Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Writing and the Real Life by Carla Damron

How do you find time to write? I, like every other writer, get this question all the time. It can stir up a mix of emotions. Guilt, because I don’t commit enough time to sitting down and WRITING. Confusion, because I sometimes question the motives of the asker: are they would-be writers who use this as an excuse not to pick up the pen? Frustration because sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible, to squeeze writing time in between other commitments.

The truthful answer for me:t writing isn’t just sitting at the computer. It’s giving mental energy to my project. I do a great deal of mulling. If I toss the question “what if” into my brain, I’m amazed at what it can churn out.

When do I mull? Often when I’m driving. Mulling is much safer than talking or texting on the cell phone.  And yes, if I come up with an idea that needs writing down, I do pull over.

Another excellent mulling time is when I’m exercising.

Case in point: I now wear a Fitbit on my wrist. Have you heard of these things? It measures how many steps I walk, my “activity” level, and even my sleep. It can be quite maddening, but it’s also useful. I’m competitive enough that I work HARD to get my allotted 10,000 steps in each day. I’ve mapped out a lovely, hilly neighborhood walk that’s two miles so, if the weather is good, Fitbit and I hit the streets.

But we’re not alone. I carry my Kindle, version number two. I’ve loaded my work-in-progress on it, and I activate the “Text to speech” feature. So rather than stepping to some high energy iPod music, I listen to the Kindle voice reading my words aloud. I move, I sweat, I mull. I stop to smell the flowers, but more frequently I pause because of the Kindle. “I skipped a word there. Better mark it.” I pause the narration (and my stride), type in a note, then continue.
“Cute dog in that yard. Hey, wasn’t that minor character Latino in the earlier chapter?” Pause, write note.  “They sure are taking their time with this new construction. And wouldn’t here be a great place to work on some backstory?” I highlight the text. “You had to back up and replay that section twice. Your mind wondered. Why? BORING!” Make a note.
You get my drift.
Once I’m home, I take my sweaty self to the computer and either make the changes or note where they need to be made. I find this to be quality writing time because I’m immersed in the work. I’m not writing from a distance; I’m inside the story. I wonder if something different happens in my brain because of the workout. Do my creative neurons get juiced?
Besides the car and the workout routine, I have one more mulling place in my day: bed. I always read before going to sleep, but I try to reserve a little time for mulling. If I ponder my WIP immediately before dozing off, I may take the process into my dreams. While this may sound wacky to non-writers, I’ve dreamed about my characters and actually worked out plot bumps in dreamland. Sometimes our subconscious just wants to help. First thing in the morning, though, I have to write it down. Dreams are too easily forgotten.
When do you do your best mulling?


E. B. Davis said...

I think the question about writing time is a valid one. The questioner probably isn't trying to make you feel guilty--that's you reacting to what you feel! And I sympathize.

There are certain times of the year, like now with spring inside/outside clean up and at Thanksgiving and Christmas when my writing time contracts. I hate it. The only good thing about Jan/Feb/March is that I have time to write.

I, too , use driving time to ponder characters and plots. My daughter thinks I'm antisocial. She can't believe that I crave more time alone because she thinks I am alone too much already. But not all of my time can be devoted to writing. I have those dang chores to do. She must think I'm a wizard and can magically have everything done. It all takes time.

But there is one thing that I can't agree with you on. I've seen others at the gym try to multitask by reading, etc. while exercising. Injuries occur when you don't concentrate on exercise, and you don't get as much out of the exercise by trying to multitask. It's like texting and driving--it's dangerous. Try to jog without concentrating, and you'll fall into a pothole. Reading while on the treadmill--you'll end up walking too slow for it to do much good. Exercise needs concentration.

One thing at a time--for me--even if I have to switch tasks about fifty times per day.

Jim Jackson said...

I am an introvert and a thinker, so I don't need a special time and place for mulling -- it's my normal state.

However, for that I do need relative quiet or conversation directed specifically at whatever is concerning me.

During my consulting career I was a late adopter of cell phones because my car was a place to think, the one place clients and fellow workers could not get a hold of me.

~ Jim

carla said...

EB I'm less likely to USE the treadmill if I can't read on it! I'm just lazy.

Kara Cerise said...

Carla, 10,000 steps a day is impressive as is reviewing your writing while walking.

I mull when I'm doing something that doesn't take much concentration like washing dishes, weeding the garden, or knitting a scarf. I've also found Dreamland helpful for subconsciously working out problems.

Nancy said...

A good time for 'mulling' for me is when doing mindless household chores. How much brainpower does it take to load the dishwasher, fold clothes from the dryer or iron you husband's shirts? None! So my mind is free to think about an essay or a line in a poem or the problem with a piece of fiction.

KM Rockwood said...

A few years ago when I decided to be serious about trying to write a book, I knew something had to give. I stopped watching 99% of the TV shows I'd been watching, decided that housework and lawn care was not all that important, and used a big hunk of that time for writing and mulling. I have two new reluctant hobbies--visiting doctors and dealing with the health insurance company--and I find that waiting in the various doctors' and hospital waiting rooms gives me lots of time to mull things over, as does sitting on hold with the insurance company.

carla said...

KM I think sitting on hold with insurance companies might help me come up with a seriously nefarious murder plot.

Gloria Alden said...

Carla,like Kara and Nancy, I also use the housekeeping chores to work on plots or characters, but even more so, it's on my morning walks in the woods with my dog, who doesn't chatter and distract me.