Saturday, October 2, 2010

Surviving the Cheap Seats of the Writing Journey


Photo by Federico Stevanin
 Being present and allowing yourself to be fully in the moment is crucial to both life and the writing experience. I recommend coming back to that idea when you're struggling to make it to the finish line in a project. Remember: although having goals helps to guide your writing to a finished product, obsessing over what that product is going to look like when it IS finished acts as a barrier to real progress, especially when you've just begun.

Sounds like decent advice: So you try to bring yourself to the "write now" and experience the journey.

The problem: Your seat on the ride feels like coach-- or steerage.

Sure, you know you are supposed to be satisfied with that first accomplishment of your writing day: Butt in the chair. This chair is to transport you on the planned writing jaunt, and suddenly your "three-hour tour" is leaving your inspiration stranded. In your mind you're experiencing limited leg room, constant jostling caused by the passenger behind you, and unpredictable temperature fluctuations--you can't seem to get into a comfortable groove. That "sunny beach"--in this case, a work ready to be published-- seems excruciatingly far away.

Enjoy the journey? You just want to survive it!

Here are a few ways to manage a writing day that feels like a Greyhound bus broke down outside of Barstow, or a nine-hour delay on the runway prior to an hour-long flight:

Cramped seats
Don't forget to stretch. Maybe your story is stuck in one place, and you can't seem to feel your way out of it. This is a sign to get up and expand your mind--take your story in a whole different direction. You may not end up staying there, but just making the effort will allow you some relief.

Too many distractions
It may be time to shut down the computer and sleep on it. Shutting your mind down can sometimes be the best way to gain new perspective on a problem. After all, you've done all you can to block out the noise, but there's only so much you can do if the day's writing has left you in an middle seat mentality. It's a barrier to getting anywhere with your project. Block it all out for a while, when you come back, your focus will be easier to find.

Delayed and Missed Flights
You procrastinated, and the chance you were looking forward to (say, submitting an essay you were sure would be great for a certain contest), has passed. Don't leave yourself stranded. If it was a good idea for a contest, you should be able to submit it elsewhere. Sure, you may have to make a few changes, but you are creative--you have the tools to improvise, a distressed passenger ticket, if you will. Complete it, and submit it on the next available "flight".

Frequent Flier Miles
Good news: The more journeys you get yourself through, the more comfortable the journey will get. You will begin to get bonuses that make starting another trip much more appetizing. Rack up more and more points, even on those "bad" writing days, and soon you will start feeling like you suddenly have more room to move, your mind is not so confined as it seemed to be before. Instead of struggling and waiting in line for your writing to come to you, you are allowed to step right in, free to ease into your work. It's just one of the perks that comes from surviving all those traveling obstacles in the past.

Buckle in, and enjoy the ride!

What's crucial for your writing carry-on? What do you need to have with you in order to feel prepared for your writing journey?

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