Hello everyone,This is a busy day! We kick off voting for this month’s Hall of Fame Poet and Hall of Fame Young Poet. It has been wonderful to see so many talented poets and young poets contribute their creative work during October. My thanks to everyone who participated!
Today I’m also asking our judges to begin deliberating over their choices for Word of the Month Poet and Word of the Month Young Poet. For a reminder of our outstanding panel of judges, here’s the link when I introduced them. http://davidlharrison.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/very-important-announcement/
Below you’ll find the voting boxes where you can cast your votes. To reread this month’s candidates, back up to yesterday’s post and there they are.
And, below the ballot boxes, you’ll find a very find article for WRITERS AT WORK! Have fun!
And now, welcome to another post in the series WRITERS AT WORK. I hope by now that regular visitors to my blog are familiar with the ongoing chat about writing that Sandy Asher and I started on September 28 and have maintained since then on each Tuesday. If you are new to the blog and would like to get caught up, you can check back to my Tuesday posts. Also, at the end of each month we are posting the total conversation for that month on America Writes for Kids at http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/ Sandy and I welcome the comments of other writers to this conversation. If the comments are long enough to post as a Guest Author, we’re glad to do that. Our topic this month has been: Obstacles to Writing. Today the entire column is provided by an old friend, Kristi Holl. Thanks Kristi!
“Dealing with Distractions”
During the early stages of a writing project, when you’re gathering ideas and deciding on your approach, it’s useful to daydream and be unfocused in your thinking. However, there comes a time to focus, to fully concentrate on the work, as if you were putting a beam of sunlight through a magnifying glass to concentrate its power until the paper it touches bursts into flame.
When you focus, you’ll accomplish writing projects in half the time, and your concentrated efforts will produce better work. Focusing also builds momentum and enthusiasm, urging us to move steadily toward finished stories, articles, and books.
Being able to focus is critical. As Stephen Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
What keeps us from focusing? Distractions. They have always been with us. Agatha Christie once said, “I enjoy writing in the desert. There are no distractions such as telephones, theaters, opera houses and gardens.” While our modern-day distractions may have changed a bit (e-mails to answer, faxes coming in, the World Series on TV), the result of being sidetracked by them remains the same. We don’t finish our writing. We don’t study guidelines and mail that manuscript. We don’t follow up on marketing tips. If we stall long enough, we may quit altogether.
So how do we deal with things that take us away from our writing? Try adapting the Serenity Prayer for this purpose: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the distractions I cannot change, courage to change the distractions I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Wisdom to Know
What are some distractions you cannot change or ignore? Sometimes it’s a sick child or spouse or a crisis with a friend. Sometimes your boss gives you an overtime assignment with a “now” deadline. There may be a project that needs to be attended to without delay, like your teenager’s last-minute college entrance application. This type of interruption or distraction you have little control over. You grin and bear it.
However, we need wisdom to know the difference between the distractions that are unavoidable and those we allow. Chances are, you’re your own worst enemy when it comes to distractions that keep you from writing. So take courage! Change what you can in order to focus on your writing.
1. Use an answering machine to screen calls. Better yet, turn the ringer off altogether so you’re not tempted to pick up when you hear your best friend’s voice. Then return calls at lunch time or when you’ve finished your daily writing stint.
2. Isolate yourself as much as possible from the traffic flow. I now have my own office, but I’ve written in family rooms and bedrooms and dens. The family room was the most difficult with constant interruptions of TV, kids, and doorbells. The more you can shut the door on distractions, the easier you’ll find it to focus.
3. Take note of your own personal distractions. The blinds in my office are pulled because I look outside every time a car/garbage truck/motorcycle/UPS truck/bus/delivery truck goes by. I also remove all chocolate from my work space. Even hidden in the back of a drawer, it calls to me while I work and distracts me, whether I stop to eat it or not. Nice weather tempts me to go out for a while, so I don’t put on makeup until late in the day. I know I won’t show my face in public without it–so I’ll stay home and write instead.
4. Leave the mail alone. Reading letters and e-mail and surfing the Net can be a major distraction. It interrupts your flow to stop and sort the mail. And if your mail contains rejection letters, bills, and bank statements, it can create an instant slump. So get the snail-mail if you must, but stash it in a basket until the end of the day when you’re done writing. The same is true for e-mail. Leave it unopened and unread till late afternoon (unless it’s a response from an editor!).
5. For non-emergencies, make your family wait. Barter with your family for writing time. When you’re finished, you’ll make popcorn. When you’re finished, you’ll play catch. When you’re finished, you’ll go rent a movie. (Just be sure you actually follow through on your promises!)
6. Leave home. If home is too chaotic sometimes, take your work to the library or a park or a cafe, somewhere quiet with no phone and a minimum of distractions.
7. Organize your work space first. Arrange your work space before you begin writing, to ensure that you have everything you need. Don’t run out of paper halfway through typing your chapter. Keep things within reach. Even finding a new ink cartridge or box of paper clips in your supply closet can distract you. Before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour rearranging the closet shelves.
8. Silence can be golden. Are you as distracted by noise as I am? I run a fan on high speed for white noise, and during school vacations I also use ear plugs. If traffic bothers you–or if you’re in a quiet neighborhood where twittering birds distract you–close the windows during your writing time.
9. Change your schedule. Get up earlier and write when the world is still asleep. Phones don’t ring. Kids don’t interrupt. Your spouse is still snoring. (This works equally well if you’re a night owl and can write after the world shuts down for the night.)
10. Eat healthy meals at regular intervals. Avoid the distraction of a growling stomach or a hunger headache. If you’re always thirsty, keep cold drinks within reach. A mini-refrigerator in your office, filled with bottled water and fresh fruit, an keep you from constantly running to the kitchen.
Take time to study yourself, discovering your own favorite distractions. Once in a while we have absolutely no control over interruptions. However, most of the time, we (consciously or not) use distractions to keep us from having to face the work and anxiety of putting words on paper.
The next time you sit down at your keyboard, close your eyes and imagine yourself as that concentrated beam of light focused by the magnifying glass. Then open your eyes, hit the keys, and set the world on fire!
Kristi’s web site at www.KristiHoll.com
Over 40,000 subscribers at Kristi’s Writer’s First Aid blog: http://institutechildrenslit.net/Writers-First-Aid-blog
Kristi Holl http://www.kristiholl.com/
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