Stumbled across an NPR broadcast today that made the same point, part of the now defunct How To Do Everything podcast. The Nov 4, 2016 episode "StoryCorn" starts (approximately 1 minute in) with an interview with writer Eric Larson who makes the same point, if somewhat more eloquently. Larson also tempts himself to his writer's desk with permission to eat a double-stuffed Oreo cookie with his coffee when he first sits down to write. Worth a listen!
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
One of the harder aspects of writing is how to keep going without getting stuck on a scene or idea. One important trick I learned (the hard way) was to 'stop on the clock', mid-sentence if necessary. For years (literal years working on my dissertation) I made the mistake of finishing for the day when I had successfully finished a section and it seemed a logical place in the writing to break for the day. The problem was, having finished a section the day before, each day I started by facing a new section—a new blank page, with no idea where to start. I spent much of each day trying to get started, and came to dread sitting down to write, or, you know, getting up in the morning. I eventually realized that the only days when I didn't start with hours of fruitless angst and wondering how I was going to start the next section was when my wife had pulled me away from work the previous day before I had finished for the day. Consequently, I was anxious to get back to work to finish what I had been going to say the day before. Instead of dreading starting, I started the day wildly getting down on paper things I already knew I wanted to say...which momentum generally carried me through the day. Having finally recognized the pattern, I learned that (for me at least) stopping at a set time meant that I knew at least the next few sentences I needed to write next morning, and a good way to start the day meant a better day writing generally. (The other benefit of this approach is that it is also easier to respond to other people's needs, since picking up the kids from school at 3:30 was a deadline to stop on the clock, and no longer an interruption until I could finish my thought.)