It goes like this most days.  I start to think, to walk into the space that feels so blank – a Twilight Zone-like field that isn’t really a field but a vast planet of none.  5865689943_cf5c3f3e74

Ooh, an email, and off I go into the pixelated world – all blue and glittering.

Then, upstairs to the bathroom . . . and there, on step 13, that, this – the thing to say.

Downstairs, a Facebook update, greens and likes abounding.

Back to blank again, except for that tiny shimmering filament just at the end of that vast field of dark. . .

Close tabs. Flip the phone over.

I grasp that filament with both hands and hold on – resisting the urge to check Twitter or Google analytics or Mailchimp or anything of the things that I use to validate some tiny part of me.  I resist and hold on to that gossamer thread for it is the way through the labyrinth, to that terrifying and beautiful minotaur – writing.

It’s this everyday – the battle of distraction, the battle of blank, the battle of courage.  Every day, just to put down words.

***

Here are my five tips for getting started and for keeping going.

1. Put away the distractions. Take your smart phone to another room. Close every tab that gives you updates – email, FB, Twitter.  Turn off the internet if you must.  Clean your desk. Put your back to the rest of the house so the dirty dishes don’t scream.  Put it all away.

2. Use other words. Most days to get started, I read a poem – right now, I’m reading Wild Surmise by Eloise Klein Healy.  I underline a line or two that rings something in me, and then I don’t stop writing. Wherever it goes, I write.  You can do the same. Find a line in a book, on a blog, on your wall, and copy it by hand.  Then keep going.  It’s important to do this by hand because it’s so easy on the computer to undo #1.

3. Hold onto the thread. You may have to pee in the middle of your process. You may have to let the dog out, or in, or out.  You may just find yourself distracted by your own thoughts and list of things to do. But don’t let that distraction take you away but for a minute.  Keep that thread of idea or plot or description alive in your mind. Force your thoughts back to it even as you do that other thing.

4. Stay until you finish.  It’s easy to put things down. It’s easy to walk away and intend to come back later.  Don’t.  Don’t walk away. Stay there until you walk that full path of the thread. Maybe you’ll just reach the end of a scene. Maybe a word count goal. Maybe a full idea. But stay until you feel something shift inside you that says, Yes, that’s it.

5. Leave it done and begin again. It’s really tempting to use our own writing as distraction. If we can just fix this one thing, if we can only flesh out that one scene, if . . . if we do these things, we never move forward to the big “done.” The one that completes a draft.  So leave each day’s work done and come back only when the whole piece is through.  Then, perfect and revise.

What works for you when you need to get started writing for the day?  What are your worst distractions?