The idle cursor blinks. Type. I stare at the laptop screen and it stares back at me. I type my first word. Cudgel. Where do I go from here? “Cudgel,” I repeat, conjuring images of clubs, hammers, and a myriad of blunt instruments. I find myself opening up the dictionary app to verify the word’s usage and before I know it I’m sifting through Wikipedia entries about everything from medieval European weaponry to Balkan economies. Who knew Serbia was the world’s greatest exporter of raspberries? I then find myself watching a viral clip of a pet ferret playing the xylophone. Wait, what time is it? How much time have I wasted? Focus.
Habit formation is critical. All I have to do is go about this in the right sequence, at the right time, and often enough for the neurons in my brain to fire at the beginning and the end of each writing session. Just as a mouse learns to take the correct turns to get through the maze, I’ll be spitting out grand volumes of life-changing, tear-jerking trilogies that speak truth to the human condition, or so I hope. Conditioning is key. If it could work for Pavlov’s dogs, why can’t it work for me? Sleep hypnosis is worth considering. I can put up with clucking like a chicken for the rest of my life as long as I can sit down and type, for real this time.
The cursor goes idle. Will all this time spent at my desk writing (and not writing) ever amount to anything more interesting than that ferret? I watch the video again. Even I seem more interested in the ferret than finishing the story. The word count of one remains unchanged. I disconnect from the Internet and count to ten. An otherworldly monk-like focus is required to overcome the temptation of WiFi.
If I am going to get serious, really serious about this fiction writing business, I’m going to need a hit of caffeine. I make a trip to the kitchen to make another espresso. I do a few push-ups while the coffee machine cools down and once I’ve knocked back the Costa Rican dark roast, I chop some carrots for the minestrone supper. Did I floss this morning? The carrots will have to wait.
Hours pass. Just get to the end. I finally manage to write another paragraph, resisting the urge to edit. I look at what’s on the page. I was supposed to write a story, but instead I have something entirely different: another blog post. I open a new page, reset the timer and try again.