Summer is over and that means it’s time to get back into the writing groove. But, as always happens after a break, I’m finding it hard to shoo away the distractions I allowed to clutter my time during those less structured months.
How then to break the bad habits and get back to productive habits? Enforce boundaries.
Protect your writing time.
When I first started writing, I was also working full time as a freelance writer and editor. My days were mapped out and I knew I had x amount of time to write. And I wrote during that time. There wasn’t the option for “I’ll do it later.” Later was spoken for.
Then I started writing full time. Luckily my son was in elementary school so I had all of those hours to write. Except that I had “all of those hours” to write which meant I also had “all of those hours” to do all the other things that needed to get done – cleaning the house, social media, volunteering, blogging, critiquing. Because, I had the time. Except, that each thing I said yes to, took away from my writing time.
Your writing time should be sacred. Whether you have an hour or four or an entire day, set your boundaries and stand firm. Life happens and there will be times you’ll have to tuck writing behind an emergency. But that should be the exception, not the rule.
Protect your writing space.
I admit, this is a tough one for me. I have an adorable office that is affectionately known as the lemon room thanks to the neon yellow walls. There’s a white board on the closet door for brainstorming, a kick-in-the-pants reminder about my mission above that door, there are bookshelves all around, and inspirational quotes tacked where I can see them. I also write on the front porch when the weather is too nice to stay indoors (or the dust bunnies are too big to ignore). But more often than not, I end up on the kitchen table (in my defense, it’s arm’s length from the espresso machine and there’s room for the kitties to snuggle next to me).
However, my office is still my favorite creative place. When I’m there, I don’t have to shush anyone, I don’t have to look at a pile of bills that needs to be paid, and I don’t have to see a pile of dishes out of the corner of my eye.
Whether you have a room of your own or a corner in the house or you write where you can find a clean spot to sit with your laptop, that space needs to be yours (if only for that period of time you’re using it). The only “people” you should scoot over to make space for are the characters in your head (and maybe a cat or dog).
Protect your thoughts.
Think back to when you first start dating someone. The relationship is new and exciting, maybe you mention to your friends that you’ve met someone really cool but when pressed for more, you clam up. Why? Because it’s fresh and it’s yours and because you don’t want the opinions of others influencing your decision on the relationship.
A new story isn’t much different from a new flame. There’s the initial courtship time when you noodle story ideas and character traits, plot twists and sidekicks. The characters become friends and what happens to them becomes personal.
A year or so ago, I started working on a new project that had me bubbling with excitement. I was completely smitten with my main characters and the story between them and so excited that I couldn’t wait to share the idea with a writing friend. Her lack of enthusiasm and criticism for my baby idea was a major bucket of ice water. That story has become my “the one I think about,” you know, the guy/gal you wonder what could have been if only you hadn’t blown them off.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never share ideas. I have a writing friend who I always run to with new ideas. She may think that one of my ideas has a big nose or needs to learn table manners but she’d never say anything to derail the budding romance.
I read once that the first draft should be for you, the writer only. The revisions are for your agent/editor/readers. Fall in love with your characters and their story first. When you’re secure enough in the “relationship,” then go public.
Protect your energy.
Someone recently posted an image on Facebook that disturbed me for some reason. The message was actually quite nice – “Do your thing & cheer for others.” That’s a good thing, right?
So what about it bothered me? The realization that I was spending so much energy cheering and supporting everyone else, that I was too drained at the end to make that same effort for myself.
One of the things I admire most about the writing community is how generous people are. I love being part of this community and being able to support writer friends. I’d much rather cheer them on than tout my own horn.
But if I don’t squeak about myself, no one else will either. Which means that I have to know my limitations. I found, for example, that I had to limit my time on social media because it was draining my emotional energy. I also pulled away from a couple of groups because I was starting to feel spread thin and scattered.
By re-establishing boundaries for myself, I’ve been able to start pushing past some of the distraction squirrels. The end of that first draft is in my sights!
How do you hold fast to your boundaries?
Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a quarterly contributor to Thinking Through Our Fingers and Writers In The Storm blog, and an active member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary. Her debut women’s fiction, The Distance Home, released from Forge in May 2017. You can find her online at http://www.orlykonig.com or on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest