EC Jarvis: How to Write Anywhere, Anytime
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Being a writer is a lot like being a drug addict. Sometimes you wake up in the night in a cold sweat, your mind racing with a need – a need to write. Sometimes you can be sat on the toilet or driving your car or some other perfectly innocuous thing and you get struck with a sudden and intense craving to get to a piece of paper (other than toilet paper) or computer.
There are plenty of articles on the web telling you that as a writer, you should build set times for writing into your schedule and stick to them. Plotting is important as well, so that when you sit down to write you know precisely what it is that you are writing and you don’t waste time staring at the wall trying to come up with ideas.
That’s all well and good, but even the most strictly organised writer will still have moments when inspiration strikes and the muse wakes up when they’re busy with life. More often than not, if you don’t write down the things that come to you within a few minutes of thinking about them, they will trickle out of your mind and be forever lost. The trick is to be prepared for those times.
The simplest of answers is to carry a notepad and pen with you whenever you leave the house. If you’re trying to write down an idea quickly then just note the basics such as a line of dialogue or some key plot notes. For the times when you simply cannot stop what you’re doing and make a note (such as when you’re driving) then the best thing I can come up with is to simply repeat it over and over. Say it out loud if you can, sometimes the act of speaking something can help your memory to retain it. Let’s say you’ve just figured out a major plot detail and it is intricate in its resolution, you need to master the art of mental short-hand – cutting out the fat and retaining the basics. Instead of worrying about the detail, just try to remember that character X finds important item Y and by the time you get round to writing you’ll find it is easy to recall the specifics provided you’ve remembered that key point.
There is the other side to this issue – what to do when you go through a dry spell.
Breaking the block
We are generally creatures of habit. You probably get up at the same time most days apart from maybe weekends, and do things to a set routine. We do this because of job requirements or family commitments or sometimes because it’s just easier to follow a pattern. These habitual elements to our lives are not conducive to a creative mind. The best (but sadly not guaranteed) way to break the block is to break your routine. Go out for a long walk. Take a leisurely drive to nowhere. Go and sit in a café with a nice view and watch the world go by. Don’t pressure yourself to write in this time, consider it as down time and if you truly reach the point of blissful indifference to the world then the inspiration will seep in – make sure you have a notepad ready for when it does.
Being a writer is a lifestyle choice. It’s a commitment and it requires some adjustment to get used to. I can’t give you guaranteed solutions to every problem that a writer faces, but if you can at least acknowledge the issues you come across then you’ll find it easier to think up solutions, so that you can be prepared to write whenever and wherever the mood arises.
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