Advice on Writing, Vol. 3

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Now, everyone always asks me what the secret to great writing is," Chuck Sambuchino began at the end of an all-day writing conference in Milwaukee. My ears perked up, "And for the first five years of working for Writer's Digest I honestly answered 'There is no secret.'" My ears perked down. (Is that a thing?)

"But, I've worked there for ten years now, and in the last five years, I've noticed something. A distinguishing 'secret' so-to-speak that sets apart wanna-be writers from actual writers. I also know that, from teaching this workshop many times, that this is the piece of advice you are most likely to ignore."

What is it? Whatisit? WHAT IS IT?

"The secret to writing is to put down the remote."

Womp, womp.

Of course, he had a point. He had THE point, really. Great writers make time for writing. You make time for writing by taking time you are spending on something else (cough *bingewatchingshows* cough) and repurposing that precious time for writing.

I did smile a little when he said 'put down the remote' because it seemed just a tad out-dated to me. Remote? I hardly use a remote. We don't even have cable (Just Netflix & an ESPN/HBO password). The remote is not my arch nemesis when it comes to writing. I still have one, though. It's smaller than the remote and much more powerful. Enter: the iPhone.

So, I started doing this incredibly bizarre thing when I want to write, uninterrupted. Turning off my iPhone, and turning off the internet.

Wait? The internet? Don't you need it to research? 

Short answer: No, not really.

I keep a pen and paper by me where I write down any questions I want to look up later online. I use a thesaurus (a real paper one!) if needed. Sounds crazy, but the benefits (uninterrupted writing time) far outweigh the costs (can't Google something in the name of "research"). From experience, 'researching' online seldom leads to great ground-breaking content for my book and often leads to me reading the entire life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the backstories of all the actors/actresses on Little House on the Prairie for no reason whatsoever.

Often, I give myself a one or two-hour all writing, no phone, no internet block. Even better if I'm in a public place (coffee shop) so I can't spend the entire 2 hours petting Tywin.

My only goal now is to do this much more often. I think if I did this four of five times a week I would be much more productive as a writer.

I do think this advice applies to really any goal, not just writing. For example, if you want to be an amazing cook? Put down the remote/iPhone. Do you want to be an amazing runner? An amazing singer? An amazing piano player? An amazing yogi? :) The opportunities are endless.

Do you have any good tips for making writing time or controlling iPhone addictions? Would love to hear!

P.s. I found this Lively Show on How to Get the Most out of your Fringe Hours helpful!
P.p.s. Writing advice from Cheryl Strayed.

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