Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finding Time to Write and Focus

Normally, I have a schedule worked out for writing time. But lately, between changes at the job, housekeeping (or lack thereof) and the imminent wedding rearing it's daunting head, I've been finding it hard to find time to write.  I've known several people who planned weddings. One of my closest friends who concocted intricate centerpieces using goldfish and flowers. My mentor teacher in grad school who single handedly water colored personal maps for each invitation and proceeded to calligraph addresses onto each envelope. I swore that wouldn't be me. I was intent on a wedding more of my godmother's style, in an open field and the reception a buffet of KFC. At the age of nine this particularly struck me as genius. And then somehow, I got this great idea for favors that would mean so much but would take a wee bit of assembly. And then I decided no way was I going to let those invitation places swindle us with their crazy prices when I used to be a book artist. I would just make the invitations myself. And then, we had a little problem with finding a caterer on the venue's list that might actually fit our budget... and so on.

In all this detailed wedding plan web that I've tangled myself in for the past couple of months, it's getting harder and harder to focus on my writing when I do have time. It used to be that I would come home from work, make some dinner, ignore the housework and get down to writing. Not much has changed in the housework department, I still need to unload the dishwasher and I'm sitting next to a dryer rack full of clothes waiting to be put away. But I find that having the ugly wedding monster hanging over my head, there are little questions that sneak into my head while I'm writing.

For example, I could be writing a chapter about a girl burying a weathered shoebox in a graveyard late at night... When suddenly, I find myself wondering; "What color tablecloths would look good in the reception room? I mean it's a dark room to begin with, so if you stick dark colors in there, it's just going fade into the background. And there's a lot of red too..." Ten minutes later, I realize I wrote a sentence about my character choosing a maroon tablecloth to adorn her dirt hole.

So how to disconnect? I'm pretty sure it's not just me having problems staying focused. There's always going to be a wedding, or a baby, or some big project at work getting in the way of writing time. I know I can't be the only one.

There are a few things that I've found to work. First is to plan bigger chunks of time to write. It used to be that with a half an hour or so, I could get a bunch of writing done. But with a lot on my mind, it takes time to focus. So instead of planning little bits of time, I've started planning longer chunks of time. This way, I spend one night with the dishes and laundry and another night in the Ghost world with my manuscript.

 Sometimes, I start with a bit of research to get myself back into the project after coming home from work. Research will help return me to the mindset to write the piece. I have to be careful though. It's easy to get carried away with those links on poisonous plants of South America. But most of the time, it gets my mind in the story so to speak, and out of the wedding centerpieces.  The last thing I've found may seem counterproductive. And that is to get something done, before you come to the writing. I found that if I called a possible caterer, afterward I was able to focus more on writing. If I appease the wedding monster a bit, he's willing to yield to other endeavors a bit more.

So in the end, I guess there is no iron clad formula for focusing on writing. Modern life is filled with so many pockets of responsibility, that sometimes it's hard to find a quiet space for yourself to write. But that's why writing is so important. In all the noise and bustle, it's important for there to be someone to record the quiet truths of life. Even the truths about wedding centerpieces and tablecloths.

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