Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Focus, Or Lack Thereof

By David E. Sharp

There's a lot of advice out there for writers on how to stay disciplined. No doubt, that's a vital component of getting the work done. If we don't train ourselves to sit down at that computer and put one word after another, we won't have anything to show for it. We must be consistent and diligent.

But that's for another blog post.

Today, I want to talk about the other side of writing. It's the invisible side. The part for which I often admonish myself. The part that looks an awful lot like wasting time. I'm talking about daydreaming.


It's awesome.
Daydreaming is Step Zero for Writing. Everybody daydreams. The only difference for writers is we snag those ideas while they're floating over our heads and hammer them out into a narrative. Most of my best "writing" happens while I'm standing in the shower, walking through the park, savoring my coffee or waiting at a red light. -At least it was red last I looked. Why is everybody honking?

Nothing is Worse Than Staring at a Blank Screen. But there's no rule that says you have to. Why not get out of that chair and burn some calories while you muse? (Or gain some calories if that works for you. Donuts can be very inspirational!) Roll the ideas around in your head and go back to the blank screen when you've got something to fill it. Your computer isn't going anywhere. And if it is, you've got other problems to deal with.

Wait. This Feels a Lot Like Procrastination. And that's the best part! Do you ever have to convince yourself to procrastinate? Never! But what if that procrastination is secretly productive? Think how much you could accomplish! And your brain doesn't ever have to know. Okay, but it could turn ugly if you don't pair it with some discipline. The discipline element hasn't vanished, you're just taking it on the road with you. And you really are going to get to the typing part. Just, you know, later.

These cloud castles don't build themselves!
You've got to get your hands dirty.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Daydreaming Is Envisioning. We wouldn't accuse a construction company of procrastinating simply because they're drawing up blueprints instead of laying down girders. All I'm really saying is that not every part of writing happens in front of a keyboard. If you find yourself stuck resenting a blinking cursor, maybe it's because you've been lax on your prep-work. Quick! Find the nearest drifting cloud and stare at it!

Where Do the Ideas Come From? Even the most successful authors don't know. They may give you some snarky answers, but there is no magic formula. Still, we do know some of the ingredients! And chief among them is curiosity. It's important to let your mind wander down some of those rabbit holes. Maybe it will bring you to a solution for your glaring plot hole. Or maybe it will just lead you to a new culinary experiment. A second ingredient is free association. Stories are frequently metaphorical. Allowing your mind to draw unlikely comparisons prepares you to create foreign experiences that are still relevant to your reader. A third ingredient is eggs. Eggs are in everything.

Yes. This is what productivity looks like.

In fact, I better cancel that meeting this afternoon.
Does This Actually Make You More Productive? Maybe not for everyone, but certainly for some! A brilliant writer I know more than doubled his word production when he began bringing a recorder with him while he walks his dog. For him, that's where the creativity is. It's cumbersome to type on a laptop while taking a walk (I mean, have you ever tried it?), so he found a solution. He still operates on a disciplined routine, it just has a wider scope than the time he spends typing.

So stop dilly-dallying. That daydreaming isn't going to happen on its own.

Get to work!

Imagine the possibilities.

Or for more reading, check into:

Seven Elements of Creativity

The Virtues of Daydreaming

How to Daydream


Tommy Jhon said...


JC Lynne said...

Thanks for validating the hours I spend in my own little worlds. Whew!

Nancy Riley said...

Thanks! I take pictures with my phone when I'm out walking my dog. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words! Now just to get those words out! -

David Sharp said...

JC: Of course! Now one of us has to write a post on having actual discipline. I think it won't be me. :)

Nancy: I love the idea of taking pictures to inspire your writing. It's a perfect marriage of two separate arts. Writing can be so visual and photographs always seem to be trying to tell a story. Brilliant!

Thanks for commenting.

Laura Mahal said...

You have inspired me. My next novel will revolve around eggs. They are, indeed, inspirational in a strange sort of way.

I really appreciate your posts, David! I learn a great deal. Additionally, I realize I'm not alone in my wonder-off-and-be-distracted ways.

On days such as this one when I'm not doing a whole lot of writing, I'm reading a novel for another author so I can write an Amazon review. At least this helps me feel as if I am contributing to the overall profession of writing. :-)

David Sharp said...

Thanks, Laura. I enjoy your posts as well.

Eggs are amazing! They are simultaneously symbolic of new life and delicious both fried and scrambled. If you do write a book about eggs, you can join the ranks of amazing authors like Leo Lionni, Jerry Spinelli and Dr. Seuss!

Many of the things we do in life reverberate in our writing. I'm hesitant to consider anything a waste of time so long as I am able to fit my writing in somewhere. ...eventually.

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