greta Van Susteren, I might actually do some writing.)
Coworker: What are you working on?

Me: That depends.

Translation: (If I’m in a good mood, I’ll work on the funny stuff. If I’m in a dark place, I’ll whip out the serial killer/stalker/slice ‘n dice story.)
Coworker: So how’s that working for you?

Me: Great! Just great!

Translation: Why are you badgering me?
Coworker: So. When will you finish the next book?

Me: Soon. Very soon.

Translation: Why do you hate me?
And so it went.

Fortunately, as a former state trooper who made it through four months of the Quasi-Military Style Public Safety Academy I am confident the strict self-discipline I adopted and ascribe to and the various tools I enlist to aid me in my endeavors will see me safely through the current maze of trials, temptations, and distractions that threaten to derail my writing progress.

Translation: Now I am going to make a big pot of coffee to enjoy with a rather large slice of double chocolate fudge cake, open my work in progress file and try to be funny despite the cold, wet, yucky weather outside my office window.
Tell me. What works for you? What is your writing process like? Do you set daily/weekly page quotas? How do you keep focused on and committed to the craft of writing when the world around you is spinning out of control? Do you—like me—have different stories for different moods? Rewards for goals met? Any tips for getting—and staying—in the ‘writing zone’? Between work and writing, how do you find time for family—and for you?

Well, my coffee’s done brewing and that cake is waiting. Oh, yeah. So is my writing project. So I’m off to put words on the page.

Translation: If I don’t finish this project, my agent may engage in some slicin’ and dicin’ of her own.
Talk about writing motivation!

~Bullet Hole~


Bookmobiler said...

will see me safely through the current mazeWe're doomed!

:)Although chocolate in any form would make that palatable.

Kathy Bacus said...

':)Although chocolate in any form would make that palatable.'

Exactly my reasoning, Bookmobiler, hence the DOUBLE chocolate cake with fudge frosting.

~Bullet Hole~

terrio said...

I decided to try writing AFTER I decided to go back to college so I've never tried one without the interference of the other. But college wraps up end of June then it's onto writing that book. No idea how that will go as yet, so not much advice to give.

The only thing I've found for sure is that I write better in restaurants or in public somewhere. Maybe try going out to someplace with a pleasent sunny atmosphere along with some good coffee and chocolate cake?

Kathy Bacus said...

I've had a opposite experience, Terrio. I started writing and got published, THEN decided to go back to college and finish a degree. So I'm trying to slice the 'time pie' up to include an extra slice for college. (See how I steer everything back to food somehow?) Dividing time between work and writing didn't seem quite as daunting a task.

I like your idea of writing in a coffee shop, etc. I usually find switching up my writing environment with each new book sometimes helps me get moving forward.

Congratulations on finishing your degree in June! Best of luck with your writing this summer!


Suzan Harden said...

Dark chocolate-covered espresso beans (and needing a new A/C unit, new glasses, a new kitchen faucet, etc.) inspires the completion of my magazine.

terrio said...

Thanks, Kathy, I'm more excited than you could know about this ending. I'm not sure now if I'd have gone back to school if I was working and writing and doing all the other stupid stuff I volunteer for. LOL! So kudos to you!

Kathy Bacus said...

Excellent rationale--and motives--for project completion, Suzan. Tangible needs are always great for getting the job at hand done!

Good luck!


Kathy Bacus said...

While I have one more year to go to finish the second degree, I'm looking forward to taking the summer off, Terrio. I hope to spend the lion's share of 'unstructured' time this summer playing writing 'catchup'.

You should be very proud of yourself for having the courage and determination to go back to college and earn that degree! Bravo!


Christie Craig said...

Ahh, Kathy!

Life does seem to try to throw us off sometimes, doesn't it?

Deadlines keep me writing. Fear that the time the phone rings, it will be someone asking about the manuscript. Yikes!

Good luck getting those words on paper, girl. I know you can do it!


Gemma Halliday said...

Love the translations. :)

I’m with CC, deadlines are the most awesome motivator. I usually do better with a weekly page count goal, as that gives me permission to slack off one day (translation: hit the sales at the mall while everyone else is at work) if I work extra hard another day to make up for it.