Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Geographically Undesirable

Southern California is in the grip of a major heat wave right now and I do not have AC in my apartment. Which is okay about 357 days of the year. Right now it's insufferable, in spite of the heroic efforts of every fan I own. My cats are not happy. At least I get to go to work in an air conditioned office Monday through Friday. I wish I could pack them up and bring them with me.

But what about the rest of the time?  What about the time I need to spend working on my current manuscript which is due in 20 days? A deadline does not care if you are sweltering and your sweaty fingers are slipping off the keyboard.

What happens is that I power through it even if I'm melting at the keyboard and sweat is pouring off me like I've just run a couple of miles.

I know a lot of writers who write in libraries, coffee shops and cafes. And several friends have suggested I do the same during high heat days. The thing is, I don't do well writing in public. I can't concentrate and, frankly, I find it hard to believe most writers can be really productive in such environments.  There are just too many distractions.

A writer friend once asked me how I managed to write so many books in such a short time when she could barely get one done every 12-18 months. She then went on to explain how she writes in her local coffee shop and has to discipline herself not to be distracted by the other people in the establishment.

Well, duh!

That's not true of all writers. I also know a writer or two have produced a lot of work in public places. But I believe that's rare. I'll bet if you polled writers who write in public places with a lot of traffic, you'll find them amongst the least productive. Sometimes I think people like to play the part of a writer more than the writing itself.

Look at me, I'm a writer!

Tip of the Day:
Don't sabotage yourself by writing in locations
that aren't conducive to productivity.
No matter how good the coffee or how cool it seems.

I don't like writing in public, but will do it when pressed. I've written in hotel rooms, on planes, in airports, on beaches, at lakes, even on a cruise ship. Except for airports and planes, most of the places I write while away from home are quiet and semi-private. Even on the cruise ship, I found a corner of a nearly empty bar and wrote undisturbed for a couple of hours.

Last month I wrote at a picnic table while looking out over a lake. This past weekend I wrote at the dining table at a friend's home in the mountains. In both places I was productive and found my surroundings soothing and conducive to concentration. But that said, the bottom line is I am at my most productive while sitting at my desk at home, even if there's no AC and the cats are bothering me for attention. That's were I can get comfortable (i.e., yoga pants/shorts and no bra) and get my mojo on.

Sometimes a change of venue helps jar the creative juices,
just so long as it doesn't prevent you from
getting those words on the page.

If you're having an issue with productivity, re-evaluate your writing environment. You don't need to have absolute quiet or banish the family to a locked room in the basement. Everyone is different. You just need what works for you and sometimes it takes time to figure out what that is.


Diane Vallere said...

I'm one of those library writers, and it's ridiculous how much more productive I am when I'm there. Somehow just the act of being out, away from home, puts me in the right frame of mind for writing or editing. There's also one particular Starbucks where I hang out when my car is at the mechanic, and every time I've written there, I've hit upwards of 6K words. Always fascinating how different processes work for different people!

Catsongea said...

A friend of mine posted a picture of a medium size cardboard box with a pan of ice in it with a cut out on top just the size of a fan (insert fan) with some plastic bottles with the bottoms cut out and stuck in the box to direct the airflow. Cheap air conditioning? lots of videos on youtube. But by the time you make it, it won't be hot anymore :) .