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18 November 2013

100 words a time...

I just wrote 1,000 words (my minimum daily goal for myself, though I don't always achieve it) while sipping a latte in Peet's and nursing my daughter, sitting on a bench at the play park, watching her play with the toy kitchen in Pottery Barn Kids. A few hundred words snatched here and there and yet somehow I got to 1,000. On my a recent visit to New York, I talked about the challenges of finding time to write with Lauren and our mutual friend Cara Elliott. A particular challenges for parents of young children, but all of us struggle with the way life can intrude on writing time.

Driving to the vet’s a few weeks ago with three cats and a toddler (an adventure in and of itself, though we got through the cats’ check ups with everyone in a surprisingly good mood), I heard an interesting interview on NPR with the writer Dani Shapiro. One of the things she talked about was how difficult it is to walk to her desk in the morning and begin to write, how easy it is to get distracted on the way. This particularly resonate with me, as I am beginning to write the next Malcolm and Suzanne book after months of revisions and copy edits. I love the adventure of starting a new book, but there’s no denying the daunting nature of a blank screen. Instead of opening my computer to pages to revise, I open it to the limitless, exciting, and terrifying prospect of words to be written. I love being in my characters’ world. But making the mental jump into that world can be daunting. And with a young child, one can’t afford to spending writing time being daunted.
The trick I’ve settled into to get myself going is to tell myself I only have to write 100 words, then I can check my email, look at Facebook or Twitter, surf the web, or some other tantalizing, short (the key is to keep it short) break. 100 words is much less terrifying than 1000 (which is what I usually try to write a day). Usually somehow I can come up with something to say (it’s even better if I’ve thought it through on the drive to the Peet’s where I do most of my writing). Then a quick break, then another 100 words. Usually by the time I get to 500 I don’t need the breaks anymore or at least I write 200 or 300 words between breaks. On a really good day, I get on a roll after the first 100 words and scarcely need a break at all (sometimes go on to 1500, 2000, etc…). But knowing I can take a break can be the difference between starting to write and spending an hour or so staring at the screen or surfing the web or scrolling through social media. Of course the breaks between 100 word burst also take up precious time (particularly precious if it’s baby nap time). But I find I need to stop and think in any case. My subconscious is working while I read an article in the NYT or browse a fashion site. Or so I tell myself, and I do often find it easier to write again after the break. And telling myself I only have to write 100 more words, gets me to click back into Scrivener after my mini-break.
Somehow, 100 words at a time, this book will get written. After all, the last one did - I just went through the page proofs.

What tricks do you use to get yourself to write?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I constantly find myself getting distracted -- whether it's of my own making (e.g. Facebook dithering and dallying) or book-related issues that wash over the transom and need to be dealt with (promotion, reviewing cover copy, answering a question from my editor or publicist), which means dropping everything.

The carrot/stick write 100 words/reward yourself with a break to recharge your creative batteries sounds like a very do-able plan, Tracy, and I'm going to try it, starting, well, immediately! Thanks!

3:29 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Let me know how it works, Leslie! I so hear you on the book-related non-writing issues that intrude!

3:57 PM  

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