It’s really easy to get distracted when you write, especially now that we’re all largely home working and there are phone calls, emails and housework all conspiring to take away the writing time.
The human brain takes around 17 minutes to refocus on a task after a distraction. Losing focus while in the middle of writing, can seriously damage the quality of your content. If you want your writing to be the best quality content possible, you need to get rid of distractions.
Disable all notification on your computer and put your phone on silent so that you do not get disturbed in the middle of a writing session. Be disciplined enough to either do your housework before you write, or better yet, delay it until after your writing session.
If you put your writing first, you get more accomplished and the quality of the content will be better.
During the pandemic I wrote a collection of poetry and had it published. I did this by focusing. Take a look at the book:
The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?
Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.
I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.
My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:
Writer’s block, or when an author is unable to produce new work, happens to all writers.
Try writing something of special interest to you. Write down all the primary ideas you’d like to write and then write the smaller ideas that make up the big ideas. Then write an outline of these ideas.
Now you have an outline that is a starting point. Research your topic.
Now you have an outline and some new thoughts to add to your outline. When I wrote my most recent collection of poems, when I was blocked, I started reading other formal poetry forms. I would take a concept I wanted to write a poem about, I’d choose a form and try to
follow the form into the idea. Either the form would work, like a narrative poem, a haiku, or a pantoum, or I would write outside of the form and wind up with a draft of a new poem.
The four elements: earth, wind, fire, water in your writing can be exhilarating. They can be used to make your plots more interesting, your poetry more vivid.
The four elements can be nurturing, but they can also destroy. There is much possibility in these primitive forces. Fire, for instance, can be cleansing or destructive at the same time. The four elements can also be nurturing and life affirming. Seeds in the earth, when it meets water, can grow plants. There is a cycle of renewal.
Nature’s climate is disconnected from the political climate. Birds sing, regardless of the presidential elections. It’s grounding to go out and take a walk in nature and think about the universality of life, and you’re writing,
I recently began a narrative poem about what would happen if the earth started drowning, as they’re predicting it will. What if nature really went wild and the water flooded the earth?
My most recent collection of poems touched on the world of illness and alternate states of reality. Check it out:
Finding your own unique voice in your writing can be a challenge, but one worth pursuing.
One way to begin is by finding unique voices that you like in published writers. Billy Collins suggests finding a poem that you like and writing it out to discover exactly what makes it unique. What is it that drew you to it? The language, the topic, the genre? No matter what you’re writing: creative nonfiction, a blog, a poem, read other writers who have been successful in that genre.
But in the end, there’s only one unique you who has your own story to tell. You don’t necessarily have to write memoir or autobiography, but bring your own individual experiences to your writing. Focus on what you know, what interests you. If you love food, eating it, growing it, cooking it, write about that in a nonfiction article. If you’re a birder, out mornings observing birds, bring birds into your poem or short story.
I recently published a collection of poems about Alzheimer’s Disease, which I knew through my experiences with my partner. It was published by Finishing Line Press. Take a look:
Weather can be a major factor in a story or poem. If you look out your window, you can be inspired. I live in Western Massachusetts, where they say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait.” It changes rapidly from beautiful sunny days, to mist, to rain, to snow, sometimes in the same day. I usually spend some time in Costa Rica in the winter, where I am now, where there are many ecosystems in a little country, including temperate, dry, tropical, sub-tropical. There is a dry and a rainy season, and the winds, called Papagayo, blow across the Cordillera del Talamanca.
Think of all the climates in novels. British author J. Ballard in The Wind from Nowhere, creates a dystopia in which hurricane-force winds dominate the climate. Mother of Storms by John Barnes describes a catastrophic weather change caused by a nuclear explosion. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where the world is divided into gated communities and pleeblands where the working class lives in unsafe, populous and polluted communities. Weather in a book an be a plot motivator or scene setter.
And where would we be without nature poems. Think of William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,”
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
March has brought unusually beautiful weather Costa Rica, with sunny skies, and wind blowing cooling breezes through the mountains. I hear the Northeast has been engaged in “glorious spring” with temperatures largely in the 60’s Fahrenheit.
Storms really are unpredictable. They can add an interesting plot twist to a novel, or line to a poem. And they can move from dangerous, unpredictable weather, to rainbows and sunshine. How does this affect your plot?
In my latest book of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, the story involves my lover who had dementia. While I see an “unrelenting grey,” my partner, in his altered state, sees “white lilies surviving frost.”
I like this positive quote by Norton Juster. Possibility/Probability theory is a mathematical concept that Zadeh (1978) put forth as a possibility/probability consistency theory. I consider it more as an optimistic outlook. The Oxford dictionary defines it as a thing that may happen or be the case.
If you have possibilities, you are optimistic about the future. When my ex-partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties, I felt pessimistic. My possibilities seemed limited. Then I wrote a book of poems about the experiences. This was recently published in a collection called, “Touch My Head Softly,” by Finishing Line Press. I opened up many possibilities for me, as well as giving me closure on much of my grieving.
Here is the link to my book at Finishing Line Press:
A piece of writing begins with a germ of an idea, an inspiration, a straw dog. Some people use their journals to spark ideas.
I have been journaling for many years. I used to use pen and a notebook. Now I journal on my Microsoft Word App on my iPhone. I just find that while I may not always have my notebook, I tend to always have my phone. I journal snippets of ideas that I may later develop into a writing piece or poem. Do you journal? When? How?
I have a new collection of poetry out that started with my journal. It will be out soon from Finishing Line Press: