Thursday, June 16, 2011

Distractions and Focus

Fluffernutter by Sky Sloderbeck
A Google search of writing advice returns over 300,000,000 results. Of these results, many of the samples offer the following tidbit of information: Write what you know. Some people, like Marg Gilks, says that the phrase "write what you know" is misleading. Early in her article, she states that writing what you know "builds walls in the writer's mind, imposing artificial limitations bred of uncertainty. How many writers, hearing those four words, have despaired?"

I know I have despaired. The funny thing is, my problem isn't because I don't feel that I have lived an exciting enough life to draw on that for my writing. I have had so many experiences, that if I wrote an autobiography from my teenage years up until now, no one would believe it was true. Not only that, but my experiences are SO varied, that I would certainly get flack from publishers for not having focused writing even though it would be my experiences, and not the writing, that were unfocused.

The good news is that if I am writing fiction, this means I have a wealth of varied experiences to draw from to create realism in my writing. The bad news is that if I am writing fiction, this means I have a wealth of varied experiences to draw from to create realism in my writing. You see the dilemma, yes?

If you were to look in my writing journal, you would see pages of 5-6 line story ideas. Pages. Each idea stems from one of two things: (1) a story I want to read which has not yet been written, or (2) things I have come across in my wild journey that I would like to expand into a story. The problem is where to focus so that I can actually (finally) get a complete story out on paper.

It seems as if every time I settle down with a single plan, something happens in my life to veer me off course and steer me towards a different story. I was going to write a novel that revolved around dragons as a challenge that was given to me, but I set that aside (after some good progress) and began a vampire story that I have wanted to tell for years.  Then I set that aside to explore two different stories that would fall under literary fiction and not fantasy and would be at home in any Women's Studies course. Now I have set those aside to write a young adult fantasy novel that was prompted by a rather ridiculous conversation I had yesterday.

Writing what you know sure sounds easy -- until the things you know keep jostling for your attention. How do you keep focused enough to get one of those ideas fleshed out without letting other, just as worthy, ideas get you off track?

I think I have a solution to my dilemma, and (among other things) that is a self-imposed deadline, but how do others do it? I would love to hear how you fight distractions, especially distractions that are not in the form of games or web surfing, but are in the form of other equally fascinating stories dancing in your head and urging you to write them.


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