In the lead up to Christmas I had a few free hours in which I could have written Charlotte. I didn’t. Instead, I looked up a few sites I’d been meaning to look up, I tweeted, I faffed about on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I could have been writing.
I had to ask myself: why was I avoiding doing the work?
Usually there’s a good reason, and in this case (after I thought about it) I realised it was because there was a specific plot problem that I was undecided about. My indecision was preventing me from moving forwards. (Spoiler alert: How were Charlotte, Lyla and Byron going to get from the school camp to the mountain chalet in record time?)
Problem is: if you stop writing, you also stop yourself from letting the story possibilities reveal themselves to you. This is one of the reasons something like NaNoWriMo is so good. It forces you to keep writing, even if it’s complete crap.
Not wanting to go on about Cory Doctorow too much (see my recent post on Creative Commons), but I read in his book Context that he writes his fiction with a text-only editor, with no email or internet windows open or available. Basically, there’s no opportunity to sneakily check your email, respond to someone on facebook, or quickly look up some facts on Wikipedia. If you need to insert content detail that requires some research, use a global symbol (he uses ‘TK’), then go back and search for it later when you have had time to do the research.
The point being to just get the words down. Get the draft finished. Don’t try to format the page, make it look beautiful, bold your headers. Just do it.
Now that’s a tool worth putting in the tool-box.