Returning from vacation to a raft of Stuff That Needed Doing Pronto, I finally found what I've been looking for throughout the month of June. My focus. Gone was the luxury of reading, even skimming, every Yahoogroups digest (a brief scan of the subjects assured me I wasn't missing much but the usual RWA summer squabbling), the temptation to mess around on Facebook or tweet (over it) or obsess about the success of failure of the new book, and the time to kill with inane, addictive Internet games (do you hear me, Bejeweled?). Seduced away from my work in progress by the siren call of an unfinished historical, I'd dallied with a retool of a proposal that will never see the light of day. But really, I know now, I was stalling, stuck on the Hard Work stage of a manuscript I'd hoped to finish early and harder, riskier work of a scary-looking new proposal.

The truth of it, a truth I need to stencil in block letters on my office wall, if not my forehead, is this: There Are No Shortcuts. None. There is only hard, sustained work, seasoned with the unpredictable, incomprehensible "luck" of opportunity.

Certainly, this is the advice I want to tell aspiring authors every time I give a talk or workshop, what I ought to tell the newly-contracted or self-published or wannabees who seek me out looking for a hand up, what I need to tell myself the ten times a day I get distracted.

The hard work part isn't a necessary evil; it's a joy, too, and the hum of one's creative machinery is the soundtrack of progress. It's the sweat equity component of success.

So what do you do to keep yourself on track? Do you find, as I do, a brief vacation can reforge your focus? Or have you found another strategy that serves you as well?


Joni Rodgers said…
Welcome home, Colleenee! Great to have you back on task.

Focus pocus...let's see. For one thing, I don't allow anyone to show me how to play any game. When I was in chemo, my son showed me how to play Tetris on his old GameBoy, and when I realized how this hypnotic glaze-eyed activity sucked in hours and hours (which at the time wasn't such a bad thing), I knew I must never get sucked into another game. I guess I have an addictive personality. Better to avoid it altogether.

I think going to the gym really help, especially if I go in the afternoon. Spin class especially clears and sharpens my mind. I hate walking unless I'm going somewhere -- it's not pleasant or beneficial to me in any way -- but that hour on the bike where I'm physically working hard but can close my screen-burned eyes is therapeutic. I laugh like a crack monkey the whole time, and I come home ready to put in another long shift at the keyboard.
Suzan Harden said…
The DH has been rather the task master lately - LOL. I've been heavily editing/rewriting a ms, and he wants that done so I'll finish the next ms. He's read the first chapter and wants to know what'll happen next.
Thanks for the welcome home, Joni. I'm glad to be back in the saddle again (channeling AC/DC here). Clearly, I'm addictive when it comes to games. Wish I could get back all the hours wasted. I'm trying to swear them off cold turkey.

You bring up a good point, Suzan. An eager audience, even an audience of one, is very motivating. Twice a month, I have to have about 12 fresh pages for critique group. And my only CP is always eager for the next chapter, so I stayed up late last night just for that... and to work on the first segment of an online round robin story I'm doing with several other suspense authors over at this month. Should be fun. I even incorporated elements from my Jersey shore vacation.
jenny milchman said…
Welcome back to the drill and grind, Colleen! I write to find out what happens. That's my motivation for the first draft. After that it's all about this editor wants to see x and this one y and if I can deliver, then maybe, just maybe, there'll be an offer.

But I realize that's not where you are! Chocolate maybe--at the end of your 1 or 2 or 3000...?
Wanting to find out what happens in an important motivator, Jenny. At any stage of the game. :)
Phyllis Bourne said…
I turn on the kitchen timer and turn my desk into "author island". I can't get off until the bell rings.

Joni, that Tetris gets me everytime.

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