Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting Carried Away

I must now turn my absent mind to a subject which I might be a particular expert on: getting carried away.

For me--like any exceedingly hopeless romantic--this phrase conjures up an image from Gone with the Wind when Rhett sweeps Scarlett off her feet and up the grand staircase. I will save my awe of sweeping gestures such as this and my love of romance in general for another post. For now, getting carried away simply means letting oneself become privy to distraction.
Not so long ago I had no self-discipline whatsoever. I would let distractions get ahold of me. You'd be suprised how many distractions you can find around an empty household. The television, for example. My wake-up routine had to involve Regis and Kelly. Breakfast with this delightful morning show was a must! Afterward, I was supposed to go straight to work at my desk. Sometimes--a lot of times--I wouldn't turn the television off fast enough and Martha Stuart's mid-morning cooking show would tempt me into writing down muffin recipes or learning how to make all-Hershey party favors. Before I knew it, it was lunchtime and my computer was still slumbering!

Another example: the Internet. I soon learned all too clearly just how nasty this bad boy can be. I'd get up, giggle at Regis, turn off the TV like a good girl and go straight to my office. I'd turn on my computer and first thing's first: email. I'd get caught up in the loop messages from GCC. There's a note from Facebook telling me a friend at Auburn posted a message on my wall. I'd follow the link, read it then write back... Oh, look! She has new pictures! I'll just browse for a little while.... Five minutes stretches into ten minutes then twenty. Half an hour goes by. I glance at the clock and OH MY GOODNESS! Back to email. Barnes and Noble just sent me a discount offer. Better check it out. Oooh! The last Harry Potter book! I can preorder it and take 15% off, another 10% with my membership card... I go straight to the site, take out my debit card and make the purchase. The sneaky thing about sites like Barnes and Noble's is that they know exactly how to entice people like me. I've learned it keeps a record of all my purchases, and when any of my favorite authors has something new out, I get an email. Or when I'm done purchasing something I shouldn't have bought online in the first place...the site goes straight to a page featuring Nora Roberts' latest trilogy! The newest Katharine Hepburn biography on sale! A new collector's edition of Jane Austen's most popular works! I fall for it every time and before I know it I've allowed myself to get carried away....
Other easy distractions of mine: magazines, newspapers, my current read (which is a daunting 823 pages), three clingy dogs, a menace cat named Lucifer who likes to bite my toes... Even unpleasant things like laundry, dishes, dirty floors, and everyday grooming get in the way.

How does one resist the temptation?

Fortunately, I've found the best way for me. I have a mantra. Once I laughed at mantras. I thought they were for yoga instructors and weird zen people. But two years in marching band colorguard taught me something vital: you can't learn something difficult if you are pessimistic about it in the first place. I began to chant: I know I can toss a flag and catch it without knocking myself out! I know I can spin a rifle and not drop it on my toes! I know I can dance though I'm white girl with no rhythm! I became the Little Engine That Could with a little something extra: I know I can! One morning when the words were refusing to flow and my mouse arrow hovered over the Internet Explorer icon, I hesitated and harkened back to colorguard practice. And I realized...all I need is self-encouragement. And this is how it went:

I am a writing machine.... I am a well of creative
energy.... My ideas are like a river: the waters are either rushing or drying

I've learned what to do in both cases. When the waters are rushing, I flood the ideas into Word documents or across notebook pages...whichever's closest at hand. When the waters are drying up, I bring the rain. There's no set way for every writer to do this. Each has his/her own way of dealing with writer's block. My rain dance is research. I research the area the story is set in to find an exciting setting for a pre-written scene. I research the weather patterns for that area which helps when dealing with mood changes and pace. Sometimes I stumble upon avenues in research which branch out to something I take an avid interest in. Before I know it, I've got another story and I rush into a fresh Word document to write down all my new ideas.

Nowdays it's easy for me to walk from my bedroom, through the living room without looking at the television. Regis and Kelly are waiting...but I've got more important things to do. I stop in the kitchen and fish around for breakfast options then cart them straight to my desk. I open the window blinds, let in the sun, greet my business partner, Keats, a black Toshiba laptop. Email comes first. I can't curb that particular addiction, but I save Facebook walls and advertisements for later. I read only the loop messages which help me put my writer's thinking cap on. Then I bring up my WIP or research sites and get to work.

It helps to have an organized desk surface. Old notes and magazines and bills can block the river's progress. Most of the time I stack all the papers, books, folders, binders out of sight to go through later. This allows me to let all distracting undercurrents sink away. Half an hour on the river might turn into one or two hours. I might just bring the rain and go three or four or even more!

Rewarding myself helps, too. I finished my latest contemporary this week and gave myself the treat of creating my own blog! This morning I wrote five pages of notes for my next story concept and now I've spent an hour of playtime with this post! It's lunchtime and the dogs are hungry. Thinking cap's on the shelf for half an hour then it's back to research!

Learn a rain dance! Bring the rain!

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