Writers develop all kinds of excuses for not writing. Fear. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Self Criticism. I’ve got a new one for you. Sometimes it’s hard to start writing because you know you’re going to be interrupted. In other words, it’s hard to start because it’s hard to stop.
I find I’m more susceptible to this syndrome at the beginning of a project. When I’m unsure where my story is going, my work seems more fragile, and my time more vulnerable. As I make progress, I’m eager to return to my work each day, and more willing to take what I can get for time–even if it’s just forty five minutes in my parked car, or an hour on a Sunday morning when my nine year old could come upon me at any moment.
I do find, however, that fear of interruption is an unacknowledged cause of writer’s block. If you’re having trouble starting your work, consider the quality of your work time. Do you have a good three hours of quiet? Or are you pressuring yourself to write a certain number of words in between errands and activities. Do you have time when you’re alert? Or are you exhausted when you sit down to write?
One of my sons hated to take baths when he was little. He wasn’t afraid of the water. On the contrary, he loved the water too much, and hated to get out. He began to dread getting out of the tub, and then he started avoiding baths altogether. Creative work can become like that warm bath. It helps to schedule enough time to enjoy it. And it definitely helps to acknowledge that you can’t always jump in and out of your writing quickly–that you need time to soak, to think, to float! Don’t rush the transition from the outside world into your inner life and back. Try to think of ways to ease yourself in and out.
Easing into my work, I read the newspaper, and listen to music, and reread what I wrote the day before.
Easing out, I read a chapter from a good book, stare out the window, take a short walk, listen to music, outline the scene I’ll write next.
What about you?