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The relationship between distractions and writing

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How to Write Your First Novel
This is a guest article by Gay Walley.

On the surface, distractions and writing are mortal enemies.  Most writers think their best ideas or prose comes just as they’re walking out the door!    There is no question that writers need quiet, time alone, an expanse of time to get our work done.  There is no question that those moments when walking or listening to classical music can elucidate an idea that has been rambling around in our heads.

But what about attending to friends who are ill, lovers or spouses or children who need us to spend time with them?  What about the time it takes to pay the bills, earn a living, see that movie that you just don’t want to miss? They take us away from our desk. What is the solution for that?

Well, stop feeling guilty. There are some advantages to distractions, as long as you make sure you get SOME time at your desk, every day. Here they are:


1. New people, new situations and new feelings give you ideas. Your writing can get stale if you are not learning, not engaging with the twists and tides of the present. Your “voice” has to be alive and so that means YOU have to be alive.

2. When you push yourself, to be there for another, to fix the garage, to play with a child – you are having new feelings, witnessing new parts of yourself and these can go into your work. Everything feeds the work.

3. Usually what you LIKE to read or see is akin to your own style. So go to that movie or read that book because it will feed your own style and make you think of new ways of solving problems.

4. Goethe said that art comes from tension and that tension of wanting to write and having to do other things makes you focus that much more creatively and intensely when you sit down to actually write. I can’t tell you the number of people who don’t have to work who still don’t find time to write. Having a limited time available drives the mind.

5. Being involved in life makes you not take yourself too seriously. That’s good for a narrative voice. Nothing is worse than ponderous, stentorian writing, unless you are a genius, which one quickly, and sadly, finds out is usually not yourself.

6. There is so much stimulation out there that it is impossible to keep up. So engaging with inquiring minds that you admire will put you onto the zeitgeist. And even though one shouldn’t write for the zeitgeist, one should know about it. It is our time and our writing has to be relevant to our time, not so much in the story line, but in the energy of the story.


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So don’t feel you are wasting your time when you are living. Living feeds the work, inspires it, and adds to it. Just make sure you get that 1 or 2 hours for YOU each day. It’s difficult, I know, but if you work at it, you will soon get down the dance steps of blending life with your art.


About the author: Gay Walley has published 2 novels, “Strings Attached” and “The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable”, currently becoming a movie. Her play, “Love Genius and a Walk”, is scheduled for Off Broadway 2015. Two more books, “Duet” and “Lost in Montreal” came out in 2014. She teaches writing in New York. Read her eBooks “How to write your first novel” and “The smart guide to business writing” on Bookboon.


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