Even in my most productive moments, I’ve long believed that writing is procrastination: start with an idea, think, write a few sentences, think again, toy around with various concepts, drift off into some related reverie, come back, reread, think, write, and so on.
Occasionally, of course, those distractive reveries are fruitful. More often, I find, they are simply part of the working process: I am reminded of an old friend, say, then think about the fact that I owe them an email. That reminds me I owe someone else an email on some practical topic or other, and I get a brief jolt of panic as I recall two or three or four other practical things I should have accomplished three days ago.
Of course, that’s not counting the times, when writing on a computer, I simply get stuck, then flick around different websites in search of inspiration or the answer to some small, specific question (or a vague, ill-defined issue).
With discipline, I can guide my thoughts back where they “need to” go. And yet clearly there’s a real sense in which they “need to” go elsewhere in order to get things down on the page. So I’m starting to try to work within the basic contours of this process, rather than just trying to overhaul them. I think the main thing is to be mindful of it, so as not to be completely enveloped in another topic… whether that means getting up to do the laundry or getting sucked down a rabbit hole of Internet articles until I’ve lost the thread of where and why I started.
Easier said than done, alas.