Using your writing time effectively

How do I make this process faster? And don’t give me stuff like turn off the TV/internet/hole up in a cabin. 😉 How do i make the time I’m actually writing more effective?Iapetus999

When I was in college, my idea of studying for an exam was to show up at my study partner’s house with a six-pack and turn on the TV. Absolutely true. She complained about it to everyone in the bar that night.

The way to make your writing time effective is to create the exact ambiance that allows you, personally, to concentrate. Everyone’s brain is different.

Do you concentrate best with voices in the background? I once wrote a whole novel to Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing. Another novel I wrote to Sting’s The Soul Cages. I’ve also written a lot to Dylan’s Desire, and the telling details I came up under that influence were some of the best in my life. Now I can’t take the voices anymore, so I listen to Julian Bream and Ottmar Liebert. I like the Gypsy Kings a lot, too, although they make me imitate South American writers.

When I was single, I used to write in cafes and bars. It was stimulating. And the material was endless.

The one thing I’ve never been able to take is silence—it feels like someone’s watching me.

Do you concentrate best with or without a view? Annie Dillard has been known to seal off a window so she won’t look outside while she’s working. But the banner on my website is my office—I have to be able to look into the distance. In fact, I have a U-shaped desk. When I lived in a tiny studio in downtown San Francisco, I had to put my desk in the middle of my living room like a school teacher because, in spite of needing an outdoor view, I also can’t sit with my back to the room. I tend to design my office as my favorite room in the house, and I’m always turning around to admire it.

Do you work best on a schedule? I don’t. But a lot of people do. It helps for them to have a certain time of day in which their brain can expect to kick into that alpha state. They’re like Pavlov’s dogs, drooling on cue.

Do you need triggers? A lot of writers stop writing in mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence so it’s easy to pick up again the next day. Anne Lamott described a friend who went out for errands, rushed back home, and sat down in his coat to re-type his entire manuscript, hoping the momentum would slam a couple of fresh sentences onto the end. I like to focus on one thing at a time: a piece of dialog, a description, a character’s motivation, an analysis of part of the plot.

Do you need solid uninterrupted time, or do you appreciate a few little jolts to skew your perspective?

Do you need favorite photos and objects to stare at and handle, or do they distract you from your imaginary world?

Do you need to be surrounded by your notes, or do you need to work at a fresh, clean page?

Don’t underestimate your tools. Do you work best on a computer? I write my first drafts longhand. Sometimes I type on an old manual typewriter. I fill my notebooks with charts and doodles.

And never underestimate your image of yourself as a writer. Let yourself dwell on it outside your writing time. Picture who you want to be. Read up on the lives of your favorite authors. Imagine joining their ranks.

I’ve found that what I look forward to when I’m done working is actually one of the most important aspects of the whole thing. Blogging wears me out. I get off the computer feeling like I just got off a rocket from Mars. But a good day of writing fiction. . .that leaves me more conscious and physically alive than anything I know.

And looking forward to that makes my writing time the most effective of all.