It used to be that a writer sat down with pen and paper in hand, or maybe s/he pulled a chair up to a cozy typewriter and the writer scribbled or pounded away at story pieces in the wee dark hours. Writers still spend hours writing, although now we have computers, Word documents and spell check, and writing has become so much easier for us. Or has it?
Thirty to forty years ago, when a writer
hit a mental block or couldn't breach the wall of a plot or story-line,
there was little to do except maybe turn on the television, read a book
or head out to a bar or a late night diner for inspiration. Today,
computers wired in to the Internet provide writers with a number of
distractions to pull him or her away from the unwritten page. There's
facebook and Twitter and a host of community websites. There's online
games, video games, Netflix and Clicker.
Mired in a quicksand of unproductive
thought? There's Farmville and many other cyber-games that can pull you
away from your writing task at hand, and there's nothing to stop you
except the writing deadline that either your publisher, your agent and
you yourself have imposed.
Don't get me wrong. There are endless
benefits to the Internet for a writer. Social media sites allow an
author to promote their novels and allow infinite connections with other
writers, readers and potential publishers. But it is ever so easy to be
pulled into the cyber-world and put off that novel unless you learn to
set limits and craft a personal schedule.
Writing requires thought and time, and for
some it demands a great deal of research into topics both familiar and
foreign. Writing is a process. And it doesn't happen with incessant
blogging, tweeting and facebook chats. In order to pump out those words
that will eventually be your completed work, you need to devote time and
effort toward it, but how do you do that? I say the answer lies in
learning how to unplug. Consider cutting the time you spend on the
Internet. If you have a hard time doing this, then just shut your
Internet off for a certain period of time on your computer. Each day,
set time aside some time just for writing, and DO NOT turn the wireless
on, or plug in, until you've achieved your desired word count, or until
you've written for a certain number of minutes.
If you hit a wall, or run into that feared
'writer's block'... take time to read your manuscript from beginning to
end, or choose a few chapters you know will galvanize you. Or better yet
take a trip to the bookstore (alone), and go through magazines that
deal with the topic on which your plot or subject is built. Science
Fiction crafters will find a world of great ideas in Popular Mechanics
or Popular Science, and other genre writers will find much the same in
their genre style magazines. Bring a pen and paper to the bookstore, or
your i-Pad or computer. Buy that cup off coffee, sit down and read and
when you've got some good ideas start writing them down. Do NOT turn on
the Internet. Do NOT answer the phone. Set aside time for yourself and
for practicing your craft and you'll find that the words WILL come, and
the ideas will flow, and you won't be mired in the muck of Internet
traffic. Instead, you'll be on your way to finishing your piece and
you'll be proud of the work you did that day.
As for me, after sitting to write this
short piece, I'm turning of my wireless and getting back to my novel. I
try to set aside two twenty-minute intervals with a ten minute break in
between to stand up, stretch and/or do some research, then off goes the
Internet once again. I finish another twenty minutes and by the time I'm
done I end up with a five to ten pages of useful material. The journey
of 100,000 words begins with that first word, but you'll never make it
if you stop and camp out on a page for too long. Keep on crafting. Keep
on writing. And know that with a little self discipline you will
achieve your goal, and you'll be proud that you did.