Talk About the Disorganized Dysfunctional Writer
by Robert W. Walker
TO DO LIST time! To be honest because I am juggling so much, I’ve made errors, and recently I had to STOP due to my browser dropping me (long story). Perhaps overextended is what I am…but certainly not overexposed (I’d never do that!). Aside from blogging and spending time on Facebook and emailing and twittering and the like, Myspace, Crimespace, and too many to count, I am also teaching four classes, have a family, and then I took on writing a new novel in mid-February and 80,000 words later at end of May, I’ve failed to have a completed rough draft in three months. Backing it up, I will give myself a pat on the back for getting as far as I have, and then go about finishing that draft; maybe give myself fifteen or even thirty more days, say end of June.
Reason I bring all this up is that there are times in life when a To Do List, a Calendar that one actually USES, a game plan, an organizational chart—something has to help out. But when I buy one of those organizers, well it is just a waste of money; they do not organize me!
I have always worked in the manner of that Charlie Brown character who is like a whirling dervish of a dirt cloud when writing or like the Bugs Bunny character of the Tasmanian Devil. I have stacks of research and papers all over; I put up a card table beside my work space to lay out maps of the actual place I am writing about. My map room. I have notes and sticky notes on top of these notes, books highlighted in yellow—and everything I highlight in a book suggests itself for the book I am working on. I have out boxes and in boxes. Anyone looking at my workspace would condemn it readily—call in the fire department, and perhaps the men in white coats to take me away.
The subtitle of my How-To book, Dead On Writing, is something on the order of “A book for the dysfunctionally disorganized and easily distracted or confused writer” and I gotta say that subtitle pulls in a lot of interest from so many people who think themselves odd and confused in their writing efforts when in fact they are just operating in a way that works for me! Despite how my office looks, I have to keep shouting, “Don’t touch a thing; there’s a system on the desk!”
I do not know what I think until I see what I say; so I don’t know where I am going until I get there, but I do manage to get there in time, and often in short order. 80,000 words isn’t bad for my work in progress for the past three months! And that amid the confusion of life and all the things that pull a person from his target and goals.
OK, honestly, I do not know what this blog is useful for or even if it ought to be put up on such a prestigious place as this online addy, but perhaps…just maybe there are some writers out there who, like me, are disorganized, distracted, put upon, yet manage to get work done amid the chaos all the same, and for that, we need to reward ourselves and take a bow. So if you are a dysfunctionally disorganized author, don’t beat yourself up over it; rather go with the flow. Take time to shave, bathe, eat, drink, sleep, but for goodness’ sake, don’t straighten up your office until you’ve completed the rough draft. And one other thing—a blank screen, like a blank piece of paper is not to be feared but to be FILLED up with life, the life of character and setting and plot. Blank is good, Blank is wonderful…an invitation to open your imagination and put your stamp on the Blank, thus making negative space positive space instead, and doing it via black ink on white backdrop. Open with a character digging a grave or jumping into one (action) while focusing in on their hands or feet—which are in the service of action and focus in on what the hands are doing. Begin there…focus on the hands or feet or both of your strongest characters (in media res – in the middle of life). The blank is a void begging to be filled; your job is to fill the void.
Robert W. Walker – www.robertwalkerbooks.com