Sunday, June 02, 2024

Writing Mind Games

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Is there a best time for your writing? Are you a morning person or a night owl and how does that affect your writing? Do you need some perfect environment to be able to write? Do you play music in the background or have to be out at a coffee shop or in complete silence? 

Many writers are playing mind games when it comes to the answers to such questions. In this article, I want to dispel some of these misconceptions of the mind and encourage you to take a different mindset and action strategy.

Some people feel like they cant write on their current project until they get in the perfect place and environment. Their pencils have to be sharp and the surrounding atmosphere has to be right. Maybe you like writing on your home computer in silence or you prefer being at a busy coffee shop tucked into a back corner with your laptop and a cup of your favorite drink. 

Many writers set a specific word count goal for their work in progress to make sure they hit their deadlines and produce what their editor is asking from them. I like the word count strategy and have used it a number of times when Im in production on a book project. The issue is what happens when something is off from your expectations. Do you still manage to write or does it throw you off track? 

For my writing life, my mindset in these situations is critical.  I began writing for publication in high school, then trained as a journalist in college. For the college newspaper, we wrote our stories in a busy room with about 30 manual typewriters and shoulder to shoulder with someone else writing their story. I spent one summer working as an intern in the city room of a local newspaper. Reporters were talking on the phone and sometimes shouting at each other. In the middle of it, we were charged to write our stories and meet deadlines. From this experience, I learned a valuable lesson: I can write anywhere. Its a trick of the mind to tell you that you cant write in a less than perfect situation. 

Because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, Ive always been hard on my keyboards where I spend a lot of time every day. In fact, the several frequently used letters on the keyboard wear off because of my extensive use of them. About once a year, Ive been replacing the keyboard on my desktop computer. 

I often write in my office on my desktop computer and without any background music. I admit it is a simple environment. Ive written in coffee shops, in airports, in airplanes, in hotel rooms and many other locations inside and outside. Whether I crank out a number of pages or just a few paragraphs or phrases of things which I will write, there is one consistent fact: I put my fingers on the keyboard and move them cranking out words. In this process, I set aside any mind questions about whether I can do it or not or whether it will be productive or the right words. Instead of answering these questions of the mind, I simply tell my stories and write.  This process has served me well through the years because Ive written for numerous publications and many books. 

In past entries, Ive mentioned using my Alpha Smart 2000 which I bought on Ebay for about $20. When Jerry B. Jenkins interviewed me, I mentioned using this tool and he had not heard of it. Follow this link to hear my 35-minute interview. The Alpha Smart is a full-size keyboard and holds about 150 pages of words. Some of my novelist friends will use it on their back porch or in their local library or any number of other places. Its old technology and works on three AA batteries. You never lose anything and can simply write. When you get to your laptop or desktop, you hook up the Alpha Smart to your computer, open a Word file and push the send button. Yes, it is that simple. 

How do you stop your mind games about where and when you should write? Let me know in the comments. 


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