Other interests – an unwanted distraction from your writing?
Those following the blog, and my tweets will have seen my enthusiastic delve into the world of interactive fiction. With that series nearing its end (there’s still a couple of posts in it, so don’t despair IF fans), I thought I’d take a little time to review this period when I rediscovered IF. Just to be clear, this post is not about interactive fiction, but a reflection on the last few weeks.
The problem (if indeed there can be said to be a problem at all), is that while I’ve been getting engrossed in finding tools, finding people, and reading relevant material on the subject (including a few stories of course), I’ve not been doing much of my own writing. Now that I’ve returned to it, a feel like I’ve lost my rhythm a bit, and have to get back into the old routine. It’s a similar situation to when I last stopped writing altogether for a week or two.
The question must be asked then, is this recent foray into a hitherto unexplored (by me) area of writing merely a distraction?
It is true that I would dearly love to write several pieces of interactive fiction. I have mentioned how it combines two of my great loves – writing and games, and has aspects of another discipline that I enjoy – programming. Having said that, I don’t have a good idea for an interactive piece right now, and wouldn’t want to write one until I thought of something appropriate. This may not come along for a while, and in the mean time I have plenty of other dusty projects taking up headspace that I can be getting on with.
The bigger problem
And this question of what I should be spending my time on, of where my focus should be, extends beyond a dip into another form of writing.
I’m sitting here on the train writing a blog post. While I’m doing that, I’m not finishing that science fiction short story that seems to take an inordinate amount of time to write. There are very good reasons for writing a blog – getting a message out there, getting known, and in my case, getting me to write at all. I started the blog as a commitment to regular writing, at a time when I was not writing at all. That was then. Now I do write regularly, even if it’s not as much as I should. So what should I be spending my time on now?
When I started this new period of dedication to writing, I mentioned it to my friends on Facebook. An old friend of mine told me she was in contact with a writer, and she offered to ask him to send me some advice. I agreed enthusiastically and I was indeed presented with a short list of tips. First among them was the declaration that blogging was a complete waste of time. He insisted that it was difficult enough squeezing out your daily word-count, without having to waste so many words on something that did not contribute to your current project.
Needless to say, I was rather downhearted by this, given that I had just made the decision to start Getmewriting. I concluded that, although not bad advice, everyone was different, and needed different things to motivate them. Having a regular time to update the blog, and (hopefully) having an audience waiting for the next post, would give me a reason outside of my own head to stick to a schedule.
And it worked. Now I feel I owe it to my blog to keep going. There are also the other reasons, like creating a platform, that still stand. But more than that, I’ve made a commitment. Breaking my commitment to the blog would feel a lot like breaking my commitment to writing. It’s a personal thing. So the blog is staying.
As for the other stuff – was my “distraction” into interactive fiction a worthy contribution to my writing, if all it did was give me some blog posts? Honestly, probably not. But I’m genuinely interested in it and I really do hope to write some when an appropriate idea comes along. And I will likely continue to read it (my research has left me with a long reading list). So maybe it was a bit of an indulgence, but so what?
It is true that I have many many interests, and there will never be enough time to examine them all. That in itself seems terribly unfair, and is a real frustration of mine. I love finding out new things, and would love to try and to learn many many new things. But there is time, and other life pressures, and time. Time! Grrr!
Living with it
But I can imagine a life where I never got distracted and never indulged in a sideways interest form time to time, and I really don’t think I’d have fun. Besides, such forays into the unknown keep the brain active and stimulated, and so I feel a certain amount of this should be encouraged. I add the caveat that you should be disciplined enough to put a time limit on it though. Try something out for a couple of weeks, say (obviously it depends on the thing), and then drop it. Or at least decide whether you can fit it in, whether it should replace something else, whether to shelve it, whether to abandon it and put it down to experience.
And that, I think, is the answer. Yes, it’s okay to get distracted. But be aware of it, put a limit on it, and in the end, make a decision on it.