Do you feel sick every morning? Not to worry.
Aside from the brutish and manly fulfillment that fiction writing brings me, especially the current version of my novel with a nineteen-year-old girl as viewpoint protagonist, there are several things that help me get top-notch hack writing done.
Insomniacs take note…
1. My most thrilling and important writing prep is – wait for it – getting an excellent week’s sleep. One night won’t cut it – except that it be preceded by six.
Most of my life I’ve been sleep-deprived and too stupid to know.
Before deserting the workforce to cruse half-time and have a life, I went to bed at 11:15 to 11:30 PM and got up at 7:10 AM. That sounds like almost eight hours of sleep, but it’s not. Not to me, anyway.
I take a long time going to sleep, same as a lot of brutish creative types with chiseled features.
I remember how foggy my mind was in those days. It didn’t seem quite normal, but it did seem unavoidable.
It’s true that “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” Even the bad things like sleep deprivation.
Here’s what’s also gone now: feeling physically ill every morning. (Aching bones and muscles, the realization that it’s a hundred miles from my bed to my tooth brush, and the nagging question of what day it actually is.)
I thought anything resembling 7.5 to 8 hours was adequate sleep. People “get by” on five or six all the time. It’s easy to get sucked into the madness.
The truth is, our culture promotes sleep deprivation as a healthy norm. And different people have different sleep requirements, a fact that raises confusion.
Nowadays, with 8.5 to 9.5 hours of actual sleep, it feels as if something is going horribly right in my life.
Furthermore, in fulfillment of Koch’s postulates, if I get only 7 hours, I wake up half dead. Just like old times!
Like most brilliant writers, you have trouble falling asleep.
Huh? Yeah, you do.
To exterminate insomnia, I use biofeedback. Before you roll your eyes, consider my newest feedback image and the fact that you don’t need any machines or gadgets to do this:
I picture bees landing on my hands, a few at a time, until they’re so crowded the bees look like mittens. I try to “feel” their feet touching my skin, hear their wings and picture their yellow-and-black bellies. The rule is, they’ll sting me if my mind wanders off to ruminate with the cows.
This type of “finger warming” biofeedback was discovered decades ago as a treatment of migraine headaches. I use it for that, too, along with Excedrin and Advil. Want more details? Comment and ask. I’d love to help somebody with something someday.
Back to writing…
Comparing my ancient sleep-deprived fiction to the glorious radiance of my recent hack-work, it’s clear that sleep makes a difference… even if, like me, you’ve been given but modest talent and no commenting readers whatsoever. Sniff, sob.
2. As I’ve said too often, I re-read a few pages of a best seller before I start writing. Then I read a few passages from “Great Dialogue” (the software program: http://www.greatdialogue.com/). It seems to have resurrected my dialogue from the dead, but who can be objective about their own writing? Not me.
3. I need caffeine before I write. Usually a mug of black tea does it, but I’m thinking about getting hooked on coffee again, in light of its documented health benefits. Who knew? Here’s a link: http://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/coffee?src=wnl_edit_specol&pa=st0LTSNV21401fiRJR5sSYwEBeU4%2BkGjR3VhfPWJbWdbFHFH4KjQZfafYEgl5ah0s7CF3wx2Tu1U792SxywYLg%3D%3D#5
If you can’t get access to that article, leave a comment and I’ll email you my password and username.
4. This was a brilliantly scary trick…
I put my novel-in-progress out there in public at http://writingcite.com/. OK, I took it down after a relentless lack of public interest, but still.
While it was out there I focused with new intensity. You might try it if you already have a few people reading your blog.
5. Ideas sometimes drive my writing. I find ideas in the New Scientist magazine, which I don’t read cover-to-cover. I don’t even read all the issues, but at least I feel guilty and wasteful. That means something where I come from.
6. Like you, when I start writing in the morning, I back up and read the previous few pages. It’s a mixed blessing…
The good: It gets me submerged instantly.
The bad: It usually becomes an end in itself, eating up days with re-writing and editing. This is poison. Anything that keeps me from finishing the first draft will eventually kill my dream of becoming a best-selling author.
7. I collect “clever ideas” to insert into stories: Everything from dialogue that comes after running a light, “Honest, officer…,” to personal theories about time dilation and all that crazy, enigmatic photon behavior that few people care about these days.
When my novel doesn’t feel novel enough, those ideas come out and help me.
8. To appropriately ignore spelling errors, poor phrasing and the bottomless technical pit of wordsmithing during first drafts, I’ve tried several tricks:
Typing with my eyes closed,
Typing with the monitor off,
Typing with the spell-checker and grammar-checker off,
Using Dragon Naturally Speaking.
So far, closing my eyes works best. But I’ll try anything to keep my first draft growing without word-level distractions. Writing blind keeps me from re-reading every sentence self-consciously.
If you haven’t tried writing without seeing what you’ve written, you might want to do so and see if it doesn’t boost your productivity.
If you’ve got a better method than those I’ve listed, please, PLEASE, let me know. Thanks.
See, I told you this would be boring. I bet you’re glad you didn’t read it.
M. Talmage Moorehead