How to Finish Your Stuff: Avoid The Drift

The Drift - Writing Advice Suzanne Brazil

The Drift - Writing Advice Suzanne Brazil

You know the feeling. You’re in the middle of a project (a book, an essay, a short story) and then you’re not. You’re on the edges of it or miles away. It shimmers in the distance like a mirage and you’re losing it.

I call it “the drift.”

You suddenly realize it’s been three days, then a week, then a month since you’ve made any progress.

It feels stale. You find yourself bored by the characters. You think it’s a sign you need a new project. A fresh start. So you let more time go by.

The foundation of your sand castle has blown away. One day at a time. One missed writing session at a time.

How does this happen? It happens grain by grain.

How do you stop it? The same way.

Famous authors all have recommendations to write every day or develop a routine. I like Jerry Seinfeld‘s advice: Don’t Break The Chain. Just grab a calendar and for every day you work on your number one project, mark a big red “X” – then just make it your goal not to break the chain.

Girl-Writing-ruifernandes-flickr-creative-commons-375x395

Drop in on your project whenever you can. You’ve got a day job, your dog has diarrhea or  your kid has a science project due. You don’t have time to brew a perfect pot of tea, don your favorite sweater and light your literary pipe.

So do what you can. Drop in on your characters. Reread a page or a paragraph, or jot down some ideas for a scene. I think of it as being less precious about the whole thing. Conditions don’t have to be perfect, you just want to keep in touch with your story.

“Drop in on your project whenever you can.” 

Steal time. Think of it as something you GET to do instead of another task to check off your list. Print out a couple of pages, stuff them in your purse or briefcase. Pull them out on your lunch hour, or on an extra long bathroom break during that interminable staff meeting.

Don’t fall for the allure of the new project because you’ve lost sight of the old. It’s not about rigid routines and perfect practice, it’s about action. Whatever you can do, do that. But do something.

sand-castle

“It’s not about rigid routines and perfect practice. It’s about action.” 

Stay tethered to the world you’ve built, the characters you’re developing and the story you’re telling. You’ll save time by not having to reorient yourself each writing session. Best of all? You’ll finish stuff.

 

4 Thoughts on “How to Finish Your Stuff: Avoid The Drift

  1. I love this, Suzanne! Especially this line: “You don’t have time to brew a perfect pot of tea, don your favorite sweater and light your literary pipe.” I need to remember it’s okay to just plop down at my computer any chance I get, and not wait for the so-called perfect conditions.

    …Similar to Seinfeld’s calendar chain, I always glance at the “date modified” for whatever Word document I’m working on. If I at least check in on my project every day, then that date stays current. If not, then it becomes obvious I’m starting to “drift.”

    • Thanks for reading, Jennifer – and what a great idea on the “date modified” as a reminder! That’s how I make sure I’m on the correct version but it’s a great visual aid, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. CathyShouse on November 1, 2015 at 6:41 am said:

    I read these tips a few days ago and have since gotten some momentum going on a project I had drifted from. 1. Once I get started, I find myself stealing more time to keep going. 2. It’s surprising how much I get done when I keep in regular touch with the world I’ve created. Thanks!

    • That’s great news, Cathy! I think it’s physics and most writers are not in love with physics. Still, an object at rest tends to stay at rest, which is why it can be so hard to get going once we stop. Planned days off are ok as long as we’ve planned a re-entry strategy. Thanks for reading!!

Blue Moon Update

Blue Moon (Montana)

Blue Moon (Montana)

Today is Blue Moon Friday. It’s been a busy, if weird, month. It seems fitting just to take stock and see where I’m at.

My husband turned 50 which is making me not look forward to my half-century celebration in just a few short weeks.

Spending three days at Ragdale was like time traveling. And psychotherapy. Writing about “real” stuff always makes you dig deep.

Submitting 20 pages to my Novel in a Year class has me on edge. I’m up for critique next week and I’m quaking with insecurity.

I’ve worked on a couple of Flash Fiction pieces and entered one in an online, quarterly contest that provides feedback. The feedback was 2/3 great and 1/3 I’m the world’s worst writer.

Did not make my goal of finishing the 2nd draft of my WIP by the end of the month. Too many major plot questions, too little skill. But I’m soldiering on.

I did submit a few pieces, finished a couple of interviews, read some great books. Just don’t know where the time goes.

Summer is fleeting and hot! I’ve been eating like a college kid on summer break and not working out at all. Just grocery shopped – all fish and produce starting tomorrow.

A second full moon may be weird, but not all that rare. According to Google, it happens once every three years or so. I hope next month is more productive and less weird, and maybe less blue.

 

 

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Wedding vs. Writing – No Contest

Bride
Bride

Photo Credit: Deanna Branscome, PhD – entomologist and mentor extraordinaire and quite the “shutterbug” (see what I did there? entomologist…shutterbug…discuss)

My oldest child and only daughter is getting married in 11 days. Emotionally I’m a wreck but that’s another post for another time. She and her future husband are expecting 170+ guests. I’m hot gluing ribbons and fusing my fingers together but somehow still finding time to write. Correction: I’m making time to write.

A writing mentor of mine recommended The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and I am loving it. He talks about “going pro” and overcoming resistance. It’s not just for writers but he singles us out because he’s one of the tribe. Every time I’ve tripped over spools of ivory tulle or shoveled seating charts off my desk, I’ve felt a sense of pride that I’m committed to making progress on my second draft.

war of art

To paraphrase author and poet, Marly Youmans, kids aren’t easy and they don’t need a writer in the house. I doubt my excited bride-to-be is concerned with my page or word count this week. She needs to know her mom is on-call with safety pins and handi-wipes.

Out-of-town guests begin arriving in a few days and we have flowers to plant, carpets to vacuum and final counts to get to the caterer. Then, it’s on to manicures, hair, make-up, etc. I may decide to take the week of the wedding off from my novel. Most professionals have at least one week a year when they don’t focus on their primary jobs.

Though my day job pays the bills, I made a decision that “this writing thing” was going to be my priority. Except for next week I think. My brown-eyed girl, now 25, gorgeous and a very cool chick is getting married. I want to witness every bobby pin as it’s inserted and every petal tossed in the air as she begins her new life.

Then maybe I’ll write about that too. See you back here after June 5th!

 

8 Thoughts on “Wedding vs. Writing – No Contest

  1. Betsy Gibson on May 25, 2015 at 10:19 pm said:

    How exciting!! She is gorgeous, and you two look so much alike. I think that you can certainly give yourself permission to take this once in a lifetime week off. As you or one of our other wise mentors would say to me (I know that you would), “Live in the moment. Enjoy every single second of it!” You will have memories to savor and write about, AND you will come back refreshed and ready to write, write, write!!! Please give my best wishes to your daughter, and please let her know that her mother’s Haven friends will be anxiously awaiting posts about the wedding!!

    • Thank you! I will try to take that advice to pay attention in the moment. Love the Haven group and appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Can’t wait to read some of your stuff.

  2. I both dread, and await that special day, Suzanne! And I have two daughters!! :/

    I hope your writing gives you the superhuman energy you need to survive the week ahead, and I hope that your fingers survive the glue gun. Wishing you and your family every happiness!

    Good things! 😀

    Angela Z xxx

    • You will have double the joy! She’s really the easiest bride…she can’t really believe people care about things like fonts on the invitations and color of tablecloths. She just wants to dance! As always, thanks for reading. I love my writer friends!

  3. Doesn’t she look like you! Both gorgeous. Good luck with weddings AND writing!

    • Thank you, Kate! She hears that a lot and I’m not always sure she’s thrilled about the comparison but I sure am. Thanks so much for the positive thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

  4. Wishing you and your family the most beautiful and heartwarming time. Your writing will be even better for the break too Suzanne. ♥