Saturday, November 14, 2020

Weekend Post


Writing alone is a lonely enterprise and having that social interaction can make the process a lot more fun and (if you have the right group) expedient (unless you're writing over Zoom).

But what if you have to write alone? How do you develop the discipline to face the tyranny of the blank screen?

This is a task made even more difficult these days because we have the internet and worse, Angry Birds at our fingertips.

There’s no right answer; just various methods and tricks others have used. You have to find the one that’s right for you. But here are a few options:

Pick a specific time of day and force yourself to sit down and work at that time. Could be early morning or the middle of the day while the kids are at school. I’m a night person. I will tend to write late at night when the house is quiet and there’s nothing on TV but infomercials and GOLDEN GIRLS reruns. Many like to get up early, get their writing out of the way and be done for the day.

Pick a specific amount of time. An hour, several hours. Writer/goddess, Jane Espenson goes on half-hour or hour “writing sprints” where she clears the deck and works non-stop during those periods. 

Some people need goals. They have to write a certain number of pages or scenes before they step away. If they finish that script by Tuesday they'll treat themselves to a Thai massage at that new parlor next to the bail bonds place.

Finding comfortable conditions is key for some writers. Are you a “must be isolated with no noise whatsoever” kind of a person? Or are you a “must be in public where there’s activity and energy all around” kind of guy?   That might be harder these days due to the pandemic.  Proust used to write in bed.  If Shakespeare were still alive I'm sure he'd be a Starbucks man except there was a plague in his day too. 

Does music provide some inspiration? A noted poet friend of mine has Jackie Wilson records blaring while she writes poetry. They all end up reading like “Lonely Teardrops” but still.

One method I don’t recommend but writers have been using it for centuries is getting completely shit-faced before writing.  Get your supplies at Staples, not BevMo. 

Another method that works for some (but not for me) is waiting until the last minute and then just blasting forward. They need that self-imposed pressure and prelude to their next heart attack.

Look, writing is hard. If it wasn’t then Kim Kardashian would be doing it (especially if she could do it in bed). But if you find the right way to work (for you), it can make the process far more manageable. Personally, I’m not the best person to ask. I checked my email twice while writing this post.


Pizzagod said...

Simply put-disciplne is rough.

I'm among the masses that have unpublished novels. While I would have loved to have seen my name in print and gotten paid for my efforts, I found that shutting up and actually writing a book was cathartic for me.

First effort took me about six months. I did another and chopped that down to two. The last one I wrote (and these were all around 300,000 words) took a little over two weeks. Once that was out of my system, I looked back at my (admittedly) mediocre inventory, and realized that just finishing something was a grand accomplishment.

Like you said about stand up, bucket list check off!

Anonymous said...

Rule on writing and songwriting -a little alcohol or drugs might be Ok. A lot is not.
Virtually every rock band that thought they were better on drugs may have been better when they started out (most weren't) but almost none were better when they started taking large amounts. To say nothing of the life effects.
Same with writers too.
occasionally the cliche of the alcoholic writer is true. But most of them squander their talent when they become bad alcoholics.

thirteen said...

The sf writer Fred Pohl had to force himself to sit down and write four pages every day. Didn't matter what it was. If he didn't do those four pages, he'd be blocked for months.

KB said...

I can't write with music on. I wish I could. But it ends up becoming all I can focus on.

DBenson said...

Speaking as an amateur novelist (one self-published eBook), I found the toughest thing was getting started and having an opening chapter or two I didn't hate. Then I could roll for hours, churning out chapters I knew had to be totally rewritten but getting ideas down.

In my working days I did advertising and marketing copy for a newspaper. There it was all about getting something on paper ASAP so the artists had time to produce it; more precisely getting something to the in-house client ASAP so he/she could reject it and finally clarify what was really wanted.

E. Yarber said...

When I'm at my busiest, I wake up an hour before dawn and go straight to work. Everything around me is quiet and still, letting me focus entirely on the writing instead of trying to block out neighbors babbling under my window for forty-five minutes or more trying to decide whether to go to Starbucks or The Coffee Bean. Even if I keep going once the distractions finally begin, I've covered enough ground by then that my mind is in the right zone.

Roger Owen Green said...

I blog with music on. But it helps if it's familiar (Beatles/Motown) so I don't have to listen to it. I also never edit it until it's done. Typos, noun/verb disagreements - don't care yet. In general, it's easier to edit something on paper/screen than to edit tabula rasa.

Craig Gustafson said...

The best writing music for me is Fats Waller. Instrumentals, no vocals.

Anonymous said...

"treat themselves to a Thai massage at that new parlor next to the bail bonds place."

Just make sure the Whitehouse isn't holding a press conference between them though, the delays are ridiculous.

Mark said...

Harlan Ellison used to write to Ennio Morricone scores, which kinda fits

Lemuel said...

@Craig Gustafson:
Ever seen Eraserhead?

Mark said...

Jerry Pournelle, the science fiction author, had an unconnected pc in a separate writing room because of the email issue.

VP81955 said...

To E. Yarber:

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, if you're a tea drinker; Starbucks teas are dreadful. (Of course, since you can't use your laptop at either chain for the foreseeable future, the discussion is somewhat moot, isn't it?)

E. Yarber said...

Well VP81955, that covered the subject in sufficiently less than 45 minutes. You have my permission to consider hot beverages outside my building as often as you like.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Thank you for this. It was very a point. The hardest part for me is and always has been coming up with an idea in the first place. If I have a subject to write about the rest is relatively easy. Although, there are times when I'll quit about three quarters of the way through figuring, what's the point?

The people that know me know that I prefer to be alone, so the pandemic hasn't cramped my style too much. Because of that I also write alone. Group writing leads to too many compromises. Admittedly, sometimes someone may suggest something good, but not always. Tina Fey has said that she's not a fan of group writing.

I am one that seems to perform better under pressure. Waiting until the last minute is how I got through high school and community college.
That's why I have always been intrigued by the "Cafe Plays" at the Ruskin theater here in Los Angeles. Ken has done several of them. I've seen many. They give you a topic or theme and then you write. But there is a deadline. One must finish in the allotted time in order to get the scripts to the actors, so they can memorize their lines.

A glass of wine or two is O.K., but otherwise I can't write high. I quit marijuana years ago. It a good thing too. Steve Jobs said that pot helped his creativity, but it turned my brain to mush.

Speaking of infomercials, I'm hot to the woman in the "PiYo" infomercial. I love fit women and she's relatively age appropriate.

Lately the only writing I've been doing is commenting on Ken's blog.

Hey E. Yarber! What did the ancient Greeks drink?


Unknown said...

When I was a freelance advertising writer I would tape my mortgage coupon book to my computer monitor. Talk about inspiration.