While some authors find it difficult to discipline themselves when it comes to butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard, others have the opposite problem. They (I should say, “we”) can’t easily leave a story in progress. We think, “I don’t want to interrupt the flow of the story. What if I can’t get back into the mood—recapture the emotion, continue in that groove?” But is sitting at the keyboard hour after hour really the answer? Stay with a scene for too long and it can become stale. You may risk burn-out, not to mention sleep-deprivation.
How you handle this quandary? Do you easily adjust amidst distractions and interruptions? Or do you have to sequester yourself away for hours at a time in order to create the time and space to get it done?
My grandson worked at home for a few weeks while his office building was being remodeled and quickly learned how difficult (read impossible) it was going to be with twenty-one-month-old twins in the house. So he devised a plan that worked. He’d leave the house as usual, kissing everyone good-bye. Then he’d sneak around through another door and enter his office undetected where he could work undisturbed for the rest of the day.
I know an author who was having trouble adjusting to working at home after retiring from a corporate job. So every morning, he’d get dressed and head for a coffee house where he could chat with people. Then he’d head home and get right to work.
Many authors find a time during each twenty-four hours when they can work in peace—before dawn, for example, or (for the night-person) after everyone goes to bed.
But still, you must leave your story many times during the crafting and editing processes—often with unresolved issues. This can be a problem for some, who might say, “What if I can’t remember what direction I was going to take this scene?”
There are a couple of ways to handle this dilemma. One is to make quick notes in the manuscript before you take off with your kids to the park, to get a quick bite, or to engage in conversation with a long-distance friend or relative. When you return to your project, you should be able to pick up where you left off—if, in fact, you can actually remember what those quick notes mean. Oh my!
I’m learning to trust myself. The idea I had while deeply involved in the scene before being torn away from it, might not actually be the best one. Having relaxed some about leaving in the middle of a mystery or a crisis, I often return and tackle it seamlessly, as if I never took the respite. Other times, I look at the paragraph or chapter I’d been working on and create an entirely different scenario than the one I’d planned.
The truth is, adapting successfully to interruptions and distractions can mean the difference between completing a book in weeks or in years.