Friday, January 29, 2016

Breaking the Writer's Back - Bad Habits

It hadn't ever really occurred to me before now that I could actually be a published writer, much less be a writer trying to attack bad writing habits head on. I skated for too many years not examining how I work, or questioning if how I work is actually productive. About three years ago, that process began, so I still have plenty of bad habits to address, but these are the top few.

  1. Running from that which should be embraced - Conflict. Hard emotional stuff. You know. All the things most people (including me) actually read books for. But, and this is serious social conditioning at work here, I'm trained to avoid conflict and hardcore, dangerous emotion like the plague. Lots of people are, though I wager more women in this society than men, simply because Western culture espouses the 'women are the bridge builders' thing. Saw someone suggest that view was a pile of BS and women avoiding conflict is a survival thing. Don't care where it comes from. I want it gone when it comes to writing. I want to wade in, flailing, because I want to see what my characters are going to do. Easier said than done. I have to catch myself avoiding, route back and redo a scene in order to wallow in the conflict and/or angst.
  2. Distractions - like most writers with internet connections I have the attention span of a gnat. I've been working on that for the past year. Meditation - no seriously - it's training to keep your mind in a particular place or frame - and when it ducks out, you're learning how to bring it back. Writing sessions go the same way. Focus. When I duck out to look something up that could wait until after the draft was done, or a I sheer off to screw around on Facebook for no good reason, I recognize what's happening far sooner than I used to and I bring myself back to the story. (There's a spreadsheet and reporting system involved, too. Also, an internet blocker, like Freedom is helpful.)
  3. Chasing the shiny - so you know I had a former life as a tech employee at a large Seattle area software company. I'm guilty of still lusting after the latest, greatest tech and software. My bad habit is putting this stuff on my writing box with all the cock-eyed optimism of a trusting 2 year old. That bit me right in the place where my productivity lives this week. Windows 10. If you haven't installed it, don't. Not yet. There's a pretty nasty bug involving the Start button (which means that when it fucks up, you can no longer get to your applications). Known issue. Under investigation. No ETA for a fix. Sooooo. Don't go there if you don't have to. Not until that fix gets rolled out. I'm going to have to rebuild the machine. There goes another entire day.
  4. Taking what I do seriously - you know what Jeffe said earlier this week about priorities? I have a bad habit of prioritizing myself and what I want last. For a very long time, I waited for other people in my life to take what I do seriously. Then came the day that someone (specifically Jeffe) called me out saying that it didn't matter who else took me seriously - taking me seriously was my job. She was right. When I have a contract, my family bends over backwards to make sure I get writing time. But the rest of the time, when I'm writing on spec - it all goes away. I'm not *really* working, so I'm eminently interruptible, right? Only if I'm not sticking to my guns and making writing the priority I want it to be. That's on me. No one else has to understand. They just don't get to call me or bug me between 8am and noon.
Oh there are more. But behavior modification really is a one step at a time kind of thing. You declare a theme (productivity is mine this year) and you work on the habits surrounding that theme. It's better to work FOR something (productivity in my case) than to work against the bad habits. It is easier by far to displace the poor habits with better habits than it is to attempt to simply stamp the bad ones out. That's my story. I'm sticking with it.

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