Thursday, December 20, 2012

Getting Started is the Easy Part...

New ideas are always compelling. They crowd in on me as I excitedly string together each plot point until I have a whole new novel. I sit down at the keyboard and dash out page after page after page...and then nothing. I stare at the blinking cursor and nothing. I go away for awhile...a few days perhaps, a week, and then I open the document again. I re-read pages, crack a smile at something particular amusing or sometimes brilliant, my fingers hover over the keys. I type a sentence or two and then something distracts me. I have a thought so I dash off to look it up on the internet which turns into a three hour affair and before I know it's time to go and I save my paltry few lines.

Rinse and Repeat.

I've been thinking a lot this week about what sparks my imagination and why I can't seem to focus. I have two really great WIPs right now and yet I just can't get excited about them. I'm assuming that I can't get excited about them because if I were, wouldn't I be practically salivating to write more? Why is that I can research and plot a helluva story but when it comes down to writing it I fail so miserably? I know I'm a good writer. Countless numbers of people have told me. Agents have told me. Editors have told me. So why can't channel that positive feedback into finishing something already? I don't want to take ten years to finish like I did with Rebel Heart. I always thought that I didn't take Rebel Heart seriously because I didn't take myself seriously. I was a hobby writer, it was something to amuse me when I was bored. But perhaps that is the answer. Maybe that is all that I am. A hobbyist. I practice a hobby that I do well when I'm bored or I have time and nothing else is demanding my attention.

But I don't want that. My husband sees me as a published writer. He thinks it is my calling. But how can it be? Do I simply lack focus or am I trying to make my talent into something it cannot possibly be (or maybe doesn't want to be)? Somehow I'm thinking that agents and editors don't take kindly to one hit wonders. They want someone who can sell on down the line, for years to come. A cash cow.

Perhaps I should take heart. I never stick with one thing for more than a little while. Jobs? Nope. The longest I've been in a position is 2 1/2 years. I got bored at month 6. Even with the "dream job". I often asked myself if I was just flighty? Not exactly a good thing. I can't go through life being that, but for the record, when it comes to people I'm loyal to a tee. I have only a small group of friends, the inner circle, so to speak, and while I'm not the best correspondant, I'm faithful to the end.

So what is wrong with me? It was suggested to me once that I may be highly intelligent which accounted for my ability to achieve tasks quickly and get bored easily. I laughed at this person. Me, highly intelligent? I can barely add and subtract. I've basically refused to go to graduate school because it requires taking the GRE and I would probably fail the math section. So that leaves...ADHD perhaps? I've often wondered if I have it. I'm certainly well acquianted with it as my husband was diagnosed a few years ago. Brief episodes of hyperfocus? Check. That would definitely account for the single minded focus I get when developing a new novel. For craps and giggles, I took an ADHD test online and it advised me to seek a medical professional's opinion. Hmmm... But aren't we all a little bit flighty? Right? Anyone?

What keeps you from writing? Any tips or tricks that keep you typing away when it's the last thing you want to do?


  1. Everybody has to find their own way to stay focused. One thing to consider is it's OK to take a break and do other things. Sometimes that inspires to get back to writing. I play video games, which I don't really have time for, but they're fun and that's why I do it. It's something totally different from writing.

    I've also found reading a craft book on writing to be helpful, especially on a specific aspect of writing. It makes me want to dive back into the process.

    My strategy that I use for writing (and for exercising sometimes) is to view it as part of your job. If writing is the job you want, then don't treat it like a hobby. Yes, it becomes less fun that way, but if you need to complete a draft or edits, that isn't always going to be fun--you just gotta DO it. Set a timer and commit to writing for a specified time. Then, be done for the day and know you accomplished that much.

    1. Also, remind yourself how many people say they've always wanted to write a book, or they started a novel 10 years ago but... No one can finish a book unless they sit down and do it. Set yourself apart as one of the writers who made it happen and didn't give up. Everyone might have a book in them, but not everyone writes one.

    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Stephsco.

  2. "I have a thought so I dash off to look it up on the internet which turns into a three hour affair and before I know it's time to go and I save my paltry few lines."

    Seriously, you must have tapped into my brain with this one. I relate to everything you mentioned in this post, except that at this point in my life I would stop short of diagnosing myself with ADHD.

    That's because I know that's not the problem, even if you have it!

    What works for me is believing that what I start I can finish. If I don't finish washing the dishes I start, I won't finish working on my article or book. I conquer anything small I can finish first, so I will feel confident and ready to tackle the harder things that will not get finished today. I do a little bit of housework, a little bit of writing, a little bit of researching, and a little bit of (okay, a lot of reading) every day.

    I've learned that my problem is one of commitment to the little pieces of each big work. If I'm spending three hours on research I'm not even sure I'm going to write about, I choose to decide that I will not let that research go to waste. I write what I can and turn it into something.

    In your case, if you don't want to write a book about it, write a guest post or some other article and get your name out on the web with that little bit of distraction. That will build your platform and your credibility, and your research won't go to waste, and you'll be WRITING!!!

    Of course, we all know that the most important part is writing every day. Every successful writer I've read says the same thing: You can't call yourself a writer if you don't write.

    So I most specifically make myself write at least something every day on one of my WIPs.

    I'm so very new here, and this is the first of your posts that I've read, but I can already tell that you are fully capable of writing another novel, this time in far less time.

    Perhaps if you just pick one idea and give it a full month of your attention. Then let it rest for a month while you work on a different one. That way you'll never have time to get bored with an idea.

    By the way, boredom is a sign of genius, which is not measured the same as intellect (math skills do not a genius make!). You just have to outsmart your tendencies toward boredom by not letting yourself get bored.

    In fact, if a month is too long, focus on one project for two weeks and then set it down and pick up another one. Go back to the first one before you add a third one...I know you will stride right over this hurdle and write those novels!!

    1. Thanks so much for reading Angela! I appreciate the advice. The idea of focusing on one story for two weeks (or a month) is fantastic. I'm definitely going to try that and perhaps I should put my rather ridiculous planning skills to work and start sectioning off times to write. Even if I consistently write during my lunch breaks or on the weekends, that's better than nothing!

    2. I can feel your enthusiasm and hope. Thank you for taking my advice for a spin!