Monday, 10 March 2008

A Thousand Words Before Email

Writers are full of excuses. It's the day job or the kids or the telemarketers that keep them from finishing that article or working on their novel. In reality, the main distraction we writers have is ourselves. We allow ourselves to get put off track by the annoying boss or the nagging telephone. We don't put in any work after the kids are in bed. Whatever the distraction is, it's the writer who is letting it be a distraction in the first place.

My big distraction is the Internet in general and email in particular. As soon as I rev up my old laptop in the morning, I check my email. I read any editors' messages first, then trawl through the newsgroups. Then I check the news. Then I surf a bit. Then I check my email again. By the time I'm done, I've lost the initial surge of energy I always have in the morning.

That's why from now on I won't connect my router until I've written a thousand words every morning. That sounds like a lot, but if you focus it really isn't all that difficult. I don't want to be one of those writers who is obsessed with word counts, because quality does count over quantity, but to get the job done you do have to produce a fairly large amount of writing. I make myself write a minimum of 7,000 words a week, although I try to shoot for 10,000. Cutting myself off from the Internet during my most productive period of the day might push that higher.

All writers have their own techniques, but one common thread is hard work. Writers don't get to just laze around drinking wine and have great books appear out of nowhere. Even Kerouac put in long hours. Victor Hugo used to wake up at six every morning and write uninterrupted until two in the afternoon. It's the only way he could have finished a tome like Les Miserables and done all that journalism on the side.

Besides, all those editors can wait. They usually take weeks or even months to reply to my pitches, so waiting a few hours won't kill them.


Anonymous said...

I like your methodology for getting the job done. I need to stop finding excuses and sit myself down and write. I do that in November for NaNoWriMo but the other 11 months, I use every excuse I can think of to avoid it. Being retired, it is very easy to say 'there is always tomorrow' and hope to wake up breathing the next day. Bob otB's

Sean McLachlan said...

Yes, having a completely open schedule can really hurt a writer. We end up doing everything but writing. Try setting artificial limits for yourself, such as setting aside a three-hour block of time devoted only to writing. No internet, no reading how to write books, only writing. It really works. Keep on writing!

Rusty Green said...

Great blog. I agree with you. I find the Internet can be very distracting. No matter how I plan to write a chapter a day I end up with a few lines, after surfing the 'net and reading emails... Frustrating! I started with a site called and because of their point system it is forcing me to actually write, because I hate seeing a low score beside my name... I think every writer needs an incentive, and when we find one that pushes our buttons, we should stick to it. I look forward to reading more of your blog... I wish I could commit to doing that but, I am not always in the mood to share my thoughts so blogging don't really work for me.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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