August 27, 2010
You’ve got your notebook. You have an idea. In fact, you’ve rearranged your schedule so you have an hour, maybe less, each day when you can write. You already have a great story for a novel you think may be the next American classic.
And ten minutes into writing, you get tired and feel like stopping.
Welcome to the life of a writer, buddy. It’s lonely and smells like chair.
Look, I’ve sat through movie marathons. I watched the extended cut of Lord of the Rings. Hell, I stood outside a movie theater for eight hours once waiting to see a movie. Might have been one of the Star Wars prequels.
Anyway, patience is a virtue in this game just like any other job. Yes, you’re sitting down, but think of all the things you’re doing. You’re thinking critically. You’re hitting keys at five or six strokes a second if you’re a fast typist. You sit in a chair for a long time, an hour, maybe two at a time. You’re going to get tired.
Writing is a very tiring job.
So what do you do? How do you get over that hump?
If you’re going to be plopped down on a chair for hours at a time, take some time to walk. Seriously. If you work in an office, take a five minute break and walk downstairs, up the stairs, around the building, to the bathroom, to your car, back, whatever, but just get moving. Your legs are going to cramp up.
In the long-term, try and get into an exercise routine. You don’t have to be Tony Horton or anything, but do stretch and try and do some cardio and some strength-building exercises. Push-ups (on your knees or feet) work pretty well. Jumping jacks are nice and simple. A few minutes of each, alternating, work wonders to wake you up and give you a little boost of energy. You don’t even have to get weights or anything like that. Just move and keep your heart-rate up.
If you’re going to be sitting down, you need to keep your limbs moving or you’re going to cramp.
I’ve been doing regular exercise for a while now and got on P90x about a year ago. I found that keeping the body healthy is SO crucial to writing well. If the body’s not happy, the mind gets dull.
And speaking of moving around…
Here’s a little trick teachers use. Or at least my mom and I use this trick. When planning a lesson, we take the average age of the group and add five to it. That’s the maximum amount of minutes that person can keep his or her attention span on a single task. After that, the brain starts to wander.
What does this mean for you, the writer? It means that, if you’re twenty, every half hour or so, you need to step away from the computer for a minute and do something else. Forget the story. Forget the deadline. Forget that you forgot to walk the dog.
In fact, walk the dog.
Do anything else for five minutes.
Listen to a song at high volume. Put on some classical music and zone out. If it’s late at night, grab a beer or some bourbon or something. Just clear your head.
There is such a thing as burnout, and if you’re typing at maximum speed, this maximum attention might be a lot lower. Next time you think you’re getting a little burned out, check the clock. Your age might be betraying you.
And the number one tip for avoiding fatigue at the desk…
Seriously. Look, whether you’re inputting rows of data (been there), trying to meet a deadline (also been there) or just trying to create something that will touch people and not be ridiculed because it sucks (I live there), you need to have fun with it.
Play a game. Bet yourself you can make a certain word count. Listen to fun music while you’re working if you can. Write something funny just to see how it sounds, then delete it if you have to. Just… laugh.
If you’re not having fun, it’s going to show in your work. It will come out as artificial and forced. This is a job, yes. It’s a business. it’s a career for some of us, a hobby for others. But you can’t do a good job if you’re straining to punch out every key.
And that’s it. It really does boil down to keeping everything in good working order. You don’t have to set alarms to keep track of your attention span, and I’m not asking you to go on an all-protein diet and lift three times your body weight. I’m just saying there are little things you can do to make writing, or just sitting at a desk, better for you.
Thanks to everyone for sticking around during the long hiatus. I’ll see you Monday, hopefully with a new Charcoal Streets story, but I can’t really promise that because… well…
I’m going to be in San Antonio at the Texas Deer Association Conference.
Yeah. Weird, but VP Productions is doing a lot of work with ranchers and a lot of them will be there this weekend.
Either way, stay keep reading for the links!
- Billy the Blue Power Ranger is gay! My childhood is shattered! Either that or I’m happy for him for coming out and wish him good luck and a good response from the fans. And if you have a problem with this, just remember that you’re mad because a guy who you used to watch running around and doing acrobatics in blue spandex turned out gay. Yeah, that’s what i thought.
- Did you notice a lot of your friends said they wanted to copy someone’s status to see if the other person noticed? It wasn’t just you. This thing spread like herpes on Spring Break. Here’s how it started and just how fast it spread.
- This is by no means a blanket statement on the armed forces (I have way too many friends who served or are serving our country), but it’s really disturbing that some soldiers are apparently water-boarding their own children.
- Proving, once again, that nudity can be tastefully done as art, Phillip DeFranco has some images from a body painting festival, and some of the work is really quite beautiful.
- I’ll admit I’ve made my fair share of jokes about Wasilla, Alaska, mostly because of the state’s former half-term governor, but it looks like the local reading lists are a little more sophisticated than many gave them credit for.
- Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls, is appearing in Cabaret, and here’s a VERY cool pic of her.
- For a trip to the land of “What If,” check out these movie posters of films that never were. They’re all real films, but thee posters ask what would have happened if earlier directors had tried making them. My fave is the Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing version of Ghostbusters. The Sam Peckinpah version of Wolverine staring Clint Eastwood is a close second.
- Big-ass bubbles. Like, bubbles the size of a bus. Seriously. Watch. Now.
- And finally, here’s the trailer for a new show called The Walking Dead. I can’t recall another series that dealt with zombies, but since we’ve already got vampires pretty well covered, it seems like the next logical step. It almost looks like an Americanized 28 Days Later, but we’ll see how it turns out.