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    « Your Memoir - Where to Begin | Main | The Writer as Sculptor »

    Sometimes It's Better Not to Write

    Here's another excellent question from an author with a book in progress.

    April H. wrote: I've been working on a chapter here and there as much as time allows, but in the process of selling my home, a lot of my research materials were minimally packed. I am trying to find a way to make a writing schedule even if it's short. Any thoughts?

    April, I know you're not the only one with this problem! Real life has a way of intruding on less-urgent projects. it can make you lose your momentum. It's rare for authors to have the luxury of writing often, whenever they want, without interruption.

    Here is the thing about writing in short segments: it may not produce your best work. You can't expect to just jump in and be creative, or to achieve a consistent tone in your prose after being away for too long.

    So the best things to do in small chunks are the more mechanical ones that you really can't mess up, like sorting and scanning photos, or putting your research into order. That's all logical work. In the same way, small research projects, meant for filling in an unknown piece of the book, can be tackled when you're not really into the book as a whole.

    If you brainstorm and make yourself a list of these pesky short-term tasks on one day, then each time you get a chance to do a short session, you don't have to figure out what to do, and you can cross one more thing off the list.

    Ideally, if you are going to do the actual writing, the original creation part of the book, try to do it in longer sessions, say for 2 hours or more. Before you write, read over material you have written before. That way, your tone and style will carry from one session to the next, and the book won't seem choppy.

    In my own experience, I have tried it both ways - long term, drawn out writing in short segments, and longer, intense, focused sessions of writing. Focused wins, each time, and not just because I get faster at composing sentences. It's because I start having fun with the project, and the ideas start flowing.

    As a consequence, I have found that ultimately it's much easier, despite my busy schedule, to find the time to write in longer sessions, and to get lost in the work. I hope you get a chance to experience that pleasure, sometime soon!

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    Reader Comments (2)

    Excellent advise, Nan. For me, it works this way every time. I'm currently in the 'make a list of little things to be done' phase. Grandkids coming this week. No point in even thinking about being creative, in an 'uninterrupted' mode! Thanks for a great post! ;-)

    Jul 29, 2012 at 11:18AM | Unregistered CommenterDr. Bill (William L.) Smith

    Bill, if there is anything that demands your undivided attention, it is a visit from grandkids. They are a reminder that it is wise to accept the inevitable and to stop working, and to truly enjoy yourself. The work will always be there! Best, Nan

    Jul 29, 2012 at 5:43PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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