Last week I talked about the day-to-day distractions that take us out of or away from our writing time.
Today I want to talk about immersion.
Mark and I have been studying the Italian language for eleven years. It’s something I really enjoy, and something Mark and I do together a few times a week. Italian has become our own “secret” language, our way to communicate with each other when we don’t want the people around us to know what we’re saying.
Of course, that only works if they’re not Italians. 😛
But as good as we’ve become at conjugation, grammar and vocabulary, we’re still a long ways from being fluent. I’ve become convinced that the only way to actually do that is to immerse yourself entirely in the language – to spend a considerable amount of uninterrupted time in the culture, where you are forced to use your linguistic skills every day and to learn how the real living language is spoken.
It’s similar with writing.
We can all write sentences – we mastered that in elementary school. Even paragraphs are easy enough to master. And most of us have written long emails or letters or essays on subjects of interest to us.
But writing a story – especially a novel – is an entirely different art. It requires a commitment, an incredible amount of time and level of engagement that is wholly incompatible with small bursts of writing and our 24-7 culture of distraction.
To really write novels well, I think we need to immerse ourselves in our worlds; to take deep dives, cut off from our regular routines, where we can smell and feel and see and taste and touch the world our characters are experiencing in order to bring it to life for our readers.
This is harder to do than it looks.
I have a self-imposed writing schedule – 12 – 1:30 PM almost every day. And yet life often intervenes, in the form of work tasks that run a little long, or a skype call from Mom, or any of a hundred other things that can derail the flow.
And then there’s Facebook, the unholy scourge of prople who need to concentrate everywhere.
Yesterday I managed to get my butt in my chair for an undistracted hour of totally immersed writing. No distractions, no detours – just me, soaked in the waters of my world (almost literally – my characters had just taken a dunking). It was wonderful. I could smell the heavy damp air, hear and feel the thunder, and taste the skyfruit as the yellow juices dripped down my cheeks.
When you are fully engaged with your characters and your word, it shows in the writing. It’s brighter, more vibrant, pulsing with life and detail.
We writers live for these moments, when the writing just flows out of us, when everything is right and the stars align and suddenly we are there.
I’m not sure I will ever manage the full language immersion thing (omg, three months in Italy – can you imagine?). But the writing one seems well within my grasp, if I just remember to clear the decks and try.
To my writer friends, how often are you able to achieve total writing immersion? And how do you yourself get there? Share all your secrets and tricks!