On the long list of things I like, Cory Doctorow ranks pretty high. I think he’s thoughtful and interesting and the fact that he refers to YA sections of bookstores as “Parallel universes of little-regarded awesomeness” only makes him that much better.
As you know, I’ve been a bad writer recently (ok, ok, let’s refrain from making the obvious snarky retort here…’recently?’…you’re very funny), and yesterday Eric found this piece of genius somewhere online…Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction from Locus Magazine, in which the Doctorow shares his tips and tricks for writing on a machine that is basically connected to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Certainly my computer is one of the biggest problems with my work regime…if I can twacespacechatbookmail instead of writing, I will.
Enter CD, and his six techniques to staying “on top of your workload and your muse.”
1. Keep a short, regular work schedule
2. Leave yourself a rough edge
3. Don’t research
4. Don’t be ceremonious
5. Kill your word-processor
6. Realtime communications tools are deadly
I’m intrigued by this list…and have tried to incorporate it into my writing this weekend. Here’s what I’m thinking:
1. Of course, the short, regular work schedule is critical. Writing is a skill more than a talent, and practice definitely brings us closer to perfect. Also, I find that if you get out of the habit for even one day, you’ve got an enormous uphill battle coming when you start again.
2. This is my favorite of his techniques. CD says, “when you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence.” I love this, because the next day, when you start, you don’t have to think at all about what to write first. You finish the sentence. A friend who is working on her Ph.D. told me that she refers to this as “Parking on the Down Slope.” I call it awesome.
3. I’m struggling with don’t research, frankly. I write historical, so the research process is critical. While I definitely see his point that a half-hour researching what kind of pants Regency men wore to the opera is not helping the arc of my story at all, I also know that, for me, I need to have those details in my head to make a scene as rich as possible. I’m gong to try leaving that stuff out and then returning to fill in the research, but I’m not sure it will work for me.
4. I can’t agree more with him on Don’t Be Ceremonious. I carry a notebook with me and write longhand as much as possible. This means writing on the subway, in line for my morning coffee, waiting for friends in restaurants and on my couch. Write when you find time. It helps with keeping your skills honed.
5. He’s basically saying here that you shouldn’t be formatting/spellchecking/etc. I get this, and respect his ability to ignore bells and whistles, but the idea of a .txt document scares the bejeezus out of me.
6. Agree. IM is a time suck. As are all the others. I turn off my AirPort when I write. This doesn’t mean that the first thing I do when I pause isn’t check my email. But it helps not to see the message indicator pop up.
I would add one thing to his list….the thing that works best for me…Write long hand as much as possible. That way, you’re not only not distracted, but when you type your words into your computer eventually, you’re actually on your second draft…not your first. Also, I feel way less pressure to write something good if I’m scrawling in a notebook.
Ok…thoughts? additions? what’s your trick for staying focused on writing in this insanely distracting world?