I have asked many writers about their process. I want to know how they work and how to improve my own writing. My process is disjointed and and confusing, yet yields good results. Eventually. Two weeks ago I began a mini quest to see for myself how other writers, more prolific writers, work. I wanted to understand how I could do better. My research showed me, and a recent article in The Week confirmed, there is no right way to write.
And, oh yeah, we’re all a little weird.
I find that I work best with headphones on. No music, just headphones. The don’t even need to be good headphones, just having them on helps me to focus and get work done. Earnest Hemingway wrote standing up. Maya Angelou writes in hotels (possibly ugly ones, the article wasn’t clear.) Anne Rice sleeps all day. Truman Capote had to think while lying down. I cover my ears.
So if my weirdness isn’t standing in the way of being more prolific or successful, what is? Is it my lack of focus? My lack of sleep? My incredibly busy schedule? The constant distraction of my iPad social gaming? (lame, I know) The short answer to these questions - yes. To all of the above.
We live in a world of massive distraction. With every turn there is another device or triviality demanding our attention and invading our private hours. We haven’t enough time to eat properly or exercise, yet the average American adult spends 8 hours a day in front of a screen. Whether a screen at work or the television at home, we allow this time to take priority over our health and true productivity. As I write now my television is blaring in the background with some guy traveling the country in search of ways to consume pig fat. Not exactly fodder for witty prose - but I do have a new idea for dinner.
So, how do I become more productive with all of these distractions? The answer is as simple as it is difficult to implement - unplug and get to work. Choose between literary and commercial success, or poking Homer as he wanders about the Squidport.
Most days, writing and study win out as I seek my voice and learn to speak to my readers and sell myself and my vision. Occasionally, Homer calls loudly and I fall to that siren song of wasted time. As long as the first outweighs the last, life is good. But when the time wasters begin to creep in, I have to remember to unplug and step back again and break out the headphones.
After all, how can you expect to be a successful writer, if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to write?