Friday, June 12, 2015


Michael W. Davis


Curious to see if anyone else suffers from this affliction. You see, as I’ve gotten older my ability to multitask diminishes. No, I don’t mean when I’m spreading mulch and my wife comes up and redirects me to edge the walk, or trim this bush, or hump that bag of debris into the truck. As a guy, I’m accustomed to those redirections and they require little thought.  I refer to the mentally complex. Things like trying to hold a fictional world, with all the characters, their quirks, the background, the hundreds of scenes I’ve already evolved, you know, those little things.

Other day, as I sat in my man cave, attempting to flush out the beginning of a new novel, on the tenth invasion into my pseudo fortress in half an hour, I recalled the story of the old watch maker, back before time pieces were mass produced as electronic gismos on a machine. Seems his young apprentice never completed one single watch. His work bench was in sight of the front door and every time a new customer came in he’d stop to BS and all his carefully piled parts would topple over. The wise old watch maker always assembled his units into sub-assemblies that took ten minutes to complete. Thus when an interruption occurred he’d have completed the task at hand within the gap of available uninterrupted time. Then he could assembly the entire watch at the end.

What does our little fable have to do with my problem of dealing with interruption when I try to envelop myself in a fictional world? Both are difficult, require precision, and are susceptible to disturbance in the assembly process, put there the similarities end. An author doesn’t bring together premade parts, rather evolves their creation from scratch. Least for me, I have to hold dozens of visual images, names, places, what happened on the previous page, etc., in my feeble old chemo pickled brain at once. Sure, once I complete a paragraph, I’m fine. I keep a running list on what happens in each chapter for refreshing myself and back referencing, but I must be allowed to at least finish a scene. I can’t jump in and out of my make believe world every page, hell, every paragraph.

So what does an old dude do? Well, I’ve become devious, resorted to hiding in unknown corners. Like at the library, in the back, in the section on physics and ancient philosophy, cause no one ever comes back there. Or in a coffee shop where I know none of my friends ever go. Or I get up at 4 AM when only mice roam the hallways. Get at least three hours of unbroken thought there. Or when my wife goes to one of her club events. I’ve discovered that if I’m clever and don’t work on my honey do list during those private moments I can actually WRITE!

There. I feel better. Got that off my chest, How about the rest of you? Every have problems getting sufficient gap periods to actually write a complete passage without interruption. Yeah, I know you too have difficulty, but I’d like to hear your solutions to a writer’s inherit lack of sufficient gaps.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Your method works for me, too, and I'm older and pickled by life!

January Bain said...

Unbroken thought is crucial. I get a few quiet, uninterrupted hours every morning this year with a year off from teaching. It is a blessing and I am grateful for it as it has made me a far better writer. So much so that I am thinking of continuing the same pattern for the rest of my life! Hugs, January

Naomi Stone said...

I have a lot of trouble, too in finding those unbroken stretches of time. I can sometimes make use of smaller stretches by writing blocks of description or dialog or expository background that I can later weave into a larger scene. This works for me because keeping dialog snappy means I'm not thinking about the background stuff while I write it, and vice-versa.

Side note: I've been writing entries for The Writers Vineyard for some time now, and it's troubling that I don't find my name on the list of Who We Are, or my work among the covers of the What We Write section. Thanks!