Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?
As far as I can tell I have three basic modes; burn, churn, and incubate. I’m good at writing thousands of words per day when I’m off and running on a new project. I’ll work 3-5 hours per day when I’m burning. I start early because I have to make time for family obligations during the day. And, when I’m burning, I will stay up as late as it takes to hit whatever daily word count I’ve set for myself. Staying up late makes the next day HARD which is why I try to start early. It also kicks the creative process in gear and it’s easier to drop a few hundred words here and there if my creativity is already up and running, just idling patiently as I do dishes or help a kid with homework.
Incubation is a mode I inhabit either between projects or when I’m letting a project with some serious meat on it “cook” for a bit. I do very little project oriented writing when I’m in this mode. I’ll draft clever bits for social media or play with words in my journal just to keep a handle on my craft. However, when I’m incubating I become a voracious consumer of content and information produced by others. I’ll binge watch Netflix, re-watch favorite movies, read both fiction and non-fiction books, listen to dozens of podcasts while out walking the dog, find new situations to get involved in, go on adventures. Modify my meditation routines. Clean the house. Host parties. Organize. I basically try to cram in as much novel information and experience into my psyche as it can handle. This serves as great preparation for…
The churn. All of this new stuff spins around in my imagination like laundry in a tumble dryer. There’s an abundance of kaleidoscopic juxtapositions of all these experiential and informational
treasures that begin to form exciting alliances, teams, or partnerships. This is a thrilling and exhausting process. I really red-line it until my mind, body, and soul all begin to reject opportunities to take in new stuff. I know the process is getting close to complete when I start returning unfinished library books to the library, don’t excitedly download the new episodes of my favorite podcasts. When watching Jeopardy, napping, and neighborhood walks with my dog and my Sweetie seem like all the excitement I can handle, I know I’ve hit the mark. I’ll typically rest then for at least two or three days, sometimes a week. Then I come to either a new project, or back to an existing one with a freshness and aliveness that just oozes out onto the page.
Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
For me it depends on why I’m procrastinating. Different reasons require different solutions. So, I’d say start with why? There are four main calls to dilly dallying that I run into including; the “blank page standoff”, the “this is getting good and I don’t want to break it”, the “I love the world I’ve created and don’t want it to end”, and editing.
I’m pretty good at addressing the blank page. It’s a zone I’ve learned to slip into quite well. Just sit, hands on keyboard, stop thinking, and start typing. If I’m coming back to a “stale” manuscript and feeling a little rusty I’ll just start a few random writing projects to loosen up. Ones with no goal, no point, no agenda.
Next to editing, feeling like I’ve created something good and don’t want to ruin it is probably the most powerful motivator I have to finally sort out my stamp collection, or clean out my tackle box. I have to take a very disciplined approach. What works best for me is to start asking the story questions. What about this? When did that happen? Why does she act that way? This allows me to focus my attention on the unwritten meat of the text. I can always add a few veggies and garnishes during the editing process.
When I’ve fallen in love with the world I’ve created in a story and don’t want it to end there is only one fail-safe mechanism that I’ve discovered to move forward. Start another story. I typically have at least two to three story projects/manuscripts going at a time. It’s a trick I play on myself. Instead of dreading the end of the one I’m polishing, I started telling myself how exciting it’s going to be to finally get back to that other project.
Editing for me is really hard. Fortunately, my Sweetie helps out with that. When I edit I have to break it
down into 5-10 page chunks and reward myself with something small, like half a beer or a pickle, then onto the next chunk. Repeat until done. Eventually, the momentum will start to take over, usually once I’m past the half-way mark of an editing session.
Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?
A Writer’s writer….Don’t miss Part 3 of this in-depth Interview! November 23rd. Have you read part 1? Click here
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