Monday, March 28, 2011

Tips for Restless Writers

Heinrich Davringhausen -1894 - 1970 -Der SchieberAre we getting wired differently because of modern distractions? I’m not sure, but I know that it’s hard for me to sit still for very long. I just get very restless.

There are plenty of writers out there that have amazing discipline and can sit for hours at their computer each day, knocking out their word goals. I’m not one of them. I always make my goals, but I’ve had to meet them on my terms. In case you’re a restless writer too, this post is for you. :)

Here are some tips for handling restless writer syndrome:

Make a list of all the other non-writing-related things that need to be done before starting a writing session. For me, the more exhaustive this list is, the more emptied-out my head is and the better I can focus on my writing. On this list, I’ll include everything from household chores, to my children’s activities, to emails I need to send, groceries I need to buy, phone calls I should make, etc. The list includes whatever I can think of that might pop up and distract me while I’m writing.

I came across a post last week on the WorkAwesome blog: The Path to Productivity: Short Hours, More Breaks. The post quoted a recent study that found:

Rather than diminishing productivity, short breaks allow people to maintain their focus on a task without the loss of quality that normally occurs over time.

So taking short breaks sounds like a good way of approaching tasks (at least for some of us). But the article warns against checking Facebook, etc., during your break. They recommend choosing an activity that’s something you can easily break away from (and maybe setting yourself a timer as a reminder that your break is over.)

Do other writing-related tasks if you’re in a time crunch or under deadline. I’ll switch from the manuscript I’m writing to one that I’m editing. Or I’ll switch to a brainstorming activity for a new project. That way I’m still being creative, still getting all the writing done that I need to do—but I’m shaking it up a little. It’s good to also have a short to-do list of writing related tasks. Right now, mine has on it: edit chapter on next Myrtle Clover, brainstorm 5 minutes for outline, and add character descriptions to quilting WIP.

Open up to the possibilities of writing on the go during the day. If I told myself that my writing was only going to happen at a specific time of the day, on my laptop, then I wouldn’t get nearly as much done. I remind myself at the beginning of the day that I’m collecting sights, sounds, words, and characters for my story. It helps me be more observant.

Move around. Some of my better ideas happen when I’m moving around. I write in my head as I clean the house, run errands, garden, and walk. If I’m feeling particularly restless, I’ll try an activity that doesn’t require a lot of thought (weeding, vacuuming, cooking familiar recipe) and I’ll write my book in my head as I do it.

Reduce up front the amount of time you’re writing before taking your breaks. Consider writing in 15 minute segments. Will you lose your train of thought this way? In my experience, no. If I worry I will, I just jot down in the margin in Track Changes where I want the next scene to go. Then I run off and put the laundry in the dryer, start the dishwasher, and come back to the manuscript.

Are you a restless writer too? How do you stay productive?