Distractions, Delays, and Postponements in Writing

Regardless of how badly authors want to write, sometimes we are unable to escape life’s distractions that inevitably invade and diminish our writing time.

Unexpected company, sickness, business meetings, or necessary errands can cut into our scheduled writing time, causing a postponement or delay. For some authors who also work full-time, the window of time is often small.

For a long time, these abrupt interruptions triggered a sense of wasted time or missed opportunities to get more words on the page. I fretted, wanting to return to writing the next scenes or episodes of dialogue in my WIP. Sometimes I berated myself, even though the circumstances preventing me from writing were necessary or due to issues beyond my control. As I’ve matured as a writer over the years, an epiphany eventually emerged.

After a major distraction had kept away from the keyboard for several days, I finally returned to pick up where I had left off in my WIP. When I had left the project, my mind held the suspicion of where the story was heading but something odd occurred.

My normal, daily, process of writing is to back up 3-6 pages of what I had written the day before. Generally, by doing so, I catch obvious errors I had overlooked while under the trance of visualizing the story while writing. For some reason, when I’m in a writing sprint, my fingers don’t always write the words my mind signals my fingers to write. Often, I find these errors, correct them, and add more layers of description or dialogue, which strengthens those scenes. By the time I’ve reached the last words written from the day before, the amount of pages have doubled, and I’m ready to move forward. Then, it happens.

Suddenly a character says something unexpected, giving new information that pivots the story off track and in a different, better direction, which enhances the story. After this occurred on various occasions, in different novels, it dawned on me that had the interrupted flow of writing not been derailed by distractions, the character probably wouldn’t have said the words.

As a proponent of Bradbury’s “Follow the characters,” I’ve found his timeless advice to be solid. Perhaps I missed the volume of quantity during the time I was unable to write, but I gained better quality with new insight I might never have had.

So I’ve learned that unexpected breaks or delays aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Short breaks help. And on those anguishing days when life gets in the way and unavoidable delays prevent me from writing, I no longer get anxious. In the depths of my mind, these characters are still working through the problems where I had left them on the page. Who knows what route they’ll choose when I sit to write again?


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Until next time …

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