Sunday, April 20, 2014


I RECEIVED THIS NOTE IN THE MAIL A FEW DAYS AGO. I don't usually post mail that links to other sites, unless those sites feature blogs about writing, editing, or publishing. That said, I thought I'd respond to the note below, as the writer seems sincere in his/her wanting an answer to their question. This is what they wrote:
"...I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I've had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Thanks!"
Simple answer about centering myself, I don't. I wish I were more disciplined, but I'm not. I usually waste my first half hour of writing time checking and responding to e-mail (which I tell myself I should leave until after the writing is done). E-mail often leads to Facebook (again, another time waster, but I still think it's important to stay connected through social media), and then I might get down to the writing. It's easier if I'm revising. (If I'm working on a first draft, I procrastinate even more.) But even with that, what gets me into the headspace is to go back to what I did the day before and tweak it - then to go on to the new work. Once I'm there, I'll stay there for several hours, usually until it's time to walk the dog.

Everybody has their own way of getting into their work. There isn't a right or a wrong way, just one that works best for you. If you're having a hard time coming up with ideas, try writing long-hand. For some reason, this seems to stimulate the creative process for me. It isn't writing, really, but making notes about what I might write. I do this when I'm developing plot. If you're working on short fiction, try coming up with a premise and then an opening hook. If your opening is provocative, unusual in some way, quirky, or unexpected, that's a good place to start.

The best advice I can give you? Don't be too hard on yourself. Silence your inner critic, and tell her it's all part of the process - even the 10 to 15 minutes you think you're wasting. The writing doesn't have to be good (although you hope it will be eventually - that's what revision is for), but it does have to get done.

I hope this helps - Susan.

P.S. What also often helps me with short fiction, is not writing. That is, thinking about the plot while I'm doing something else, like dog-walking, or exercising, or whatever. If you've planned things out in your head beforehand, the writing is so much easier. - S.

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