“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Why am I starting with this quote? Because I full-heartedly agree with it. Orwell makes a valid point when he says that to write is to be spurred on by some demon, and I have felt the heat of such a demon. It is something that nips at your heels, a burning that cannot be dampened and to resist is more or less a fool’s errand.
Yet, how can we satiate said beast when distractions lie in our path? When our very environment does nothing to alleviate the itching in our fingers?
First off, calm the eff down. If my writing didn’t tip you off already, I constantly wind myself so tightly that I over-think, over-stress, and ultimately worry until I can’t even sit down and type. This is a trait I have come to see in many other writers, and I wish to extend a virtual pat on the back to those who need a reminder to relax and just breathe. I want to help you get to the writing, so that you can leave your own demons in the dust.
So, let’s discuss your environment. Are you one to sit in a coffee shop, content to listen to the slapping tongues of the people around you while you try to write? Do you prefer the back corner of some trendy bookstore in your home town? Or, like me, do you dive into bed in a pair of sweats and an old tee?
Stop and think about it. Your environment affects you more than you might think. I’ve tried the coffee shop and I’ve tried the bookstore. If I could conjure more than a couple paragraphs I called it a good day. But when I switched to the comforts of my fluffy bed and stretchy sweats, I found that pages seemed to seep through my fingertips.
Of course, there are other aspects of writing to take into account: writer’s block, story development, etc. But we’ll stick to the basics today, shall we? As mentioned above, switching my environment helped immensely. Switch it up for yourself to find the environment that best suits you and your needs.
Another way to get the creative juices flowing is to ensure that you are not distracting yourself unnecessarily. Wesley McNair, Poet Laureate of Maine said it perfectly when he said, “You’ve got to be stubborn about it, keeping faith with your work in spite of all the distractions and the people around you who don’t understand the value of what you do…. So no excuses. Just write.”
No excuses. Write, write, and write some more. I used to listen to music when I would write but have come to see that as an unnecessary distraction most of the time. If I feel that I absolutely need some music to get myself pumped, I’ll listen to some orchestral music. Otherwise, I’ll dive right in without pulling up Itunes or Pandora. If you’ve done it a certain way for a long time, try mixing it up. You might be surprised.
Phones are another distraction; one that I’ve learned to do without when it comes to my writing time. I know when I write there will still be the internet and all of those cuddly puppy videos that will pop up when summoned, but I’ve learned to resist. If your phone or the internet have become too distracting to you and keep you from your writing, find ways to stay away! Put your phone in another room, or better yet, turn it off. If the internet has too strong of a pull for you, maybe switch off the WiFi for a bit and see if that helps. It all comes down to you and your self-discipline.
Now, remember that pesky little demon I mentioned at the beginning? Sometimes writing isn’t enough for him. If I’ve decided to go back and revisit some trouble spots in my story (things I want to change/edit), he’ll start to get feisty again. Even with a great writing environment with little to no distractions, you ask? Yes. Even then. Have you felt it too? Do you write and rewrite the same parts over and over again? Your little monster bugs you because he wants you to keep moving forward, to keep going and not stop until you’re done.
One way I’ve learned to combat this problem of revisiting old writing is to write to myself through emails. Let me explain. Rather than using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, I will open up a blank email, list myself as the recipient, and start writing. I write a few paragraphs or even a page and then I send it to myself. This solves a couple problems for me: One, I can’t go back and immediately edit what I wrote, and two, it forces me to move forward, as a new blank email pops up for me to fill.
This has worked for me for about a year now. At one point I was able to write about a hundred pages in a couple months because I didn’t let myself look back at what I had written. Looking back is like looking into a black hole that will never disappear, and I know I’ve often gazed too long.
I’m sure there are problems not mentioned above that you have faced. Have you learned to overcome them? What helps you the most when it comes to feeding your demon?
I hope at the very least that some of what has been discussed will help you in your journey to writing your novel. Give yourself the best when it comes to a great writing environment, keep the distractions minimal, and keep moving forward. I challenge you to shape and mold your environment to best suit you so that you are able to write, write, and write some more. Oh, and to keep a muzzle on your demon, albeit temporarily.