Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Getting into writing mode quickly

It's not always like this, but frequently it takes me a while to get into "writing mode" - particularly if I'm working on something I enjoy less than usual. And although I'm not a mom yet, I still have frequent distractions that rob me of the opportunity to take my time getting warmed up. Also, as a professional who must support herself on her writing income, I can't afford to waste time by prolonging my "warm-up" period longer than necessary.

I'm not perfect, by any means - I still procrastinate when I have the luxury of time - but when I don't, there are a few tricks I have learned to get myself going faster.

Make notes. This is probably the most important trick I've learned. I frequently make notes, set apart from the draft by symbols that will draw my attention (so that I don't leave my notes there by accident). For example, I might type "" at the end of a paragraph when I don't know how to finish it off, but I have lots of good ideas for the next paragraph that I want to get down while they're fresh. Also, when I open a new document, I'll often set up a rough outline in this manner, to get my full idea down before I forget it or lose track of it. This saves a lot of time when I pick up my work again, as I don't have to reread everything and figure out where I was and where I wanted to go with it.

Location, location, location. Location is good for more than just house values. I've found that some places enable me to get started writing more quickly than others. I think this must vary between writers, so figure out what works for you and use it when you really need to jump start your writing for the day. For example, contrary to all common sense and how-to-write books' advice, one of the places most conducive to work for me is a coffee shop. I think it's because I have so many distractions at home, which aren't there at the coffee shop. All I have there is literally my coffee and my work. The busy atmosphere doesn't distract me because it doesn't concern me. Likewise, there are areas in the home that help me get started on my work more quickly: desks and tables are not very comfortable for me to work at, and I write best when I'm comfortable, so the couch and the comfortable old granny rocker in my office are the places where I can get started writing the fastest.

Plan for distractions. Does anyone else get the munchies three sentences into something that took a long time to warm up to? Well, you know that getting up will ruin the "writing mode" you worked so long and hard to achieve, so think ahead! Go to the bathroom before you get started, and keep everything else you might need nearby: a blanket in case you get cold, a snack in case you get hungry, any reference books you might need, etc. I actually have my doubts as to whether these sorts of distractions are genuine; your brain may be making them up in order to prolong your "warming up" time, so anticipating them can help avoid some of the subconscious procrastination your clever mind sabotages you with.

Of course, if I were to write about how to prolong your procrastination efforts as much as possible, I would recommend blogging. It really is therapeutic to write and not get anything done at all. :o)

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