Thursday, February 23, 2012

Draining the Blood of Muses (Things That Keep Me From Writing)

Some of us may emerge victorious more often than others, but anyone who calls themselves "writer" has fought the battle. The battle against things that vie for the attention. Those things that make a really convenient excuse for not putting fingers to keyboard.

These are some of my top contenders. (If you'll notice, making lists like these is not on the list of Things That Keep Me From Writing....though maybe it should be.)

Please, share yours in the comments. Suffering shared is suffering halved, after all.

8. The Internet.

You know that song "The Internet Is For Porn?" They got the "P" word wrong.

All this surfing is exhausting. Via Flikr
I'm already a wonderful procrastinator (as evidenced by the rest of this list) and the Internet just makes it that much worse.

In attempts to remain productive, I've turned off the wireless on my laptop. I've even unplugged routers. Obviously, something you can easily flick on and off isn't much of an impediment. Alas, it's all about self-discipline. Which I lack sometimes. (Okay, a lot of the time.)

Lately, I've been working on training myself to write in shortalmost tweet likespurts.

Write 100 words. Check e-mail. Write 100 words. Check Facebook. Write 100 words. Play a turn in Words with Friends (which I can tell myself is building my vocabulary).

The downside to all this back-and-forth is that I seem to be developing the attention span of a spastic kitten.

7. Cleaning

A double edged sword.

I can't concentrate when I'm surrounded by clutter, so some amount of picking up before I write is necessary. Unfortunately, when I start cleaningespecially when I'm cleaning as a precursor to writingI notice just how much more there is that needs to be cleaned, including the places no one ever sees. Like the top the door frames. Who looks up there?

The other side of the sword? Cleaning spurs creativity. No writing tools at hand, elbows deep in dishes or limbs tangled up in a vacuum chord, and inevitably, I'll get an idea for the prompt I've been mulling over or, suddenly, I know how to get my character out of a sticky situation.

6. Reading

Is, at least, on the same plain as writing.

Stephen King said “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” And I take that to heart.

But whenever I sit down to read, I have the overwhelming feeling I should be sitting down to write. Maybe it's a matter of finding the right balance? Or telling my guilt-laden conscience to stuff itself?

5. Geek Marathons
We don't have cable, so that's at least one point in my favor when it comes to things I can use to procrastinate. We do, however, have a mass collection of movies and a growing collection of television series, thanks to McKay's. (In addition to whatever we wind up streaming.)

A vortex. Pretty much what happens when I get into a new series.
And I'm one of those people who, when she gets into something, really get into it. 

I'll watch an entire seven series TV show in less than two weeks. (I just finished a run through of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

And my list of current things I'm watching just keeps growing. Angel. Six Feet UnderStar Trek: Voyager. Doctor Who.

4. Cats

"Mom. Attention. Now."
I have four of them. And they're a lot like children.

Granted, they don't need me to wipe their noses, clean their butts (well, save for those times when they do, but we won't go into that), or put them to bed.

But when they want attention, they want it now.

And one of them (the one glaring at you, here) is very loud and insistent about it. She barrels out of nowhere, yowling around whatever toy (usually her stuffed bat) she's picked up and is wanting me to throw so she can a.) catch it and run off with it only to come back without it five minutes later, mewling pitifully or b.) stare at it as a it sails over her head and then give me a look of pure-exasperation for not being smart enough to throw it to her.

3. Other Projects
Sometimes they're creative. (Such as working on my blog design or picking up the guitar to noodle a bit with finger placement and chord discernment.) Sometimes they're mundane. (Organizing the pantry. Lining the kitchen shelves.) Often they're projects that don't have to be done right this very minute, but for some reason, right this very minute always seems to be the best time to do them.

2. Gaming
Look at that sky. Why Lorelei spends so much time on the road.
I'll be honest, I get a lot of ideas while gaming but that doesn't mean those ideas will make it to paper. It really a wonderful way to spur creativity and imagination (especially when you're running around worlds like Skyrim).

But it's a time-suck. Even if I plan to spend only an hour running around, finishing a few quests, it's almost inevitable that six hours later I've become the scourge of the dead/undead and have started a mutiny against one of my factions.

Lucky for me, I seem to be good at limiting my play-time to a couple of days a week (barring the weeks where I really need to wail on some necromancers to work out a bout of irritation), saving me numerous nights on which I can find other things to keep myself from writing.

1. My Inner Critic

My I.C. This insidious little bugger is the bane of my existence. Before I went to college, she was nothing. A small, whiny voice in the very back of my mind.

After majoring in English, she's become the equivalent of a literary air raid siren. Stressful, grating, and only occasionally helpful in warning me about problems in my work. Most of her time is spent nitpicking in a very English-major way.

My I.C. dips her pen in the blood of former Muses.
Is this character's name fitting? Does that sentence reveal too much about the plot? Is this theme too obscure? What kind of symbolism will people read into this item/action/event? Maybe this character should stand as a metaphor for [insert theme here]. Oh, c'mon, that would never happen!

That last one is particularly grating, as my writing tends toward fantasy/horror, so "never" is an ugly word.

I've not yet found a way to subdue my I.C. I've tried meditation. I've tried leaving her bound and gagged in the corner of my mind that comes up with undefinable monsters. (She never stays trussed long.)

Selective hearing seems to be the most successful self-defense, thus far.

Though I'm on to another.

20 years ago, I started writing because characters came to me with stories they wanted told. And I didn't worry about whether or not their stories were perfect. I didn't worry if the one whispering the tale in my ear seemed too flat in personality or if he were talking about something that happened which denied the laws of physics.

I got caught up in the wonder of the tale. And the pleasure of finding words to bring that tale to life.

It's the wonder and the pleasure that I need to focus on. (Admittedly, easier said than done, or I wouldn't be writing this entry.) The criticism can be saved for after the first draft is down on paper.

I'm hopping today:


L. M. Leffew said...

I'm not a list writer, except for when I'm traveling somewhere:) But, I'm definitely like you when it comes to cleaning. I can't concentrate when it's cluttered all around me. Still I'm a slacker with cleaning. I think I sort of close my eyes to the clutter. 

L. M. Leffew said...

Great list. Like you, internet nonsense and TV are big writing bumpers. My job is the biggest writing interruption though! I always get a hankering to write during my work day, but you know, I don't want to get fired so I don't write.

So I do most of my writing late at night when I should be sleeping. Sleeping sometimes wins, because I'm tired.

Visiting from Not Mommy.

L. M. Leffew said...

Oh, I close my eyes to clutter for as long as I can. Then I get to that point where it's just too much and I'm half tempted to throw the clutter off the balcony. :)

L. M. Leffew said...

"My job is the biggest writing interruption though!"

I totally empathize. When I was in the office every day, the desire to write always attacked when I needed to get work-stuff done. :\

I work from home now--which has its own distractions and weirdness--but it affords me more time to write (well, when I stop procrastinating).

L. M. Leffew said...

That's a pretty complete list but I'll add: sunny days and rainy days. If I had a muse she quit so I feel your pain. I've been unemployed and so should have completed book 3 in my best selling trilogy but have not put together even a paragraph. I guess I'm like a 6 yr old who says "I want to be a ballerina" but can't dance. I want it but have not made it happen.

And DO. NOT get cable. Most everything on Bravo is as addictive as crack.

Stopping by from the Not a Mommy Hop

L. M. Leffew said...

Loved this!  Number 1 - yes!  I get so distracted by blogs...I'll just read one more blog and then I'll write I tell myself.  But one blog turns into a hundred. To combat that, I tell myself I have tor write for 10 minutes and then I can read a blog post.  If I'm really lucky, I get in the flow and 10 minutes turns into an hour.  And yes to the cleaning thing too!  I am currently surrounded by three coffee mugs, one glass, a scarf, a plate, two notebooks, and a bag of chips.  I should clean it up but there's no time!  I have to write...I'm in the flow.  Until I'm not in the flow, until the writer's block comes and then I decide to clean.  But ten minutes into it inspiration strikes and I must write!  It's a vicious cycle.

L. M. Leffew said...

 I love Bravo and I miss it, but I know better.

I will not give in to the temptation of cable (she says as she's streaming Dr. Who episodes.)

L. M. Leffew said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who suffers from the cleaning-writing cycle. :)

L. M. Leffew said...

Yes, yes, YES. Each of these is me. Except I only have three cats, and watching the husband play Skyrim is a little different than playing it myself (but not any less engrossing). I, too, also have a huge issue with getting caught up in things like geek marathons. My latest marathon? Downton Abbey. It's really rather pathetic. And right now, I'm reading blogs and tweeting and writing comments instead of working on a freelance assignment that's due in a week. Here's to procrastination! 

Great post, by the way. Very relatable and fun to read!

L. M. Leffew said...

I keep running across talk of Downtown Abbey...I may have to check it out.

I'm totally and irretrievably sucked into Dr. Who at the moment which is odd. I spent several years watching and enjoying the occasional episode when my husband would put it on and now *bam,* I'm addicted. I don't why it happens that way.... 

Thanks for dropping in. Glad you enjoyed.

L. M. Leffew said...

I totally can't concentrate when there's clutter either. I love sitting down to work whenever my house is perfectly clean!! And I have a toddler who is starving to death every twenty freaking minutes, so that is distracting!

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