Saturday, August 25, 2012

Picking up the thread...

Elmore Leonard says he can write anytime, anywhere--a skill I much admire but haven't yet mastered. (You're going to hear a lot of 'Elmore Leonard says' on this blog. Read one of his books or watch 'Justified' on FX to see why.)

Unlike Mr. Leonard, I have to concentrate--hard--when I write. A door slams, a child's voice rises a half-decibel, one of the dogs jumps off the couch, hackles raised, to announce that my neighbor's pickup needs a new muffler--and I'm no longer inside my character's head, seeing, feeling, and hearing events that exist solely in my imagination.

My worst distractions originate within. Worry, fear, anger, and feeling like I've left things undone can make it nearly impossible to sink into the story and write what I see--a process I call 'Picking up the Thread."

I've tried different strategies to combat interruption: Get up an hour early (better for planning than writing), escape to the makeshift office in the barn (great until it gets cold), noise-canceling headphones (weird).

But the best by far: Escape.

My favorite is a State Park cabin on a lake about an hour from my house. State Park accomodations verge on Spartan--no internet, no radio, rudimentary television. There's no gym or restaurant, and little interaction between guests. (Once, in December, I was the only person staying in the park, which was a tad spooky.)

That quiet simplicity creates room in my head for characters, plots, and emotion. When I 'Pick up the Thread,' the words appear on the page as if by magic and I struggle to type fast enough to capture them.

My latest project came to me during one of these escapes. I began writing at two am, hoping to catch the plot before it vanished. When the sun rose I'd finished chapter one and the outline. I didn't want to stop.

But it was time to go home and be distracted again.


  1. What a wonderful way to write . . . though I can see where it could get pricey -- or dicey with the family. "You want to go away without us AGAIN?"

    In the beginning, I wrote at night because it was quiet. Once I shifted to the day, I couldn't have music on, kids running around or anything else.

    When life got seriously disrupted a few years ago, so did my writing. I promised myself that I would learn to shut everything out and write. It was torture at first, but it's like anything else -- you practice, you get better. I played music, turned on the TV, let all the dogs in at once. It's still not my preferred way, but I can do it now.

    1. Marilyn,
      I, too, am trying to discipline myself to write no matter who or what shouts for my attention. Good to know it gets better, because it's darned frustrating right now.

      Cheers, and happy writing!


  2. I love hearing about the different ways writers write. One thing I do know, something the marvelous Miss M taught me, is there is no right way. It's whatever works for you.

    Before I became ill, I got to where I LOVED going to panera bread or the coffee shop in Barnes & Noble. I could sit and get lost in my characters.

    I always write with music playing. When I wrote Jakes story, it was heavy metal. Now that I'm writing cowboys, its country. :) Music inspires me, as do dreams.

    I think it would be wonderful to write in a secluded cabin. Yeah...that would be perfect.

  3. Ashlynn,

    Sometimes I have a playlist, but I usually wind up with a single tune on permanent loop. For my latest WIP it was Alanis Morissette's UNINVITED.


Glad you're here!