Dramaquill's All Things Writing

March 4, 2008

Sidetracked

It’s happened to all writers at one time or another, from the newbie to the seasoned author.  You’re working away at your latest project and bam…life hits you with circumstances that won’t be ignored.

So what about your writing?

Well, if you’ve got a deadline and it’s looming close, don’t disappoint your editor by missing it.  If at all possible, get the assignment finished.  However, if the circumstances won’t allow it, then contact your editor immediately and explain the situation.  But…don’t make this a habit.  If life is always getting in the way of your deadlines, your career will be short lived.

But what if it’s not anything monumental?  What if it’s just life getting in the way?

That’s what I call getting sidetracked.

Sometimes we all get busy…too busy.  Sometimes life throws us a monkey wrench (overtime at work/visiting relatives/not enough sleep) but if we really want to be taken seriously as writers, we have to find ways to keep on track no matter what comes our way.

This past week I’ve been at a music festival with several of the singers from our studio.  Most days I had to be there from early morning until around nine in the evening.  I knew this would be a challenge as far as keeping on track with my writing.

Here are a few things I did to help get through this “crunch” time.  Maybe some of them are tools you already use or maybe they’ll give you some new ideas.

1.     Try to work ahead on a project since you know you won’t have
        much time for a few days.  (I wrote a new chapter for my novel
        revision two days before my schedule got crazy.)

2.     Take a notebook with you and jot down ideas or write even a
        paragraph or two whenever you get even a short break. (I did
        this instead of socializing on the breaks.)

3.     Force yourself to get up even 30 minutes earlier and use that
        time to write or revise.

4.     Stay up 30 minutes later and promise yourself to accomplish
        something before you head to bed (This is tough if you’re really
        tired so for many, early mornings work best.)

5.     Whenever you’re driving, use a portable recording device to keep
         track of any thoughts about your project, or keep a what to do
         list of things for the next day.

6.     Eat well and get enough rest so that you stay healthy.  Also, if you
        are sleep deprived, it’s much harder to be creative.

7.      Know that this glitch in your regular writing routine won’t last
         forever and make plans to work a little harder/longer as soon as
         you can.

8.     Don’t get discouraged if you have abandoned your project for a
        few days.  Get back on track as soon as you can.

Life can be full of sidetracks.  Don’t let your writing take a backseat to all of them.  Know when you really have no choice and when you just have to be flexible and adjust your schedule.

When our performing arts students begin preparing for an audition or a performance, I always ask them, “How badly do you want it?” whenever they get sidetracked.

You say you’re a writer?

How badly do you want it?

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3 Comments »

  1. Enjoyed this entry! Always looking at how other writers are getting on, like, an invisible support system. I am a big fan of #s 2, 3 and 4 above which is ultimately rather like burning the candle at both ends. You’re right: it does work to approach any writing project well rested. NOT at 6 or 7 pm after working all day. Unless it’s Friday evening and I see that whole beautiful weekend stretching out in front of me.

    Comment by oh — March 7, 2008 @ 7:01 PM | Reply

  2. Glad to hear someone else uses some of these methods. We writers gotta do whatever it takes to make time, right????

    I love a warm spring or summer day when I can sit outside, listen to the birds and sounds of the outdoors, and with a notebook in hand, get my inspirations. Of course, that’s more self-indulgent than productive sometimes.

    Comment by dramaquill — March 7, 2008 @ 9:41 PM | Reply

  3. Your column is encouraging to me. I am so overwhelmed and wonder how many serious writers also hold down full time jobs. At the moment I am blogging to become noticed as a writer, but the blogging is in the way of everything else. But the blog has become so successful that I don’t want to let it go either. Help!!! I’ve written about my dilemna in more detial at http://queenbjan.wordpress.com

    Comment by Janice Green — March 13, 2008 @ 5:51 PM | Reply


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