If I’m not careful, my days break into too many small pieces: I have a variety of interests and responsibilities that clamor for attention, and want to give them all time and energy. But doing so can be wearing, and leave me huddled over the desk after sundown with a sense that not much was accomplished in any arena.
When several of those days pile together, I resolve to focus, to start the next morning by thinking in terms of chunks more than bits, hours more than minutes. Segments when things will happen.
On days like that, I section off a chunk for fiction, and set to it with determination. Usually, it works out rather well: time flies, and words show up on paper (the quality of those words is another story, as I’m also trying not to get too worked up about sentences or paragraphs during these early drafts, trying to listen to those who say ‘put words down before giving your inner editor license to critique’. Success in this is occasional).
The wrench? Reading over what’s appeared on the page. Sometimes, I like it fine. Other times, not so much. Recent case in point: a story that is unfolding more as a batch of episodes than as a sequence of events had me in its throes, and I bashed out another few hundred words only to find upon review that what I’d written would not do. Too many new ideas, too many unexplained pieces, too much drama for what needed to follow. Argh! One of my chunks wasted.
I went for a quick walk, grabbed a snack, checked email. A new idea occurred, and so I bent to that. Much better fit this time. So why couldn’t I have done it right the first time? This ‘technique’ seems rather inefficient.
Recollection of a story/urban legend about Thomas Edison floated in, how the esteemed inventor was trying to find what would hold a current and illuminate a gas to create a light. He tried this, that, and the other thing, failing each time. Are you discouraged? he was asked. Not at all, he replied. Now I know what doesn’t work.