Distraction is easy. Distraction raises its head and interrupts the momentum of a project just when you get to the point where it becomes difficult. Distraction brings excitement and renewed energy and enthusiasm. The change of pace is invigorating and the new challenge is intoxicating.

Distraction is the enemy.

I have always struggled with focus. Being able to push through the challenge of the doldrums and complete the project when it becomes difficult is not a strength of mine. To that, I am sitting here staring at Day Job work that I know I MUST complete before tomorrow morning, but the prospect of actually doing it is overwhelming. It’s not difficult work, per se, but it’s not something I want to do at the moment. When the will to do it is not there, no matter the importance, it becomes impossible to complete. This is true for so many things in my life and not just the Day Job drudgery. I struggle with writing when it gets too hard to figure out where a directionless story is going and right now, I’m also struggling with the prospect of editing.

I don’t hate editing, but at the moment it’s…frustrating. I write and get a little high on creating something out of nothing. I am proud of what I’ve written, the idea that it is better than all the things that have come before it even if I know it’s going to require polish. I put it to bed with a smile, anticipating the first re-read. I imagine how easy it will be to breeze through with my red pen making minor edits, fussing with word choice and fixing those little grammatical errors that always crop up in the frenzied rush of writing. I fantasize that it will definitely be snapped up by the first market I deem worth of receiving it. How could they possibly reject something so brilliant?! (I’m sure that most writers feel that way the first time they lay back a story to give it time to age and ferment. That’s part of the impetus to get us started on another piece as quickly as possible…that “I’m fuckin’ Shakespeare” feeling. -a great many thanks to Stephen King for so eloquently uttering that phrase in On Writing.-) The thing is, when re-reading the piece after a few weeks, it’s not nearly as good as I thought. In fact, it’s somewhat of a travesty. This isn’t a problem, however; that’s what editing is all about. Editing is the process of taking the shapeless, lump of dirty rock and chipping away at it until you find that you are revealing a diamond. The problem is, after the editing, I’ve found that it’s not a diamond. In fact, it feels worse than the original draft. That is disheartening. That is the point where I want to walk away from the computer, throw my hands up in the air and give up.

But I don’t want to give up. I’ve done it before and it did me no good. I gave up and still came back to writing. If I give up now, I’ll only do it all over again with yet another chunk of time, a piece of my life wasted instead of pushing through and getting what I want.

The moment where the frustration seems insurmountable is where the distraction becomes tempting and utterly irresistible. That’s the moment when the insidious little habits of finding something else to occupy my time leaks in whether it’s writing, cooking, crocheting, the mani/pedi I discover I’m in desperate need of, or even cleaning the bathroom. Anything, and I mean anything is preferable to sitting there and staring at the computer or the manuscript. I must figure out a way to conquer distraction. I must find a way of bringing closure to the thousands of projects around the house that call my name at these moments, or minimizing my endless to-do lists that nag like fabled fishwives, of bringing order and tranquility to my life so I can focus on the real job at hand without having the easy excuse of “but I really had to do…”

So…how the hell do I do that?

  1. October 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Three Musketeers, sweetie. It’ll come and you know not everyone has the same formula to prevent distractions. It’s a hard balance to find IMO. Ican tell you what has (had, actually, as I’ve been too exhausted to think about writing and have been criting my heart out) been working for me.

    I work on one short story, my novel the side side project still. When I’ve printed it out and looked it over for mistakes as the main focus. Then I throw it up on Scribophile and give it to my other Musketeers to slap me into reality. I take hte feed back I get, pick through the shit I find is telling me how to write it instead of giving me pointers, and go on to the second edit; using a different file so that I don’t make the mistake in later drafts of reverting to the original.

    Now here’s the key, again IMO: If a whole lot of people find the same thing wrong with the piece, you have to change it– drastically. This is the method I used for Fate Whispers. I got so many comments to make it bigger, novel-sized. I didn’t want that so I had to strip down the original concept. If you would look at the first draft to the final piece, differences glare at you.

    It’s the kill your babies syndrome. It’s best to make the first edit light, not breaking from the original concept of your story. If you pick at it and pick at it without letting someone with fresh eyes look at it, you’ll have the piece in the graveyard without giving it life.

  2. October 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t have a problem killing my darlings. I’m quite liberal with the red pen and have often resorted to re-written paragraphs on sticky notes attached to the document because I’ve made so many changes, you can’t read what I’ve squeezed in between the printed lines and/or in the margin. Only after I’m satisfied with a first revision will I send it out to others. I am not going to send out anything to anyone if I’m not able to say I’m satisfied with because having anyone crit something I’m not happy with is a waste of their time and mine.

    My problem is that I am not satisfied with the quality of what I’m producing before revision, and certainly not after what I’ve revised. Making things “better” doesn’t seem to make it better, but worse.

    I have learned that I need an objective distance from the work before I start hacking and slashing, so I’ve been putting things to bed for 3-6 weeks, depending on the length of the work and how long I worked on it when I wrote it. I’m happy with that part of the process. I have a feeling that my issue is with my skill. I have an expectation of my abilities, and I’m not meeting it. That’s a bitter pill to swallow and the only thing that will resolve it is working and developing my skills. Good enough is not good enough, so to speak, and I’m trying to fight for improving so I can get past this mess.

  3. October 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I’m just worried that you’re spilling unnecessary ink because you’ve got “it’s all crap” syndrome. It might not be crap, you know. There could be a diamond in the rough that you’re missing. That’s what I’m trying to say. Doing too hard of an edit in the first place… you need to look at the approach at which you’re creating it.

    In essence, I think you’re being too hard on yourself for no reason than wanting something to take out your angst on. 😉

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