Today is my last day before going back to work after a month off spent writing. I’d set myself the target of finishing a first draft of my second book, and while I haven’t quite achieved that I am about 75% of the way there and am pleased with my progress. The momentum remains as I return to work, which is just as well as I have given myself a definite, immoveable deadline: I’m off to France on holiday at the start of September so if I tell you here, publicly, on this blog, that I’ll have the draft done by the time I trek Franceward, then I have to stick to it to avoid the your mocking comments.
Before I get back to the writing, a few things I’ve learned about the process of putting finger to keyboard for a prolonged period.
- Social networking, and the internet in general, is not that much of a distraction, and certainly not the distraction I feared it might be. When you think about it, most of the internet is just guff anyway, and social networking site are much the same. Not least Facebook, which I am getting increasingly bored of; while Twitter is only as useful, helpful or distracting as you make it in terms of who you follow, and the beauty of it lies in the ability to very much drop in and drop out of it. Even having joined the new Google+, which incidentally is very good so far, hasn’t proved to be much of a distraction. Or maybe it’s just that I’m disciplined now after a few weeks of focussing myself.
- It takes a long time to get into the rhythm of writing: a few days are required to build up a head of steam, get the momentum and make progress. I imagine for some it’s easy to pick up and write at a fair pace, but I am more of a slow-to-accelerate juggernaut. Now I’ve got going, thoough, I am sure it will be easy to maintain the pace in evenings and days off.
- If you don’t want to write, don’t. Forcing yourself to write takes away what should be the fun of it and leads to poor quality. If you’re not in the mood, go do something else. You’ll naturally come back to it. Or if you don’t, ask yourself why you’re trying to write if it’s not what you want to do.
- If you’re determined not to give up, just write something that you know isn’t going to be quite good enough. Redrafting and improving something later on is easier than starting from scratch.
- Feed your brain as you write. I’ve realised how important it is to avoid hunger or thirst to keep the mind alert and focussed. So keep constantly drinking water, and regularly eat. It’s a great excuse to tell yourself that you really need some chocolate or sweets.
- I’ve found that music is hugely important – getting the right background noise is essential, and preferably it should be something that matches the pace and tone of what you’re writing. Some folk might like silence, and I thought I used to, but then any little sound becomes an easy irritant or curiosity. Soft, ambient lyric-less electronica seems to work well for me: aborbing but not too demanding or captivating, atmospheric without being unduly complex. I’ve found that setting my iTunes to play the entire discographies of Ulrich Schnauss, The Echelon Effect or Boards of Canada create a soundtrack for a half day or so that blurs into one and gives a nice sense of journey. It doesn’t have to be my favourite music that I listen to – indeed, I’ve tried writing to other music I especially love like Mono or Explosions in the Sky but the music is too loud and too engaging.
- Finally, if you’re enjoying writing your subject matter, that’s half the battle. I found as I strive to retell stories from my mullet trips, I’ve been finding I recall new details, make myself laugh or smile in reminiscence, and thus develop a new desire to convey the jist of what happened. I’ve been lucky on the trips to go to some amazing places and meet some amazing people, and this rubs off in terms of it being fun to write about too. If I didn’t enjoy reliving what I was writing about, perhaps it wasn’t all that fun to start with and isn’t worth writing about.