Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Treating it like a job

By R.J. Harlick

Real life happens around us while we play in the imaginary ones we create. How do you keep yourself in the writing zone and out of the ruts? Are there tricks to staying focused, especially at this time of year?  

Over the years I’ve developed various techniques for immersing myself into Meg’s world.  The most important technique from day one has been to treat writing like a job by establishing set times for writing. Once breakfast is finished, I change into my comfy writing clothes, and head to my computer to begin the day’s writing.  

In the beginning I devoted five days a week to writing, just like a regular job and usually finished by 4:00 or so. But over time I gradually reduced this time to four days and finally to three days, but a longer day. I found I needed the free days to re-charge my batteries, otherwise I would just be spinning my wheels and getting nowhere with my writing.  From the outset, I decided I would not write in the evenings or on weekends. And have pretty much stuck to this unless I am way behind on a deadline.  Fortunately for me my publisher only imposed a deadline with my last couple of books. 

I also established a set place for writing. Initially it was my home office, again treating it like
a job. But eventually I decided I wanted a more comfortable spot, so moved to the living room chesterfield with a much better view. I decided a good view with sun pouring through the windows was a good lubricant for my writing.  In the summer the screened-in porch at our country cabin becomes my writing venue. I love feeling the soft breezes and watching the birds flit about and the squirrels play, while I’m pondering what Meg will do next.  Besides I am looking at the forests Meg enjoys. 

I discovered that I was the kind of writer who needs complete quiet and solitude. No writing in coffee shops for me or playing music.  I become so immersed in my writing that any interruption has me crawling very reluctantly back to the real world and causes me to lose my train of thought. So, for the past couple of books, I’ve done the majority of the writing of the first draft at my cabin, hence the three days a week, with just my dogs and me.  Once I am into the editing, I no longer need this solitude. 

I also have a few routines I follow to get me into my writing and I hate to say it but it involves checking Facebook, email, the latest news and anything else I can do on the internet. I usually futz around with this for thirty minutes to an hour. Delaying tactics I know, but once I get it out of my system, I am ready to plunge into Meg’s world.

When I am in Meg’s world, I have no difficulties focusing on the writing. I give almost no thought to anything else going on in my life. But there are times when I am not able to ignore what’s happening in the real world, so I take a break from the writing.  I also have another rule. I never take my writing on a vacation. I leave it at home.

Breaks have proven to be very beneficial for me. Though I may not be pounding away at my computer, I am still thinking about the story. Often distance from the immediate writing, helps me resolve any problems I might be having. It allows me to see the story and not just the words.

When I am in Meg’s world, I am Meg and all the other characters in my story. I am speaking their words, thinking their thoughts, seeing their sights and preforming their actions. I liken it to being an actor, except it is all in my mind. And I tell you, I am having a great time. I love creating imaginary worlds with nothing but words.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Nice post, Robin. And Meg's world sounds like a pretty nice place to be.

7 Criminal Minds said...

You have a lovely writing place at the cottage - a great place for inspiration!

Susan C Shea said...

The glories of writing a long-running series include being able to slide back into a world you have created, know well, and love.