As a writer, I am naturally curious. I’ve scrolled for hours on blog feeds, killed half a day interacting with people on Facebook, and devoted a great deal of time to industry research. When inside of a bookstore, it’s like I’m sucked into a vortex or a maze and can’t find my way out because there are so many traps keeping me inside (Neil Gaiman books, Marvel comics, books by emerging authors, and interesting Christian fiction titles). When I am at festivals — especially food festivals — I get caught up in the medieval magic of live, upbeat music and merchants hawking their wares.
Some experiences are good and necessary for an author. Going out and witnessing the mysteries of the everyday enriches prose and poetry alike. Whether the artist is an observer like Henry James, or hands-on like Mark Twain, the commonality is extensive research. If one’s work is realistic or fantasy, it does not matter — study the world and draw inspiration from it.
The traps come with frivolous jaunts to the outside, where the artist purposefully wastes time to avoid their art. Balancing between research and creation is a necessary ability for the successful writer. It is so easy to rationalize pointless actions, but it is a sticky web where one can become entangled.
Instead, be like the spider. After the arachnid investigates and seeks out the most opportune place, it begins its work. Once it has the first web finished, it stays in the midst of its creation to avoid getting caught in its own sticky strands.
Here are some of my tricks for staying focused (see if these work for you):
1) Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. You don’t want to be falling asleep in your recliner.
2) Stay hydrated. You’d be surprised how drinking water can help you think clearly.
3) I try to limit my social media consumption. This is a day-to-day struggle. When I use social media, I try to do it in a way that supports fellow artists or raises awareness for my own art.
4) Try not to edit your draft. I do this all the time and it is crippling. Write your first draft, then you can edit.
5) Take the time to read after your work. Reading exposes you to many writing styles and ideas.
6) Set realistic goals. Saying that you’re going to write 10,000 words a day will probably leave you disappointed. For some perspective, I read that Stephen King aims for 1,000 words a day.
Now, go forth and create, support other artists, and enjoy the beauty of the world. I have spent too much time writing this blog post — so I better get back to my novel.