Lately, I’ve found it hard to write in public. Which is funny, because historically I am at my most productive in public. But apparently I’m not that focused on writing at the moment, because every person that walks by me right now (I drafted this post in an airport while I waited for our plane to arrive) is someone to watch. Not even in the clever, writerly way of trying to guess their life story or looking for something unique to put into my next story… I just stare at them absently. Even writing from our vacation house, in the beautiful backyard, was difficult, because all I wanted to do was stare at the plants, birds, bees, and sky. Because anything has to be better than staring at my characters who seem so bent on disobeying.
I go through creative phases and this seems to be one of them. Sometimes, the writing comes easily and I can focus completely upon the task that I’m doing to the exclusion of everything else. This is especially true if I enjoy the story, know where it’s going, and can’t wait to get there. But if it’s a story that I feel like I’m pushing, or that isn’t very good, or isn’t coming along so well, then it’s a lot harder to focus.
Right now, I’m pushing this novel along.
Pushing isn’t such a bad thing. Not every day is going to be a day of inspiration, and if I don’t push past those days and write anyway, I’ll rarely write. And after nine years of NaNoWriMo, I’m not even that phased by writing thousands of words of crap that I know I will have to edit or cut. But I’m forcing a story that I’m editing right now and apparently my mind would rather be anywhere but in that world.
I think it’s largely to do with the fact that there’s still a lot I need to fix on the story, and I’m getting overwhelmed. My critique partners have provided a long list of things that still need to/should be worked on. And they’re right (they’re always right – I only surround myself with people who are smarter than I am, though I’m not sure what they get out of the relationship ), but I think that’s part of what’s overwhelming me. There’s so much that I can do with this story and world that I’m finding it both hard to choose and hard to get everything in. Not only that, but the current forecast has my novel coming in about 10,000 words longer than I would like, before I add in all this stuff. Not a crisis, yet, but every time I look at the file, it starts to stress me out.
Clearly I need to focus my efforts on just one thing per pass. Probably plot/characterization (they’re interconnected) for this go-round, followed by a (series of) pass(es) where I shorten/cut scenes and add the details my critiquers are clamoring for. On the plus side, the feedback that I’m getting on the first few chapters indicates that the major plot overhaul I’m in the middle of has been a success. So that’s something! But I’ll probably have to plot along for a little while longer until this story becomes something that I’m truly happy with. And, as annoying as that is, apparently that’s part of writing.
Recently, a member of my critique group referred to writing a novel as putting together a puzzle, except that the puzzle is completely different for everyone who tries to put it together. I’m still in the process of figuring out where all my pieces go, but I think I’ve got (most of) the edge ones in now!
What do you do when you’re having trouble focusing?