How Do I Make My Novel A Priority?

The Red TowerI’ve been hiding in this red tower. No, I’m not playing fairy princess. And yes, my isolation was self-imposed. A week without children at home and no Internet minimized the distractions in my life. (Not that my children or any of you are distractions; I’m just easily distracted.)

Now, I’m more focused than ever on the story I am writing. While I loved my stay-at-home writing vacation, I now need to leave that isolated world behind. I miss the connection with my kids and the communications with readers and other writers.

(I will pine for the evenings and weekends with Paul from our date-at-home vacation, but I’m not sharing those details here, beyond the recipes from our adult-menu meals.)

The most important writing accomplishment I achieved during this time, beyond a greater word and page count, was a clear connection to my characters. I began to think and feel with them and know their story. Trite as it may sound, they came alive.

That happened when I overcame the fear of beginning and learned to focus my attention.  Now that I’ve experienced it, I don’t want to lose it. My question, as I return to reality, how do I make my novel a priority and still maintain balance? The specifics are individual, but I have some general guides I’m going to use.

Go Online After Lunch: I want to keep a foot in the current world, and that means tweeting, reading, and blogging online.  There’s value there, but when I go to it first in my writing time, I lose my mornings and the best thinking time of the day. Multi-tasking may be the skill of our generation, but when I fragment my writing time,  I trap more than my foot in a virtual world.

Moderate the Need for Passion: Most of my creative endeavors, thus far, consisted of smaller projects that can be completed in a few days, weeks or months. I expended lots of energy and passion in a big push toward their completion. I assumed passion and creativity had to go hand-in-hand. But, I can’t sustain that kind of emotion for a book-length work. Now, I’ve discovered I don’t need a “big bang” to create something new; I just need to draw upon existing materials and organize them well.

Recognize the Reward in Diligence: One day last week I had all the time and peace to myself and I couldn’t write. I wrote, I just didn’t write as much as I planned to write on the scene I planned to write. When that happens, I doubt—my story or my capacity. Paul shared that he, too, a paid professional, sometimes sits and looks at what he’s working on, like a preliminary architectural plan, and cannot create. He takes a break and works on another piece of the project. I applied that to writing and learned the value in writing out of sequence. I didn’t stop or doubt when I hit a blank spot; I just wrote another part of the story from the past or in the future. The reward of steady effort is that I developed the story from a new place, often resolving what stalled me earlier.

Finally, one of the most important perspectives of my self-imposed isolation—routines expand time for our long-term goals that spontaneity would steal. While it sometimes feels great to loosen the boundaries of life, we also lose sight of important priorities in the process. And I’m ready to balance all of those together again.

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4 Comments

  1. Donnetta
    Jul 20, 2009

    Sounds like you had a refreshing time away that led to refocusing. How great that you came away with some goals in mind to accomplish what you need to get done!

  2. terena
    Jul 21, 2009

    excellent. keep up the good work.

    The trick that works best for me is 10 pages a week. I can do them all on one day or spread out all week, but 10 pages must be finished before midnight on Sunday. I can do more, of course, but I set the minimum so I don’t beat myself up when the week is hectic and I don’t have time until Sunday to write.

    Just keep plugging away.

  3. Mark Persons
    Jul 22, 2009

    Teresa:

    Hope your “week away” from the world was what you wanted. Best if it helped your outlook. I have been trying to do that, but it doesn’t seem to work out. A few days here and there is all that I can do at this time. Got to work on that.

    Welcome back!

  4. Terresa Wellborn
    Jul 25, 2009

    Glad you had some time out to focus.

    I just finished reading “Water for elephants” by Gruen. While it was a great (perfect, really) summer read, I was almost more captivated by the interview with the author at the end of the book.

    Gruen talked about having it regularly take her an hour and a half to get from the real world to the fictional world (to write). And I thought I was crazy!!! She talks about checking her email obsessively and shopping on ebay, finding a million reasons not to write.

    And I understand her. Just add to that 4 young children (mine). Ahhhh. Somehow we write. Some of us have full time jobs, some of us are full-time moms. Whatever it is we do most of the time, we still find time to write, too.

    It may take me months or years to finish my first novel, but this I know: I will finish it. I just don’t want to forgo being a mom and wife and friend in the process. I can’t do that. So I step back from the writing abyss and join the real world again each day.

    I’m off now to change a dirty diaper and discuss the finer points of video game addiction with my 5 yr old son. Then maybe a bit of writing if I can swing it. 🙂

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