Dreams III


So let’s try to sum this up. Dreams fall under that Sacred Rule category. Anyone that has ever taken an art class knows this one, Know It Before You Break It. Of course, with nothing written on the topic, it’s hard to figure out just what, exactly, the rule on dreams is. I’m really tempted to pay the twenty bucks for that article that I mentioned in the first dream post … but not tempted enough. Instead, let’s go over what we know and set up some basic guidelines to help us navigate this Bermuda Triangle of writing.

Ground Rules:

  • As with all else in writing, your dream sequence must serve a purpose. That purpose must be big enough to justify using a dream. Because dreams are on the edge of what is considered allowable, the justification must be even stronger than for your typical scene.
  • The dream must take place in a way that does not halt the forward momentum of the story.
  • The dream should be easily identifiable from the outset as being a dream. To do otherwise is to play a cheap trick on your reader, allowing them to believe that one thing is real only to stop and say, “just kidding.” Besides, that goes against one of the cardinal rules of writing, “Don’t betray your reader’s trust.”
  • Because dreams are the dialogue of the subconscious mind, the dream (I feel) should deliver to the reader information that the character is not yet aware of. In a sense, the reader should be psycho analyzing the dream, trying to figure out what it is that makes your character tick.
  • If a dream is nothing more than a flashback, think about using a flashback (we’ll explore flashbacks in the next post); otherwise, the dream should appear to be a real dream, disjointed and making little obvious sense.
  • When in doubt, remember that in most cases dreams are considered cheats. It is often the writer trying to dump information without having to work hard.

When it works:

  • In Charles de Lint’s Onion Girl he uses dreams as the place where the main character escapes to. But in de Lint’s work, the dreamscape is an actual place where people remain conscious. It is a believable secondary world. So it makes sense for scenes to take place there.
  • I have been told that in James Lee Burke’s novels, specifically In the Electric Myst with Confederate Dead, dreams are strongly tied into the story. Without them clues would not be understood nor mysteries solved. But the dreams in this case are the main character’s subconscious reaching out to remind him of things from his past. This is a much more believable and realistic use of dreams.

And for now, this is where I am going to leave it. Remember, the last thing you want to do is push the reader too far from reality. In the realm of fantasy writing, we’re already an extra step removed from the real world, don’t compound that problem by asking the reader to take yet another. We’re reading a made up story (strike one) about a fantastical world unlike our own (strike two) and now you would like us to take a look at your imaginary character’s imagination. Whether you do this realistically enough, within the confines of the rules of your secondary world is what will dictate whether or not the umpire following along in the reader’s head calls strike three or not.

Adding A Word Count Status Bar


My thoughts get a bit fragmented at times. Has something to do with being a creative type of person. So, one minute I’ll be thinking “gotta get the dream blog finished up,” and the next I’ll be thinking, “oh man, that’s a really cool word count status bar, I’ve got to figure out how they did that.” And so we have today’s blog about a status bar rather than finishing up dreams. I’ll post that tomorrow. Really. No, I promise. I really, really promise.  


Now, I could do a bunch of research on all sorts of status bars, and in fact, at one time I did. I looked at a bunch of fancy graphics and the like but in the end decided on nothing at all. They all required me to fiddle around with html coding and updating manually on the blog, so I scrapped the idea. There was also the added risk of the site vanishing and your word counts vanishing with it.


Well, in my blog meandering, I came across a blog post [here] at nixyvalentine.com on this very subject. She used to use something called Zokutou until they vanished. Then she happened upon honorless.net. This progress bar is completely code generated; therefore, it does not vanish when the site vanishes. And because the webpage is also completely code generated, you can save it to your computer and run it without being online.


Simply type in your parameters, click the “Refresh Code” button and voila! Now copy that updated html in the box below and you’ve got your code. Drop it into an html box (in blogger or wherever you can use straight code in on the site of your choice) and you’ve got a status bar.


Want to title your status bar? Just type the title in before the coding and then add a break (a < followed by br followed by >) to get the status bar to appear below your title. After that string of code is done, add a couple more breaks and start over again with your next project. You can see mine in the crowded sidebar to the right.


By clicking on the “Appearance” button you can change fonts, colors and all sorts of other stuff. For mine, I changed the height to 4 pixels, the colors, and the font. I also changed the width to 100%. The percentage on the width will be how much of the column your status bar takes up. Because mine is appearing in a rather thin column, I had it take up the entire space whereas if it were appearing on a webpage (like it does when you are generating your code) it would need to be scaled down, like to 30% the way they have it on the site.

And there you have it. Now interested parties can keep up with your progress. You’ve also got a nice reminder that you’re actually getting things done, or conversely, you have a reminder of how much you’re NOT getting done. J  If any of this doesn’t make sense, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do to clarify things. When it comes to coding and the like, I’m like a two year French student trying to travel France without the aid of a translator. 

Dreams Part II: When they work


Alright, yes, we are only a week into my commitment to have a new blog up every Friday and I’ve already failed. I have a good excuse. Really…. Alright, so I don’t have a good excuse. Or at least it’s no better than anyone else’s excuse. It’s called life and procrastination.


I will say this, I thought this second part of the Dreams blog was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be. You see, I figured I’d gather up a few sources that were pro dreams, distil that information down to something blog sized, and voila! “Mais non!” (I have a fascination with the French language) the information I sought was not to be found. I think that speaks a little to the issue at hand.


First, I turned to my many books on writing, none of which had anything about dreams. I then turned to the internet where I found very little and what I did find had very little useful information. Finally, I headed off to the bookstore to see what I could find there. Alright, alright, so it was a sad attempt at an excuse to buy more books. But don’t worry, I didn’t buy anything. Of course that was only because I couldn’t find anything in the writing section that had any references to dreams. So it looks like I’m not going to be able to beg, borrow and bite any of this.


Unfortunately, I’m at a loss for times where I have come across dreams in fiction that I thought worked well. By in large, people just don’t do it. The few times that I can remember seeing it in recent memory are on the screen in some capacity. In a post on “Adventures in Writing” by blogger Dave, he mentioned the bat dream sequence in the latest Batman series, Harry Potter, and George RR Martin. While the blogger known only as Dave gives examples of dreams he thinks work, he doesn’t explain why they work, and that’s really the point of all of this. So, I’ll do his job for him and try to figure out what it is that made these work.


Dave notes that in Batman Begins, the dream is a boyhood memory that haunts Bruce Wayne into adulthood. As with the poster on the Fantasy Writing Group that got all of this started in the first place, what we seem to be dealing with is not really a dream, but an excuse to use a flashback. Indeed, the shot that Dave speaks of does not play out as a surreal dream, it is a fully realized scene from the Pro’s past (for those of you who don’t know, I tend to use ‘Pro’ often, meaning ‘Protagonist’). And I’m going to deal with this notion of flashbacks soon because I’ve found a great deal relating to that topic. For now, we have to ask ourselves if the dream was even necessary? If it serves as nothing more than a flashback, why not simply go with the flashback?


As for Harry Potter, I can see the dreams serving three purposes:

  •        The threat of Voldemort is made real to the viewer and Harry while keeping his identity hidden.
  •        Dreams of long dark hallways and locked doors take on a far more psychological bent which tip the reader off to Harry’s inner turmoil.
  •        A connection is made between Harry and Voldemort, hinting that it is possible for Harry to travel down this same road of corruption.


As far as “A Game of Thrones” goes, the dreams that Dave speaks of come during Bran’s time in a comma. Whether or not these are really dreams is up to debate. With the addition of a three eyed crow that helps to teach Bran how to open his third eye and apparently bring on the “skin-change,” it is questionable that these were dreams at all. They sound more akin to soul flight to me, or convening with ones spirit guide as in Native American tradition. None-the-less let us assume that they are dreams, or at the very least explore why Martin needed them.


Because the character of Bran would eventually be a player further on in the story, it was necessary to keep him alive in the mind of the reader. Were Martin to simply drop his character into the oblivion of a coma and then have him wake up one day, hundreds of pages later, the reader would have lost all attachment with said character. It also ups the ante for the attempts on his life because we are in on the secret that Bran is definitely still alive in his body and not merely a vegetable in a coma. We also have the third element of Bran’s development as a character. Bran does not simply go into a coma, remain stationary during that time and then wake up with his development in the same place it was when he went into the coma. Bran comes out of the coma a changed person.


The only other article that I could find on the web supporting dreams in fiction came from Chris Wayan. It appears on his website from almost twenty years ago and reads more like a defense of his use of dreams in his own work than an exploration of how to make them work. Indeed, even Dave seems to be on the defensive in his article because he too has used dreams in the very beginning of one of his novels. Mr. Wayan is more interested in the surreal accounts of dreams than the cut and paste scene’s that we’ve dealt with elsewhere. Though I did not find the article of much use, I provide a link to it here so that you can judge for yourselves.


Eleven years ago, Christina Holmes posted a query about authors who use dreams as integral parts of their stories. A list of the responses follows:

Shoeless Joe - WP Kinsella
Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis
Perfect Sonya by Beverly Lowry
Strangers From the Sky (Star Trek novel) by Margaret Wander Bonanno
The Unwanted by Jon Saul
Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll 
Acts of Faith by Hans Koning
The Bannaman Legacy : a novel by Catherine Cookson 
The beginner's book of Dreams by Elizabeth Benedict
Redeye : a novel by Richard Aellen
Wine of the dreamers by John D. MacDonald 
London fields by Martin Amis 
Meridon by Philippa Gregory 
Sideshow by Anne D. LeClaire
Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
the Newford books by Charles de Lint


Of the list, LeGuin’s book came highly recommended and was even made into two movies although it does sound a bit surreal. Imagine your dreams coming true, no matter how bizarre. That’s the premise of LeGuin’s book. Now throw into the mix a psychiatrist that doesn’t believe that your dreams come ture (of course you are the only person that knows that they do) and have said psychiatrist secretly take control of your dreams. Sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone, if you ask me.


But of course, these are examples of dreams acting as driving forces in the plot. I think that is something that should be noted.


And for now, I will leave it at that. Because I was late on this post, I am going to double up. Tomorrow I’ll go over what I think are the ground rules when dealing with dreams. Break them at your own peril.

Getting Lost in the Dream: Why New Writers Should Steer Clear of Dream Sequences


Before I get into this week’s post, I thought I’d take a moment to make a little commitment. My “Worst Enemy” book says that they’re a good thing. Wishy washy statements are nothing more than loopholes that we leave so that we can back out of doing things. Therefore, from now on I’ll have a new post up every Friday. I figure Friday’s are good because you can look it over while at work and then put the ideas to work during your weekend writing. The Friday posts will be serious writer type stuff. Anything silly or anecdotal will come in the in-between spaces. So, if anyone catches me slipping, make sure you point it out.


I actually have a few different posts in various forms of completion that I was going to choose from, but decided to go with something altogether new for today’s post. The idea comes from the Fantasy Writing group that I am a part of on Yahoo. It’s a great place if you need some cheerleading and is very active. So if you are in need of differing viewpoints on a question, want to share your work with others, or just need a bunch of people to pat you on your back for a job well done, I highly suggest signing up. Again, someone wrote in with a question and it got me thinking. As usual, there were a few people who jumped forward with “do whatever your fuzzy wuzzy wittle writer’s heart tells you,” so I just had to take a stand for quality writing and say “NO.”


The question: “How long is too long for a dream sequence.”

My answer: “As soon as it starts.”


Now of course this isn’t a hard and fast rule, (like using ‘isn’t’ in a sentence) but it is a good rule for new writers to follow. I sure as heck do. What it is, is one of those rules that you don’t get to break until you can say definitively why you are breaking it and show how it is okay. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not sure. So don’t use it.


Let’s talk about why.


To begin, we have to understand the nature of our relationship with the reader in this context. Samuel Taylor Coleridge put forth the notion of a willing suspension of disbelief with regards to literature. His assertion was that the reader enters the text with this suspension of disbelief. Basically the reader is willing to say, “Alright, I know this isn’t real, but I’m going to play along and pretend that it is.” It’s how we end up feeling empathy for characters that we know aren’t real.


While I think that it is easy enough to do this with characters in a believable primary world where the setting is either much like our own or one set in the past, I think that it grows even more difficult when you add the fantastic. Of course, the reader of the fantastic wants to be misled, they can’t pretend away the fact that they are firmly grounded in reality but they are willing to go a little further down the rabbit hole with you. So whereas I would say that the reader of fiction is once removed, I’d say that the reader of the fantastic is a little less than twice removed from reality (unless of course we are talking about D&Ders, they might be less than once removed). That’s a tenuous connection, so to keep it you have to be careful with what you put your reader through.


In the Journal of European Studies, David Mitchell talks about this very point in his article “What use are dreams in fiction?” (In the interest of full disclosure I’ll note that I haven’t read the entire article as I’m not willing to pay $20 to read beyond the first page provided in the link) Mitchell puts it this way, “We can care what happens to a character one level of reality down: going down two, to a dream within a story, is another tough act to pull off. ‘Oh no you don’t’, I tell Charles Maturin, author of Melmoth the Wanderer, ‘you’ve already said that this is a vision inside a recollection inside a manuscript, etc.” Imagine adding the further complication of ‘a vision inside a recollection inside a fantasy inside a manuscript.”


Another writer in the Yahoo group brought up an interesting point that had to do with the very nature of dreams themselves. A real dream is usually fragmented and rather surreal. They are not clear, organized settings. Often it’s something along the lines of, “Okay, so I was at your house, but it wasn’t your house it was Joe’s house, but Joe was a spaghetti monster and that didn’t really bother me, then the ceiling turned into cabbage and all of a sudden we weren’t at your house anymore, we were on the Battle Star Galactica, but it wasn’t the Galactica, it was the Millennium Falcon, and you were Chewy and Terry was Saul, and …” But when we come across these dreams in literature, unless we’re talking about something like “In Watermelon Sugar” by Richard Brautigan, the dream usually comes across as a very structured scene with a specific goal. Sometimes, as in the case of the person who posed the question on the message board, you can’t even tell that you are in a dream until you’ve reached the point where they wake up, or worse (more on that later). But dreams aren’t structured. And in the same way that even the fantastic has to be rooted in reality, so too do the dreams.  


By creating dreams that are nothing more than scenes that are not real, we are breaking the rules of reality. Unless you set up specific rules within your secondary world that say that dreams don’t work the way that our dreams do in the real world, you can’t break the rule of how dreams play themselves out.


So what’s the “or worse” that I was talking about? It’s not when we start out with the realization that we are in a dream, in my opinion that is the best case scenario, it’s when we wander down the road of the dream accepting it as just another scene in the story, until suddenly we get to a point where things become so outrageous, so unbelievable that we realize that it’s a dream before we are told that it’s one. In the same way that dreams seem to fall apart in real life once we figure out we’re dreaming, so too does that magical web of disbelief fall apart under the strains of the outrageous.


What you as the author have done is effectively betrayed the reader’s trust. You’ve played a joke at the expense of the reader all so that you could show how witty you are. From this point on, your reader is going to have to question scenes any time they start to feel even the slightest bit outrageous. This removes your reader from the world of your story. They stop and think, “Wait, is this another dream?”


And this post is getting rather long, so I’m going to stop it here, continue writing and post the next section in which we talk about some possibilities where dreams can work, and the most likely places a writer will try to use them. (here’s a hint, we use them when we are trying to take the easy way out). 

Save Yourself!!!


Today’s post has to do with a bit of techy stuff. I’m sure many of you already do these sorts of things, but it’s always worth reminding folks just in case.

First order of business! All you Live Journalers click on the picture and go read that article. Seems the evil hackers are hacking LJ accounts and spreading their evilness everywhere. 

It used to be that one of the most dreaded things about a fire (aside from the potential loss of life) was the chance of losing all those memories. Picture albums gone up in a blaze, old keepsakes melted down to slag. And so we all take precautions from fire alarms to fire safes. Even if we didn’t go so far as to lock things away in safes, we still had the odds on our side. I mean, how many people do you know who have had their house burn down?


But then one day technology snuck into our lives and it now seems that we can’t live them without it. Financial data, digital photos, music collections, movies, and most important of all with respects to writers, our stories, are all stored on our trusty computers in a lovely digital format that will stand the test of time. The trouble is, hell has loosed its minions in the form of angry little computer demons who write viruses and trojans and worms “oh my.” And in the blink of an eye all that work, all of those hours, days, weeks, months and years of tireless writing and hair pulling are all gone without even a few charred remains to cry over.


Unfortunately, this is not one of those things that we can assume “will never happen to me.” As one of my writing group partners can attest, we can all get struck by a virus, and the odds are that eventually we will. When it hit her it wiped out everything. That’s right, imagine your ‘Documents’ folder gone. Imagine it all being gone. It was enough to scare the begezus out of me. So I set about beefing up security and the like and thought of a few things to share.


Immune System: Make sure you have a good anti-virus software on your computer. I used to mess around with trying to find good free alternatives until one day I realized that losing what was on my hard-drive was far more expensive than saving a few bucks on a software subscription.


First, I got McCaffee and for a year I was very happy with it until they upgraded to another version, a version that I was able to track back to my system slowing to a crawl because of it’s resource demands. And I really did track it back to McCaffee because I found two other people that had the same problems occur after the new version went up. They also both saw them go away after they shut McCaffee off at my request. I got my money back and did some research for a new program that ended up being Kaspersky.


Kaspersky, too, I had for a year. It came highly recommended by the reviews I had read, and I was quite happy with it until I got my new laptop which came with a trial version of Symantec. On a whim I scanned my computer with Symantec and found that Kaspersky had been missing a couple of viruses, so out went Kaspersky and in came Symantec. So far, so good.


Covering All Fronts: There are all sorts of disgusting little things waiting to creep onto your computer and do something naughty. Not all of them are malicious, some just want to use your resources or track what you’re doing. They’ll not delete your life’s work, but they can be an annoyance. This too is something that I would leave up to other free programs to fix for me, like Spybot. This latest time around I decided to let Symantec take care of it all, and again, so far so good. When getting anti-virus software, remember that you’ve also got to defend against Malware and Spyware.


Ah the Memories: The version of Symantec that I got comes with a backup feature. It will take your hard-drive, or portions of it, and back it up just in case it can’t prevent the almost inevitable. That’s a beautiful thing, but in a way the backup feature is a bit lacking. That sent me out looking for backup software.


What I found was a free application called Cobian Backup 9. According to CNet, it has all the bells and whistles of the big boy programs with none of their cost. (Reminds me, I need to make a donation to the maker of the program.) What I do with this program is run another backup, nightly, of my documents folder only. Cobian will allow you to create as many different backup plans as you would like, unlike Symantec.


Finding the Space: Right now, at Best Buy, you can pick up a 500 gigabyte external hard-drive for less than $100. You can’t beat that. Just plug it in via the USB port and save away. Or, perhaps you had a computer that went on the fritz, or maybe you upgraded. In that case you’ve likely got an old hard-drive lying around (like I do) that has plenty of room on it. If that’s the case, head to your local electronics store and pic up a hard-drive enclosure. They’re like $35. Can’t beat that either. Be sure to get the right one though. There are different pin sets for hard-drives (as I found out upon an incorrect purchase). Just take out your old hard-drive, slip it in the enclosure (this is really simple, so don’t fret). It too connects to your computer via a USB port, and Bingo, you’ve got yourself an external hard-drive.


Layering: As for me, I like to have more than one copy of everything in more than one place. For the most part, even though I have a desktop and a laptop, I like to do most of my writing on my laptop. True, the keyboard is not as fun to type with, but when I’m at home I just unplug my wireless keyboard from the desktop and plug it into the laptop. Problem solved. But being as my current work is on my laptop, I needed Cobian to help me keep things up to date.


As a part of my backup process, I have Cobian backup all of my document files to an external drive. I set Cobian to keep 5 complete backups of the documents folder before it starts updating changed files. This might require a little explanation.


Cobian gives you the ability to update only those files that have been modified since the last backup. This saves on system resources and time when it comes to the backup. But what happens when you make a change to a file, save it, then realize that, oops, you didn’t want to do that and you’ve already backed up? Well, if you set Cobian to have more than one complete version of the backup, you can go back to an older backup and recall the correct version of what you are working on. In my case, I have it set up for five versions. This means that for the first five days it will make a completely new and separate backup. On day six it goes back to the day one section and rewrites it with the current information. This gives me a five day cushion to figure out that I’ve goofed something up and that I need an older version. Sorta like those restore points that Microsoft creates, only these ones actually work.


Oh, but it doesn’t end there. After my friend lost her work, I got really paranoid about losing mine, so I added yet another layer of defense. At this point we have the original on my laptop, the Symantec backup of the entire computer to the external hard-drive, then a series of five copies on the external hard-drive through Cobian (document files being what they are, you can back up the entirety of your docs folder without much drain on the memory status, whereas pictures and the like would be a totally different story). My laptop is also hooked up to my desktop via the network. During the backup I ask Cobian to create yet another instance of five backups on the shared documents portion of my desktop computer. This creates a total of 12 possible duplicates of the same information in three different locations.


I take that back, make it lucky number 13, because the desktop also has Symantec on it and therefore has its own backup on a separate external hard-drive that is dedicated to that computer. I could, (and still might) have Cobian work on my desktop as well and do another series of document backups on the other external drive, but maybe that’s taking it a bit far.


If All Else Fails: There is also the option of paying for online storage. Remember that fire scare we talked about earlier? Well, let’s say that does happen. None of your computer equipment is fireproof, you can still send all that information up in smoke. With an online backup, supposing you have the bandwidth to support it and the money to pay for the storage space, you can backup information to some remote place on the web.


Poor Man’s Backup: There is also the burning of disks. Of course that’s something you have to remember to do, whereas dedicated hard-drives do it all for you automatically. And if you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve likely heard of the poor man’s copyright, where you print out your story and mail it to yourself so that you can use the sealed envelope with its postmarked date as evidence that you wrote your story when you said you did. (I’ve been told this doesn’t work anymore, so don’t bother). You can do the same for backing up your stories via more high tech means. In this case you email your story to yourself as an attachment. With email providers like Gmail offering over seven gigs of free space, you can likely back up all of your documents this way, keeping them secure on someone else’s server. And I don’t think that even the government’s servers are as safe as Google’s.


In closing, set aside one of your writing sessions for setting up at least one external hard-drive and backup program. If you ever get a virus you’ll be glad that you did. And trust me, it’s well worth the $100 dollars.


So does anyone else have any suggestions for backing things up or protecting one’s work that I have not talked about here?  



One of the things that I’ve been working on lately with regards to my writing life is focus. Of course, I haven’t tackled the other issue related to writer’s block, fear, but I’m getting there. For right now let’s focus on … focus.


As I’ve noted before, the first thing that I got to work on was creating a writing space, complete with flickering candles and music cued to set the scene of what I’m working on. Quite often I play the scores from movies, sometimes I go with straight classical, and then there are the times when I just want to hammer out the prose and I go with electronica. I can never seem to write with words being sung in the background as I find those words often crop up in what I’m trying to write.


Then there is Tai Chi, the ancient art of fighting in slow motion. Just kidding, don’t tell my Sifu that I said that. But I’ve found that, aside from the health benefits, it has really helped me to bring peace to my mind before I sit down and write. You spend the entire time focusing on breath and the memorization of steps. You can’t help but forget your troubles. And there are folks from all age groups in the class, so it is very accessible to writers both young and old.


The Tai Chi also relates to something that one of my writing group partners from NaNoWriMo had suggested, and that was physical activity jumpstarting the writing process. For her it is getting up and dancing, but I’m not much of a dancer, witnesses or no. For you it could be yoga, jumping jacks, maybe even a little cleaning. There’s something about getting the blood pumping and oxygen circulating that helps one think clearly. Just don’t go overboard to the point of exhaustion and “I need a short nap before I can write.”


So working on focusing was something that was already in the forefront of my mind when I happened to catch NPR’s Marketplace and an interview with Winifred Gallagher about her new book “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.” It was a very interesting interview that you can read or listen to here. She talks about the need for humans to realize that not only can we only focus on one complex task at a time, but that we also have a limited amount of focus that we can spend from day to day and in life overall. She asserts that, “(y)ou have enough attention for a 173-billion bits of information in your whole life. It's life money; it's like cognitive cash. And you've got to spend it carefully.”


She suggests that when you are sitting down to get serious work done, you turn off all distractions, cell phones, pagers (does anyone still have those), email popups, the internet, anything that might distract you from what you’re focusing on and get down to work. Doing so will free you up to be the most productive that you can be. She would like us all to aim for 90 minutes of uninterrupted time. The idea is that we can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth. What you’re doing is paying attention to one thing and then jumping to the next while you ignore the first and vice-versa. And if you really pay attention to how multitasking works, you’ll notice that when you try to go back to the first thing, it takes you a moment because you’ve derailed your thought process.


(If you’d like to hear me make a snarky comment about her detractors on national radio, tune in to Marketplace on May fourth, 2009 and catch the mail section. They rang me up and had me read a comment that I posted to the site so that they could play it on air during their mail montage Tuesday.)


This has been echoed before on Writing Excuses when they’ve talked about habits. As writers we have a tendency to think of things that need more research, and being that we do our work on computers, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of surfing the net while doing that research. “Well, I found the name of the islands that the U.S. conducted their nuclear bomb experiments on, but while I’m in this window I might as well check to see if anyone has commented on my most recent Facebook status,… and check my email,… and look up names from medieval England,… and check my calendar,… and, you get the point.


The point of all of this is: stop kidding yourself. If you want to create something great, or in my case, passable, you need to focus.


So here’s the question: What do you do to help you focus? What’s your routine? Better yet, what traps do you fall into that steer you away from the task at hand? Please share so that we can all learn from each other. After all, that’s what this blog is all about, sharing in the learning process that is writing. 

My son, the ultimate distraction going for a ride in his new red wagon along the canal and the family farm.