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Fighting the Dragon of Chaos – Part One


by Deri Ross Pryor, BGWS Graduate Assistant

Writing is a perilous business. Not in any physical way, usually, unless you are absurdly clumsy and tend to fall out of stationary chairs. (slowly raises hand) But it can do a number on your psyche if you aren’t careful.

One thing I’ve noticed among my fellow budding writers is a tendency towards self-flagellation. We think our characters suck, our plots suck, we suck. We also moan to an almost obnoxious level about not being productive enough. Unfortunately, though, there may be some truth to that last one.

We live in a chaotic world. Technology bombards us from every angle, and the fact is just to survive in this world involves doing a lot of stuff. Work stuff, spouse stuff, kid stuff, house stuff, more kid stuff (seriously, why are kids so busy with stuff these days?), just about every time you turn around there is more stuff that needs attending to. It’s no wonder when we finally find time to park ourselves in a chair to write our minds wander. Add to that all the distracting internet stuff, and sometimes it’s a wonder any of us can string a coherent sentence together. It just keeps coming at us.

Sometimes it feels like fighting off a fire-breathing dragon with a toothpick and a pot lid.

When writing is your life, whether you are a professional writer, a passionate hobby writer, or working on something like an MFA, you really don’t have the luxury of allowing yourself to be distracted. But it happens, and then comes the guilt and the negative self-talk about why you suck.

You don’t, by the way. None of us suck.

We are all victims of the chaos and giving in to human nature is not necessarily an indication of inherent suckiness. It does require attention, though, if we want to be successful at writing.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Teddy Roosevelt (supposedly, depending on what website you go to. It could have been Erma Bombeck for all I know, but that’s not the point.)

We writers are a weird bunch, constantly peeking over shoulders to see how everyone else is doing, past and present. When we see that we aren’t keeping up, we get panicked. We compare ourselves to the writers of old, or not so old, and think we will never achieve the sheer volume of writing they have managed.

Here’s the thing, though: your Whitmans, your Faulkners, your Dickinsons, your Austens, your Hemingways didn’t have cellphones and personal computers and email and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and… so on. Go back just over a decade and a half to J.K Rowling and she didn’t really have that either. The exponential explosion of technology and social media in just the last ten years has pretty much ruined our attention span and for some of us, it’s impossible to get away from. We can unplug for short periods, but it’s time to face the facts. We live in a digital age of constant information and distraction. For many of us, it’s a fundamental part of how we make a living. The dragon isn’t going away. We just have to keep it from eating us whole.

And we can. I promise you that. Stay tuned for part two when I talk about how to tame this particular dragon.

Published on April 05, 2016

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