Do you wish you could write alone in a cabin?

There’s an episode of the old Dick Van Dyke show (one of my all-time favorite sitcoms) where Rob (Dick’s character) borrows a friend’s cabin in the woods so he can finally get the time and space to write his novel.

He sets up his writing equipment then…

He plays paddleball a long while, then tries to fix the slight slant of his writing table, then repairs an old crate to use as a trash basket. When he finds a cowboy hat, holster, and pistols, he can’t resist strutting around like a cowboy and drawing his pistols for a mock quick fire.

The groundskeeper stops by, and Rob begs the man to stay and keep him company, but the man escapes, understandably unnerved by this city slicker wearing pistols.

The comedy reveals a truth. It’s hard to write and perhaps even harder when you’ve cleared away all excuses not to write.

We writers are always grousing that we could do better If only we had the time and space to write. 

You know what? If you want to write, you can do it perfectly well (maybe better) working within your limitations.

Let’s say you only have one hour to write. You can make that hour very productive because you know you’ve got to start and get something done before your time is up. The compressed time-frame forces you to focus.

If you can arrange to have an hour a day on a recurring basis, those concentrated hours can add up to plenty of writing—enough to finish a book or script or whatever you’re writing.

Yes, a firm schedule is good, but not essential, as you’ll see in this episode of my Thoughtful Thursday videos.

A helpful trick is to end your writing sessions knowing what you want to pick up with on the next session, perhaps a paragraph or character action you’re eager to tackle. At your next session, you can dive in without requiring lots of warm-up or time figuring out how to begin.

Another helpful trick is to think about your work when it’s not your writing time. While you’re walking or driving or exercising or drifting off to sleep. You don’t write actual words at this time, but you ponder your story without any pressure. Things will come to you. Maybe your very best ideas. (In fact, keep a notebook nearby to jot things down.)

Not only does this expand your writing time, but it opens your mind to mental wandering and outside influences, both quite valuable.

In the sitcom episode, Rob finally realizes that when he’s ready to write his novel, “I’ll be able to write it on a subway during rush hour.”

Alex Steele
President, Gotham Writers Workshop

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