I had a Plan last night when I went home: read a bit of the newspaper; enjoy some dinner; get on the computer and do some writing.
Simple. Concise. Manageable.
Fifty words into the evening’s writing, I was just starting to get rolling. I knew where I was going. Visions of literary wonder spread out before me as monarch butterflies lifting off for their great migration.
My son came into the room to ask for help getting ready for ’80’s Day’ at school the next morning. He said he didn’t want to do The Google since I had lived through it. “You were what, 70 during the 80’s, right?”
To quote Rodney Dangerfield, ‘I understand why tigers eat their young.’
The next twenty minutes were spent debating clothing options and hair styles. A resolution was made to wear my letterman’s jacket which we found hanging in a closet. Understandably, it was a bit dirty. I hadn’t touched it since I put it in that same closet right after we moved into the house.
Thirty more minutes were dedicated to trying to clean it up. More discussion and debate on options, etc. That conversation boiled down to giving someone a proper amount of warning/lead time before an event. In this case, a trip to the dry cleaners last week would have solved the problem. For thirteen-year old boys, 10 hours notice should be plenty of time for all problems to be resolved and tied up in a neat package.
If I hadn’t been certain before, I was now: the lad watches way too much TV.
Anyway, with that crisis dealt with, I gave brief thought to sitting down and writing again but by now, it was 9 o’clock. My wife was watching a baseball game on TV and it was close. I was distracted by the shiny box in the corner of the living room and never got back to the computer.
Once again I am reminded of the suggestions by many writers to minimize distractions, to closet ourselves away from the rest of the world. While I do not want to discourage my son from coming to me when he needs help, there is certainly merit to installing a lock on the door of the spare bedroom. At least then I have a chance to ask if the house is on fire or someone’s bleeding to death before I commit myself to an action.
Beating myself over the head isn’t going to help anything, that is certain, but we do need to be aware of what can cause our attention to wander from what we ‘should’ be doing and adjust accordingly. For example, my goal of finishing my first draft by the middle of May has a built in 3-4 weeks of slop time before June 12th. If I’m going to be done before the middle of July, I need to be absolutely done by the middle of June.
Why June? Why not keep writing through June and into July? Why set an arbitrary goal for the middle of May?
I know my distractions. The World Cup starts on June 12th. For the following thirty days, I will be absolutely useless.
It would be better to have my first draft fermenting in a drawer for that month than trying to pick up the story where I left off. I have no confidence that I will be able to maintain continuity in the story. Already I find myself having trouble keeping track of characters and what everyone is doing.
We need to be aware of our distractions and head them off at the pass, whether by locking ourselves away from the world for a few hours, picking a time to write where there is lower risk of interruption, or on rare occasions, planning your time to let a project age for an occasion where you aren’t going to get much done anyway.