Author questions: On dealing with distractions

Since I’m about to have medical joy next week, and likely will be unmotivated to type anything more coherent than “I like bouzoukis” onto the Intarwebz, and since I’ve finally gotten some breathing room in the mad dash to get Vengeance of the Hunter fit for you all to read, I’m trying to clear out my queue of backlogged Things to Deal With. One of them is this! I put out a call a while ago for amusing things to write blog posts about, and my sister gave me this one:

“How do you overcome distractions like music or instruments when you know you should be writing and the words just won’t flow?”

This is what we call in these parts a Damned Good Question.

Here’s the thing. If the words aren’t coming, I find it unproductive to try to force them out of my head. For the simple reason that for me, at least, it just doesn’t work. If I’m mentally blocked, it’s a decent sign that there’s a problem to solve in the storyline that I haven’t thought sufficiently through yet.

In this situation, a distraction is actually kind of useful. My various instruments are great that way. My flutes and guitars are usually in within immediate easy reach, and grabbing one of the flutes and playing a few tunes is a splendid way to give the front of my brain something else to do while the back of my brain mulls the problem I’m trying to solve.

On the other hand, if I know damn well I should be writing and I’m just in an I Don’t Wanna kind of mood–i.e., if nothing else is going on that’s impending my ability to work, I’m not stressed or sick or stymied by writer’s block–then that is a problem. The instruments are awfully tempting shiny distractions, and while I do love them dearly, nobody’s paying me to learn how to play Quebec tunes on a flute. (Although I’d take that job in a heartbeat.) Likewise for the shiny temptations of the various corners of the Internet (Facebook, I’m looking at you), Plants Vs. Zombies 2 (or, I suspect, Zombie Zombie Zombie from my very own workplace once I start playing THAT), or hell, for that matter, other people’s books. Mmmmmmmmm. Booooooooks.

So how do I deal with that scenario?

Simple. Carina’s paying me to write books. I therefore need to put my fingers on the keyboard and write ’em. Ditto for all the folks who pledged me money for the Kickstarter; they’re all paying customers. And now that I’m an author under a contract, with actual deadlines involved and everything, it becomes way more important to get those fingers on the keyboard.

Big Fish would not let me keep working for them for very long if I blew off doing what they were paying me for. Ditto for writing. Writing may not be my day job, but it is a job nonetheless, and I need to treat it accordingly even if I’d like to blow off the evening killing zombies with my peashooter plants.

This doesn’t mean I’m immune to the aforementioned temptations. I’m not. I’ve had my share of Fuck It I Don’t Wanna nights, but I do at least try to limit those. It helps to give myself permission to take a night or a weekend off every so often (nights and weekends being my usual writing times), because it lets me pace myself and improve the chances that I’ll keep up my love of making words.

And ultimately, that right there helps a lot when fighting distraction: loving building a story. If I’m actively looking forward to my next round of writing five hundred words, then screw it, the zombies can wait.

Great question, Becky! Anybody else got one you’d like to see me address in a blog post, let me know!

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