Highway to the Writing Zone: Email and Other Little Deaths

The groggy man crawled out from under the covers, grasping for his morning addiction. Drunk as a lord, drunk as a piper, drunk as a skunk, drunk as a fiddler, drunk as an owl or just plain dead drunk, he searched beside table, pants pockets, under the pillow, for his morning sustenance. 6 am. It’d been at least two hours since last he’d indulged and he’d found treasure, and prepared to open his hip flask for the first acrid taste of his addiction. In his hand, he held the glowing tempting eye of his cell phone, ready to check his messages.

First, he checked gmail. Between the adverts, the recriminations, the work he still he had to complete, and an invite to a social event he gleaned nothing useful from imbibing his morning swig of the internet. It didn’t even shock him awake anymore, he used to the harsh flavor that filled him. Maybe a particular email surprised him in some way, but only in minor ways, unimportant ways. Very rarely did it even trigger an emotional reaction beyond the usual cold annoyance of one sick of interruptions and pettiness. So when he sat down to write his first of the day, he was already gone. He couldn’t think about the worlds building, the stories he was telling, the epic loves unfolding in his narrative, no. All that was on his mind was the world, the people who had failed to send him the email he wanted and the ones who had sent him the email he wished he’d not read first thing in the morning. Not even the black taste of bad coffee could scrub the email from his mind. This writing time, wasted because he was in email mind.

I learned a lesson recently. Well, a couple, but this is focusing one. Since New Years and in part inspired by this post by Scott Sigler, I’d been writing everyday first thing. But lately, there have been issues. See, I have other responsibilities besides writing. Despite all my attempts to the contrary, I’m still involved with the world around and at times it requests my attention. At times, I worry about it. At times, I wake up in the morning and wonder if someone has acted on that email and hoping that everything is better now. Maybe it is. But I’ve learned checking my email first thing is a fatal flaw to this particular writer.

Let’s say I’m working on a project like creating a website. I sent a major email and am awaiting a reply and it could any of three ways. The person could blow me off and not respond. The person could get mad or not do what I want. Or they could act in accord with my wishes, send the info I need, and now I’m in a position to move forward.

If they do they first and ignore the email, I’m confused. I’m fuming. And that follows me into my wordcraft. Instead of first thing writing being about the writing, it’s about me and my mood. That’s great if I’m writing a fight scene or destroying a planet but not so good if I’m working on comic relief or a happy reunion.

If they respond in a frustrating manner, then I’m totally frustrated. It’s like no response but times ten. Instead of wondering what they’ll, I’m wondering how I’m going to complete the task now. I’m problem solving. I’m planning. What I’m not doing is putting one word in front of the other till there’s a story told.

Worst, if they respond positive. If I get the forms I need to fill out or the text I need to edit, then that task is before me. It’s my writing time and here I am thinking about a job that isn’t writing.

It doesn’t matter. Good news, bad news, horrible news. I’ve noticed most of the time, if it’s news by email, it’s something I could wait to read, at least for an hour. So when I check email, the quality of my writing suffers until I can refocus. In this case checking email functions as procrastination or even addiction and sometimes I think getting my email forwarded to my phone was a mistake.

However, it isn’t an impossible to simply not check it. To say I’ll get those first words out then see what the internet has to say. It’s as simple as showing restraint and as difficult.

As I’ve been forming the habit of writing every morning, I’ve found a number of things that really help get me into my writing brain and a number things that push me out of it. Having a nice cool glass of water and a cup of coffee are important tools at my writing desk. Having a live internet connection is usually poison. The write music is gold, a tv show is distraction. The verdict is still out on clothes.

I think it might be different for every writer but I do think every writer has those things they need to do or not do before or have or not have before getting in to the writing zone. What are yours?

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