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Embracing My Writing Method: Multitasking

Since I started writing seriously back in 2012, I've had a lot of people ask me about my method. They're always curious what my secret is. How do I sit still and focus long enough to write a whole book?! I've always found the question kind of strange, honestly. I never really felt like I had a secret. I always just kind of figured that if I could write a book, so could anybody. However, it's taken me a long time to realize the methods that shape my madness. It's taken even longer to accept some of them, the most challenging of which being multitasking.

If I'm being honest, I find it incredibly challenging to sit still for hours on end and just write. Maintaining my focus that long is almost impossible. It's true that every once in a while I hit a certain groove that keeps me on task for as long as I can keep up with the momentum. Certain story arcs or character developments are just as invigorating to write as they are to read back later. However, just like I can't do my job without stepping away once in a while, writing is no different.

Looking up at the top of my browser right now, I find myself with 18 separate tabs open. The tabs range from this blog post to word searches to checklists to music to random videos. The trick about writing vs going to my day job is that I'm the one responsible for keeping myself on task. There's no boss popping in to check on me and threaten me if I'm screwing around when I should be writing. It's oh so easy to scroll through music selections, trying to find just the right one to trigger the mood I'm looking for before I get started on the next section. Sometimes I find myself watching any number of YouTube videos just for a chuckle and to reset the thoughts rattling around in my head.

The problem is that, while there are obvious benefits to taking a break, my biggest struggle with this method has always been getting down on myself for it. When I sit down to write, especially in the early days, I used to get really upset when my mind would drift and I'd step away from what I'd planned to do. It was all to easy to berate myself for doing something other than writing. This reaction only served to make matters worse, putting me out of a creative mood altogether, letting the momentary distractions become full blown abandonments of my writing.

It's taken a long time (and I'm still working on it) to learn to embrace this method in what I do. Frankly speaking, I need to be able to shift in and out of my writing at will. Sometimes it's a chance to take my mind off of a moment of writer's block. I'll stare at my screen forever, having no idea where to take my story, struggling to come up with something that doesn't read like absolute garbage. I can't even count the number of times scrolling through Facebook has broken that petrification, only to relax me enough to have my "Aha!" moment at long last so I can shift back to writing and move forward.

At other times, I find myself so emotionally entranced in what I'm doing, I need to take a break just to get a grasp on the situation. My focus can become so honed in on a singular piece of the story, that I start to lose track of the bigger picture. 15 minutes of Game Grumps later and I'm ready to re-evaluate where my narrative is as a whole and move it forward in a far more satisfying way.

Some days, I straight up don't feel like writing at all. I sit down, rest my fingers on the keyboard and mapping out the path Skye and her friends take next is the absolute last thing I want to spend my time on. However, I always try to remind myself of the importance of why I sat down in the first place. I love writing. I love my books, my worlds, my characters. Sometimes looking after them feels a bit more like work than I'm ready for in a moment, but give me a little bit of screwing around on my phone and I might just find that glimmer of imagination that's ready to dive in and get things moving again.

So what's the point of my yammering this week? I guess what I'm focused on, what I realized when I sat down and wondered what I wanted to blog on about this week, is how far I've come in accepting that, at least for me, distraction is as much of my writing process as anything. It's not the only part, of course. I still have to do my mapping process. I still have to make sure I'm comfy and try my best to block out interruptions that pull me completely out of my writing (like I literally just closed the tab with Facebook on it because the flashing notifications were pulling my attention away unnecessarily). But learning to accept the need to not just force myself to sit and write and write and write, to make myself produce without so much as breaking away, it's been a huge help. These days, I can start writing, feel myself start to fizzle out, take a mental step back for a handful of minutes and dive back in, crafting a lot more quality writing than if I'd just stayed the course and forced myself to do what my mind couldn't handle for a moment.

If you're interested in writing your own story or if you're just getting started and you're still trying to figure out your method, I'd suggest not worrying. I'll be honest, I'm no pro. I'm sure you can get better advice from people far more practiced than I am at pumping out priceless pieces of quality work. But if you've read this far and you're curious to know what I'd suggest, I'd suggest taking it a day at a time and trying whatever feels right. Writing is a process, one that's unique to the person doing the writing. I don't believe any one method is the right fit for every writer/artist out there. If it was, I doubt the final products would be a vast and varied as the myriad of works we have to choose from today. It just comes down to finding what leaves you feeling the best and most proud of the work you do.

If you've developed your own methods for writing or creating art, I'd love to hear about them. What do you do to keep yourself sane while you take whatever you find inside yourself and forge it into something for the rest of the world?

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