The Write Stuff: Staying Focused

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of trouble staying focused on any given story. Part of the problem is that I don’t plan or plot out my stories ahead of time, I just start writing, come up with things as I go and hammer it out. It’s the hammering part that can be difficult, especially as new, completely different ideas pop into my head. I’ll get a good 10, 15 or 20 pages under by belt, but then get distracted like Homer Simpson any time a dog with a poofy tail runs by.

I’m not a complete failure when it comes to these things though. I actually used my wife’s pregnancy as a kind of deadline, kind of like the ones I used to have to hit in college or the ones I make every day in my freelance career. I wanted to start and more importantly FINISH something by the time my daughter was born. I had nine months. I succeeded after a fashion. I finished my second ever horror screenplay, but that was pretty early on in the pregnancy. I wanted to finish something else, but it didn’t wind up happening. For what it’s worth I have that horror script and another one sitting in binders waiting to be read and edited. I need to attack them with a red pen and maybe some tape and glue to work it out. I wanted to give myself a breather from that material, but also wanted to move on to something else.

One of the problems I have is a fear of failure combined with a lack of knowledge of what to do once I actually do finish something. A million people have scripts sitting around, right? What makes mine stick out? How do you even get it in front of the right person? I probably have a bit more of an edge than a lot of people because I’m kind of in the geek genre business, but even with that, it seems difficult to make things happen. I have the same fear/worry when it comes to books, comics, the whole shebang. Of course, since I don’t have hardly anything finished, I can’t be judged, told I’m not good or denied.

The funny thing is that I actually love to write and don’t tend to get writers block. Given the time and a lack of distractions (many of which are self imposed), I feel like I could write something from start to finish. Maybe those are excuses. Maybe not. Maybe sitting at the computer all day writing about comics and movies makes me want to ditch the ol’ laptop and just hang out with the wife and kid. Maybe I should be writing one of those stories right now instead of doing this blog post.

In addition to having other ideas pop into my head, I also get kind of bored with stories, but in an unusual and very specific way. As I mentioned, I don’t plan my stories out in advance. I’ll write to a certain extent and then walk away. Between stopping and the next time I sit down to write that story, I usually think about what will happen next and hopefully have a few eureka moments where new story ideas or further adventures pop into my head. The problem comes when there’s a lot of time between that ideas popping in and me actually writing. If I’m sitting there, running through the scene or whatever a bunch of times, I get bored with it. It’s like it’s already been written even though I haven’t written it. By the time I sit down to pound the keys, I’m bored with that scene or sequence because I’ve already spent so much time with it. I realized this in the past year or two and have tried to avoid thinking too hard about the details of a scene when coming up with new ideas. It’s hard and I don’t always succeed, but I think it’s helped.

I’ve read a few books on writing as well as interviews and listened to just as many in podcast form. I know some people will give themselves a page or word count they need to hit every day while others give themselves a specific amount of time. I like those ideas, but have trouble sticking with them. As I mentioned, I spend all day with my computer and need something of a break (he says as he continues to write this blog post on the same computer he spent all day on). I feel like those regular work hours should be used for work, but my schedule isn’t always consistent, so I should just say something like “At 10AM every day, I’ll write for an hour.” I really should have done that before the baby was born because, as it is, depending on the day, things can go really well or really poorly.

I’ve got a lot of excuses, but what I need are pages finished. Maybe I’ll get a few in now before heading to bed (I’m writing this at 12:17AM but posting at 10AM.

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