Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Keeping the momentum going

Blechta here, being a little more serious this week.

I have to say that it’s tough and discouraging sometimes being a writer but having to rely on a day job to keep body and soul together. Even if you can support yourself with your writing, daily distractions are tough to deal with. Even the smallest of distractions can take you “out of your book”. But if you have to earn your daily bread down other avenues, the problems and distractions multiply exponentially — and eventually begin to wear you down.

I’m in that position. With a novel done and being shopped around the Greater New York area (we’re probably as far away as Poughkeepsie by now), I bravely set forth on crafting the next one. Problem is that I have to support my writing habit by doing (mostly) graphic design. Even executing the simplest order card takes an incredible amount of concentration and uses up a large portion of my daily allotment of creativity, with the result that when I return to the computer in the evening to write, I often find myself staring at a screen containing a bunch of words I wrote that seem as if they’re in some foreign language I don’t quite understand. The frightening thing is that too often I’m throwing up my hands and giving up for that night, which, of course, only compounds the problem.

Now this is a situation most writers face. Very few of us are lucky enough to be on the plus side of the economic equation, either through book sales, the fact that we’re retired and have sufficient income, or that there’s someone in our lives who makes enough to support us. What do we do?

Having been taught early on that a solution will present itself if you only think hard enough, it was simply a matter of time before I came up with something workable. Last week it finally hit me, and it was so obvious that I literally smacked myself in the head for taking so long.

(Now with music teacher’s/musician’s hat firmly on.) I’ve long been an advocate of breaking up one’s work day to get in a little practising. I do this, putting in at least a half hour daily (usually more) in little 5- or 10-minute spurts. It works very well indeed. For my students, I always told them to break up their homework in the evenings by doing warm-ups, scales, studies, whatever, as they do their homework. The results are highly beneficial. You get your music time in almost painlessly easily, and you work/study better, too, since the “changing of tasks”, keeps your brain from getting sluggish.

So why the $@#^&* did it take me so long to think of applying this to my writing? I work at home; I don’t have anyone breathing down my back or looking at my computer screen. Taking a short writing break might just also help my design work.

A week later, I’m one happy camper. I may only write a paragraph or two during my writing breaks, but there’s progress, I have more writing energy in the evenings, and my story is “staying loaded in mental RAM” much better than was the case a week ago.

Anyone else have a different solution to this dilemma?


Vicki Delany said...

What a great idea. I am stuck in the 3 hours or more time frame. Meaning that I don't write for weeks on end if I don't have a solid block of three hours in the am to write. You've given me an idea Rick. We will see.

Rick Blechta said...

No, we will read!

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

You can also pay yourself first -- get up an hour early and write while your mind is at its most creative.

I'm a morning person, though :)

Naps also help folks, if you can take a 20 minute nap and not just sleep through to the next morning :)

Walking break revitalizes me as well.

Happy writing all!

Mysti Berry