If You Know What I Mean

I’m sitting here in my living on my couch, my laptop on a small table in front of me, my TV (on, of course) another six feet in front of that. Beside me is the book I’ve been reading, and on the recliner to my left the latest issue of SEED magazine, something I’m anxious to get to. And to top it all off, on the arm of the recliner, barely six inches away from me, my phone with full internet access and my daily sudoku puzzle awaiting my attention. Did I mention my brother gave me a Wii for Christmas?

At the moment I’m wondering how I ever even wrote a short story let alone a novel.

Distractions are everywhere, and they are no more evident than when I’m at one of those points in my manuscript that seems to just drag along. Where every sentence…scratch that…every word needs to be wrenched from my keyboard with a crowbar, or, if necessary, plastic explosive.

This all comes to mind because I’m at one of those points now. It happens with every manuscript, but it still annoys me. Each time I start a new novel, I think, Not this time. I have yet to be right.

How do I combat this? How do I keep the distractions out of my way?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. I give up.

Okay…I don’t give up. I enjoy writing too much. But even with this enjoyment the distractions are often more than tempting. They way I do it, and the way I think most successful authors probably do it, is to keep a specific schedule.

I think I remember reading in Stephen King’s ON WRITING that he writes for a specific amount of time each day…it might have been writes a specific amount each day…I guess I could go upstairs and get my copy and check, but the TV’s on, remember? And right now there’s this cool documentary about building a manned base on the moon…anyway…King has a schedule and he keeps to it.

I have a schedule, too. Mine is kind of a combination between time and quantity. I get up every weekday morning at 5 a.m., and am sitting in front of my computer by 6 a.m. latest. I’ll write for a couple hours and try to get at least 1000 words. Don’t always make the goal of quantity, but I try to keep to my goal of time as often as possible. Weekends I try to snag at least a couple of hours on one of the days…hopefully both. This is what works for me. This is what gets the stories written.

And the distractions? That’s what evenings are for.

And since it’s evening when I am writing this, you’ll excuse me while I go bowl a game or two on my Wii before I finish that sudoku puzzle then get back to the book I’m reading, because I gotta tell you, 5 a.m. comes around pretty quickly.

What do you do to keep on track?


12 thoughts on “If You Know What I Mean

  1. pari noskin taichert

    I write or edit my fiction everyday. I have a quantity goal, but don’t beat myself over the head about it. The main thing is the consistency.

    For me the most dangerous distractions are right on the computer.

  2. Stacey Cochran

    Great question, Brett. I have a critique group, and every few weeks I’m supposed to turn in another 30-50 pages of whatever novel I’m working on. That helps to keep me accountable.

  3. R.J. Mangahas

    Being in a critique group of three people helps because I have to have a good amount done every two weeks. As far as other things keeping me on track, I try to do what I can. (Like turning off that damn TV)

  4. Allison Brennan

    What Mark said.

    Stephen King said he writes 2,000 words a day. Every day. Sometimes it only takes a couple hours, sometimes it takes into the wee hours of the next morning.

    And I’m being bad right now because it’s 1047 and right in the middle of my set writing time (9-3). But to justify my procrastination, I went online to find an answer to a research point, and I said . . . just one blog . . .

    And this was a good one to pick, because I need a kick in the ass about now.

  5. spyscribbler


    Usually, DH pushes me out the door and we’re on our way to Borders, where there’s no internet, no phone, not much else. DH is away on business and the January blues are in full effect.

    So, um. I get distracted, growl out myself, and then push myself out the door significantly later than usual.

    When I actually sit down, it’s fun. So why, please, is it so hard to JUST SIT DOWN?

  6. Mary-Frances

    Hi Brett,I realize we are all motivated by different things but Lynne Viehl recently posted a link to the NaNoWriMo Resource page at: http://www.nanofimo.org/resources.html on her blog. There is a cool excel spreadsheet that tracks your writing progress. I love the one they call the “pretty one.” There’s other cool stuff on the page to check out as well. . .except I guess you should be writing instead:)

  7. Michael Haskins

    Brett, didn’t King say to throw the TV out? He should have added, and evertying you can attach to it! Small stero for Sirius radio, books and my computer, in my home office,so I limit the distractions and, as King also said, I keep the door closed to limit out-of-room distractions. That and I set aside a couple of early-morning hours and, usually, from 6-8 p.m. Read after that and usually quit when I know where I’m gonna begin in the morning. Think Hemingway said that.

  8. twothousandwords

    The more my job frustrates me, the more I want to write. Just to show ’em. Ironically, if my day went well I find it harder to sit down.

    But, for the most part, I only get about two hours a day and I don’t want to waste them.


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