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Monday, October 12, 2009

Keeping the Writing Rhythm

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Once you get into a rhythm of writing, you don't want to stop, but life forces you to. Dinner has to be made, the kids need attention, the laundry must be done, you have to go to your real paying job, etc. When those interruptions take place, how do you stop what you're doing, and come back to it hours or days later without forcing it and losing the momentum you had?

As someone who has been known to write in doctor's offices, at lunch in restaurants, in the car traveling, in airports, I squeeze in writing wherever and whenever I can. My full-time job forces me to do this. I would love to be able to get up in the morning get my coffee, see my daughter off to school and my husband off to work, and then head off to the computer room to write. But my life isn't like that and I've finally come to accept it.

Here are a few writing tips that help me keep my rhythm when I've been interrupted.

1) Try to stop writing in the middle of a scene or conversation where things are intense. It will be easier to pick back up where you left off than to start fresh from a slow area in a scene.

2) Reread the last scene you've written and review any character notes to refresh your memory of what each character would do next.

3) If you write historical, play some music in the background from that particular time period. If you're in public, wear earphones or an ipod.

4) Meditate and imagine your characters' surroundings, their expressions, their reactions to what is happening to them.

What are some ways that help you get back into your writing rhythm after an interruption? Please share.


These are great tips! Getting interrupted while working is one of my biggest pet peeves and I am always cranky to the unfortunate person who breaks my concentration :) Personally I also re-read what I've written to get myself back into the flow of writing. I also need music to write and replaying the song I was listening to also helps me get back into it. It's hard to find time so I admire you for doing so with work and kids and household stuff!

Some good points, Jennifer. Currently I am in your "dream" state. Being unemployed I can retreat into my home office and make my own schedule. I try to schedule my days as though it were a job and since my wife is at during the day and we no longer have kids at home, I am able to work for long stretches without interruption. I just have to be careful about being tempted by personal distractions like the internet, etc.
As far as maintaining writing rhythm, I try to formulate what I am going to write firmly in my mind, going over it thoroughly in my head so that it is firmly ensconced in my mental library so that I can bookmark it if I have to leave then return to my same place later--kind of like putting a CD on pause if you need to stop watching the movie and come back to it later.
The nightmare I used to encounter when I was first getting used to word programs was creating something that I had really thought out and it sounded really good and then somehow deleting it or losing the "masterpiece" that I thought I had written. Then when I tried to go back and rewrite it I was not able to recapture the magic of the original work--in my frustration I guess I would lose the momentum. Fortunately that doesn't happen anymore.
I see where you are coming from when you advise to stop in the middle of the excitement. The writing rhythm probably would maintain more continuity in doing it that way.

Really great advice! I've found that when I accidentally stop in an action sequence it is much easier to get back into the swing of things. I'm going to start doing that on purpose! Thanks!!!

Great tips. I especially like stopping in the middle of something where you know where you want to go next. I hate coming back to writing only to have no idea where I'm headed. My writing only comes in interrupted spurts, so keeping the flow is a constant problem. I usually think about what I want to write while I'm doing all the other stuff.

Actually, I've tried #1, stopping in the middle, and it makes me so frustrated! I come back knowing that I knew where I was going and now I totally forgot and feel sure that what I'm now writing lacks in comparison to the original vision (even though I can't remember it :)

I make sure I end at scene breaks now. Then I go to bed and then generally the whole next scene writes itself, so since it's too late to write, I force myself out of bed and make short notes to remind me next time I have the chance to write.

But if I could just sit all day and write beginning to end that would be wonderful!

#2 works the best for me. I reread the last scene editing minor things as I go and then work on the next scene using the notes from the late night dream session if I have them.

Music distracts me.

Great topic. I have been forced to adapt to noise and interruptions. I always re-read a few pages back before I commence to working on a piece, that way I get right back into the groove.

Hi Jennifer -

I like your idea of stopping in the middle of an intense scene. I've found that pre-writing in my head helps me pick up the threads of my story.

Susan :)

I enjoyed your post. I always think I need a good length of uninterrupted time in order to write, but since I work full time, the big blocks of time never come. I definitely need to learn to write whenever and wherever!

Some of you have some great tips as well. And of course, not everything will work for everyone. Thanks for sharing. It's hard to get interrupted constantly. Let's get supporting and encouraging one another.

That was supposed to say, "keep supporting and encouraging one another".