You are a scientist: examining life through telescope and microscope, observing both the great expanse and the most minuscule but essential detail.
You are a composer and musician: listening to the rhythm, pacing the beat, moving your characters dancing across the page.
You are a magician: fashioning people and places from the lofty atmosphere of imagination.
You are a parent: protective of your characters and mindful of their actions.
You are an architect and builder: mortaring words and stacking paragraphs, mindful of delicate balance and pleasing form.
You are the Dreamweaver, the Educator, the Wanderer in unknown lands, the Obsessive always searching for the suitable word and flawless phrase.
You are the Faithful One who cherishes the written word in an era of images and sound.
or soon will be.
|Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press|
|Research Date: 1.1.2014|
|Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation.|
The average attention span is five minutes. Ten years ago, it used to be 12 minutes.
So I’d better keep this short.
E books will be the digital ghost of hand-held, turn-the-page, dogeared, write-in-the-margins, lend-to-a-friend traditional book.
Self Publishing will transform literature into a mass, unsupervised, free-for-all American Idol Audition without a Simon Cowell making scathing critical remarks.
A paragraph will be no longer than the average text message.
Unless, something changes. Writing must transform as it has in the past, not just to suite changing styles in language but to keep up with what technology is doing to the mind.
A writer’s competition is not other writers. We must now compete with cable TV, text messaging, video games and, sadly, a diminishing attention span. But how? We need to experiment as other writers have started by shortening paragraphs and writing books that in a past age would seem more like a bare-bones outline.
I wonder how many readers will see this last line?
“Don’t Like to Write, But Like Having Written”
Dorothy Parker? George R. R. Martin? Frank Norris? Robert Louis Stevenson? Cornelia Otis Skinner? Clive Barnes? Gloria Steinem? Hedley Donovan?
No one is sure exactly who first said that. (see The Quote Investigator)
I suppose most writers have felt that way at some time in their careers. I did hear one writer of Romance novels say that she could spend all day writing, that she had no interest in doing anything else. I don’t remember her name (my version of writer’s block). Maybe I was in shock. I do remember thinking at the time, ‘So, you’d rather write about romance than actually experience it?’
Or, maybe that was just my defenses kicking in since I am one of those writers who need to duct tape themselves to the chair, face a blank wall and have all required refreshments close at hand. Even then, there are emails to write and answer, research that leads me far from what I was looking for in the first place, like ‘Gee, who really said the above quotation and who the heck is Hedley Donavan?’
So I have to find ways to trick myself into sitting down and actually writing. Last year I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is a self-imposed marathon of writing. On November 1st of each year, “participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”
I made it to 40,000 and I am still working on it. (more on that later).
In my own defense, the delay wasn’t all the fault of procrastination. Family emergencies sent my life in a totally unexpected direction, which forced me to rent a new house, fly out East, a car accident in Missouri and a bunch of other surprises jumping out of the shadows for no other reason than give me more excuses not to write.
The interesting thing about dragging my feet when it comes to writing—or should that be dragging my fingers?—is once I do get started and the words are flowing it becomes a wonderful roller-coaster ride of exploration, discovery and joy.
Often I’ve had to ask myself, “Writing gives me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure. It’s like conducting an orchestra or painting on a blank canvas with words of colors yet to be seen. Why then do I procrastinate? Why do I find a hundred and one things to distract me?”
Yes, there are times of frustration like when your words are pouring forth and then suddenly come to an abrupt stop. Or when you know that one word in the sentence is so wrong but you can’t think of anything better. But I know that no matter what you do in life, you’re going to have some bad days.
And when those days happen, I go and find a way to trick myself into making my writing a priority so I don’t end up with a dozen unfinished manuscripts nagging at me.
If any of your readers have a few tricks of their own to vanquish procrastination, please let me know. I could use a few more.
Challenges face every writer no matter what the subject and I invite all who create with pen, ink and keyboard to share their problems, solutions and questions.
I will be posting on the progress of this particular journey writing a novel about a saint and the challenges of juggling creativity, historical accuracy and writing about a person most people assume to know.
By doing this I hope to conquer my biggest challenge – procrastination.