I’m pleased to welcome back Bob Sanchez, author of When Pigs Fly, Getting Lucky, and Little Mountain. Bob posts about writing, reading and travel at his blog, including book reviews and articles on writing.
His previous articles here were titled My Writing Life (2010) and The Best Way to Make a Profit (2011).
A Time to Write by Bob Sanchez, Guest Blogger
Writers today face all kinds of obstacles: phone calls, email, work, noise, grumbling stomachs—both ours and our family’s—and even the household cat whose favorite spot is often between us and our computer screens. Then many of us have a fragile ego that thinks what we’re writing is drivel, and it must be edited right now. What was I thinking, putting that comma in the last sentence? Actually, maybe the comma is fine where it is. I should look it up now, while it’s on my mind. Let’s see. Does the library have a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, or should I email my writing friends?
With indecision like that, it’s a wonder we get anything written. The Bible has a relevant saying that I won’t take the time to look up, that there is a season for everything under heaven. A time to read, a time to write. A time to edit, a time to trash. A time to borrow an idea, a time to think for yourself. Every writer needs to do all of those things, but not all at once. Sit down to write and let the words flow, be they your best work or not. And if you look at what you just typed and declare, ohmygod, I just began a sentence with a conjunction and changed my viewpoint from third person to second to first, I submit that the proper response is a shrug. Your tail is in the chair and your creativity is cruising, so don’t let anything stop you. This is time for the ideas to flow; figuratively pat your annoying editor on the head and tell her* she’ll have her turn. Promise her she’ll have plenty to work with later if she’ll just leave you alone now. (* Gender may vary.)
While you write your computer may ding, as mine just did, with a cheerful announcement that a new email has just arrived. Ignore it. Turn off your phone, or at least don’t answer it. It used to seem that all this technology would be a great time-saver. After all, we no longer have to slip paper into a typewriter, daub white-out and retype our errors, only to start all over because we put the carbon paper in backwards. But now the high-tech world gives us a thousand ways to fritter away perfectly good writing time. If you’ve set aside a block of time for writing, there’s only one interruption you need to plan on: saving your document. A lot.
Of course you’ll have unavoidable interruptions, but you will get lots more done if you just control what you can. Try to save the email, TV, and phone calls for later, and definitely save the self-editing and research for later.
Back in the day, writers had it easier than we do. Think of the quiet working conditions of people in the days of Will Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. No radio or TV, no iPhones or freight trains, no jackhammers or fire alarms. Of course their lives were nasty, brutish and short, but they had their quiet time to write.
Bob Sanchez has published three novels, during the course of which he violated every bit of advice given above—-but that way they took him too long to write. They are all available in print and in e-book format for Kindle and Nook.
Bob can also be found at Facebook as DesertWriter, and also on Twitter.
Hi Bob, It sure is hard to discipline oneself to write. I struggle with that all the time, especially when I have editing projects for others as well. It’s a good excuse not to write because I’m being paid to get their work done. But I know I can do it. I keep trying!
Congrats on your success, Bob!
Heidi M. Thomas
Patricia Stoltey says
Bob, thanks so much for joining us and writing about this popular topic. As you can see, I didn’t find time to write a new Friday post, so we’re going to enjoy spending today with you as well. Thanks again.
Bob Sanchez says
Guilie, maybe you have something there. When I first started writing many years ago, I submitted an article to the newspaper. It never ran, and in a way I was relieved because success would have made me self-conscious. It’s hard for me now to understand my own feelings of that time, but I remember them.
Dean, have you ever thought of keeping a journal on your computer? Just a place to note events, jot down ideas and snippets for possible later use? No rules, no standards. Just do it your way. That way you keep your mind in the game even if life doesn’t let you play right now.
Jacqueline, I’ve been using social media a lot lately, but to the specific purpose of promotion. It takes a lot of time, though, and only you can determine whether it’s time well spent.
Maryann Miller says
Very inspirational post. I liked your advice to just keep going and encourage your internal editor to take a break,
Jacqueline Seewald says
I have to agree that there are a lot of distractions for writers these days. Social networking is definitely part of it. Wanting to promote our work and connect with other writers, we often forget that what really matters is the writing itself.
Dean K Miller says
Thanks Pat for another great guest blog. At least I’m writing here…not much else though.
Crazy funk, yes it is. I’ll get back…sometime. Like Bob says, there is a time. Mine’s just stopped for a while.
Thanks to Bob, too. Great advice that soon, I’ll take advantage of utilizing.
Excellent post. Even those of us with no children and no day jobs somehow always find a distraction–ahem, I meant get distracted by… Something. The plant that needs water. The dishes that need washing. Errands. The ultra-important task of deleting unnecessary files (one by one, for quality control) in order to not overburden our beloved computers. And sometimes I think–aren’t we doing it on purpose? Just–you know, a little bit? As if we’re putting off our own success. Are we scared of actually finishing something, declaring it DONE, because then we know we’ll have to do something with it? Is it success, I wonder, or failure, that scares us the most?
Thanks for the discussion, Bob–always a pleasure 🙂
Bob Sanchez says
Virginia, at least you’re not doing the painting. Urgh.
Morgan, try turning off your email and phone while you plan to write. Hardly anything is so important it can’t wait an hour.
Morgan Mandel says
You are so right. Focus is not easy these days but otherwise nothing will get done.
Invariably what happens is I focus on writing and that’s the time an important email comes in or I email and lose track of time and have no energy left to write.
virginia winters says
HI Bob: All so true. My problem for today: my husband is painting the kitchen, my favourite place to write. Thanks for posting, Virginia
Bob Sanchez says
Stephen, thanks for the kind words. I’m retired, and all the activity keeps me from from just aging in a rocking chair.
Sex Scenes at Starbucks, having multiple projects going at once isn’t such a bad idea. If you get stuck on one, just go to the other. The main thing is to keep writing.
Rick, your post nails the problem. At least you didn’t stop to do a spell check! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Pat, I still make liberal use of the backspace key as I write. It’s a tough practice to change.
Dani, revising is hard work in itself. The little stuff like fixing typos you can do while sipping a cup of coffee with Valentine hearts over your head.
Bob Sanchez says
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I’ve been crapping it out for one week every month with Book-in-a-Week for years… it’s finding the revising and editing time that’s my challenge.
Rick Bylina says
Hey Bob, oh wait, there’s the phone. Okay back. Focusing during your personal quality time is…drat, FEDex guy. Hey, new copies of my book. Where was I? …time is pramamount You’ve got mail. Let me just peek. Ugh! Nephew trying to send 12M megabyte pictures of two shirts so I can help him decide which to wear to an interview. Anyway. You are so right to carve out time and ensure that nothing…”No dear, I don’t know where your hummingbird shirt is.”…interfers with the creative process. Ah, can you believe it. The shirts are seafoam and green. He knows I’m colorblind! Well, I’m going to the family cabin in upstate Wisconsin to write. Maybe then I can avoid interruptions. Thanks for the thoughts. It’s Bob, right. Geez, so many blogs; so little time.
Stephen Tremp says
You’re sure making your rounds, Bob! You’re a very busy man. Good luck with everything and I hope all this additional exposure opens lotso fo new doors!
I’m about a quarter way through When Pigs Fly and am liking the story very much. My kinda book. I put an icon and link on my sidebar and will do a review soon.
Patricia Stoltey says
Self-editing as we go is a hard habit to break. I’m learning…
Bob Sanchez says
Karin, I used to fall into the same trap. If we can separate proofreading from writing, we’re so much better off. Picking nits and errors doesn’t take the same level or type of concentration and can be done any time.
Karin Kaufman says
Pat, thanks for hosting Bob. Bob, you’re so right about not letting anything stop you. I used to get hung up on all those Chicago Manual-type decisions while writing, trying to make my *first* draft perfect. Now, anything that hangs me up while I write–a possible misspelling, a possible error in fact, even what seems a poor word choice (if I can’t immediately think of a better word)–gets knocked to the side and I press on. Nothing ruins the flow of a story like constantly stopping to fiddle with the details.
sex scenes at starbucks, says
I’m super ADD (I’m learning) so these interruptions sometimes keep me going.
One way I’ve found to manage it is to write two stories at once. Then I can flip to the other and write a little when I get too tense on one, and then flip back…
I know. I’m nuts. But I’m pretty sure I’m in good company.
Bob Sanchez says
Thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s always fun to chat about writing.
Margot, it’s not necessarily easy to internalize these ideas. Knowing that we should focus and actually doing it aren’t the same. But it takes practice.
Alex, sure. If you have a family and lots of competing demands, carving out quiet time is hard. I have a friend who used to get up at 4 a.m. just so she could write. She had a job, a husband, and four daughters. How she managed, I could never understand.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
Quiet time to write was a luxury back then!
Margot Kinberg says
Pat – Thanks for hosting Bob.
Bob – It really is a matter of focusing and discipline, isn’t it? Just being in the moment, so to speak, and allowing oneself to… just write and ignore all of the distractions. Very useful advice, for which thanks. I especially like your idea of ignoring editing things for the moment. It’s hard for me to do that but certainly worth it.