18 Feb 2017

Strategies: How to Press On

My fellow writers, here’s my fear: you’re not writing. I’m afraid that the barrage of chaos from the White House is pounding down on you. I’m afraid you read the news and feel like your arms and legs have been ripped from your body — maybe I’m projecting. Let me be dull here and just offer a few strategies to get back to the page. Know that I’m being selfish. It’s hard enough to think of all that’s being ripped from so many of the people in this country; I don’t want to think that your writing is also being taken from us.

Here goes. You’re going to have to cordon things off. It’s the only way to survive.

1. Set a timer on your phone. Disconnect. Two-hour chunks. You’re going to have to do this with your elbows out, fiercely.

2. You might want to try writing differently than you have in the past. If you didn’t write to music, try it — with headphones on.

3. Have a weird food that’s hard to eat nearby — sunflower seeds or something — so your hands are busy when you’re taking a break and gazing. You won’t be as likely to drift back online.

4. Keep the best books around you at all times. Don’t reconnect before your time is up. Open one of the books.

5. Tape the picture of a writer you deeply admire over your desk. Let them keep an eye on you.

6. The administration’s constant chaos is a mental loop that will keep whirring in the back of your mind, taking energy and attention, drawing you back to it. Write a list of a few things you want to do once you’re finished writing — a rep you’re going to call and two articles you’re going to read. Writing lists helps close mental loops, studies show.

7. Hold each other to it. Create small groups or one-on-ones that hold each other accountable and check in to make sure you’re still meeting your allotted time at the page.

8. When you get back online, set a time limit for that too.

9. Each of us can’t hand over ourselves, our time, our energy to constant vigilance. This isn’t on you alone. When you’re writing, know that we’re all taking turns keep watch.

10. If you can, use it. Let what’s happening in, let it alter your state. Write from that feeling of being torn up, write full-steam, armless, legless, heart-ful.

Most of all, press on.