For me the hardest part of writing is simply sitting in front of this blasted computer and punching these rotten buttons. Turning my thoughts into coherent sentences is a difficult task and to be honest I’d much rather be walking the dogs…or staining the deck…or getting a tooth pulled. More months ago than I care to admit I agreed to contribute to this blog. I thought the commitment would force me to overcome my writing laziness. Hah! Weeks and months have past and I have grown guilty over my lack of contributions to the blog, but never has my shame gotten so great that it forced me to write.
Many people say finding the time to write is a problem. I disagree. We can all find time to do anything we think is important enough – the real trick is forcing yourself to write when it is just so easy to spend the time surfing the internet, watching t.v. or just about anything but button punching. Finding the time is not the problem. Using the time to write is the problem.
As I was walking into work today, thinking about all the resolutions I have not achieved, I saw my friend Will Ferguson sitting at a picnic table reading. I walked over to chat and found out he was waiting for his son to finish soccer practice. I asked how he was and he said he had been crazy busy. A “perfect storm of writing deadlines” was the phrase he used. “I’m such a procrastinator!” He said “I always wait until I absolutely have to write to actually do it.”
We made the typical small talk. He had been so busy that his family had barley gotten out of town at all this summer. “It must be easier for you with no kids,” he said, “You and Sara can take off anytime at the drop of a hat.” I had to then make up some lame excuses about my wife and I being really busy at work, but Will was smart enough to see through it. “You have to get away, if even just a day trip to Canmore or something. You have to force yourself to do it.” Because I can get away almost anytime, I never have made myself actually do it. It was, Will observed, the same thing with writing. “When a deadline is far off I feel like I have lots of time, so of course I don’t do any writing - it’s only when time is running out that I make myself do it.”
Well, I’m no dummy. I suddenly realized that if I can get Will Ferguson, author of many Canadian best-selling books, to talk about writing then I’ve got myself a blog post! Trying to sound casual, I ask in an off-handed tone, “It must be difficult to get started with a project. Have you learned any methods to make it easier?”
“The tough thing is organizing your ideas so you can then work with them,” he said. “One thing that really helps me is that I dictate my ideas into a recorder and have them typed out for me. Then I have these blocks of writing (he mimes grabbing invisible objects in the air) that are literally like the building blocks. I just rearrange them (hands now shifting invisible objects every which way) any way I want. It really makes it much easier to organize.”
“Hmm. Very interesting. Would you recommend this to anyone having trouble getting started writing?”
“Huh? Sure. I have told lots of writers to do this.”
It was at this point in our conversation that I remembered running into him on the street about twelve years earlier. At the time he told me he was going to a hotel room he had rented to write in. He could have written at home, but found there were far too many distractions so he thought he would be more productive if he had a dedicated writing space. I asked Will if he remembered that.
“Oh, yeah. I had this idea that I’d be incredibly productive if I knew the room was costing me money. The only problem, of course, was there was a television in the room. The first day I just sat there (now he mimes a remote in his hand, his thumb furiously pushing buttons) for hours. I got nothing done. So I called down to the desk and asked to have my cable disconnected. They must have thought I was some kind of crazy artiste, but they said they would do it. I came in the next day and guess what? Someone had just unscrewed the cable from the back of the set! So of course I re-attach it and (the invisible remote is back in his hand, thumb furiously pushing buttons) another day shot. So I have to get them to actually remove the television from the room, which is not easy because the thing is bolted down, but they did it and from then on I could write.”
This stuff is gold! Will has practically written my blog for me!
“So, Will, would you say that it is important for the aspiring writer to have a dedicated work space, free of distractions?”
“What? Well, yeah. That’s the point.”
The soccer practice was wrapping up and I had to go to work. We shook hands and went our separate ways. At the first chance I got I sat down and wrote out the episode and now you are reading it.
Now if I could only arrange some time off work before the snow flies.
Click here to place your hold on Will Ferguson's forthcoming "Canadian Pie", set for release on October 22, 2011.