Writing Woes and Wows: Hend Hegazi shares a peak inside her writer’s world and some valuable tips for keeping focussed within yours
All great writing starts with a thought, an idea, an epiphany. Mostly these ideas come to me as I’m drifting off into sleep. (Apparently my brain doesn’t realize that sleep means ‘to rest,’ not ‘to work’!) They may come to you as you’re sitting at the computer checking your email, or maybe while you’re doing your homework. Some writers’ minds go into overdrive while they’re in the shower, or during their run. Ideas can hit you at anytime, but because those bright ideas may lead you to become the next Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, or Maya Angelou, you must make sure you capture them as soon as possible.
I have a notebook which I fill with ideas. I also have a file in my computer titled ‘Ideas.’ It doesn’t make a difference where I write them, it only matters that I get them down as quickly as they come to me. If for any reason I put off recording them, I find that the idea loses its eloquence, or is missing that one perfect example which had occurred to me. I simply cannot recall it. Capturing that idea right away is essential.
Once I have that thought, that idea that keeps swimming in my head, the one that keeps me company everywhere I go, I must begin to feed it. This includes, of course, the actual writing, but even before I write, I spend time just thinking, brainstorming, planning the road that my idea might take. It may become an editorial, or a short story, or even a novel. Nothing is set in stone, and the path it takes continues to alter its course. But that’s normal … that’s my imagination at work. None of that hinders me … I simply keep nurturing my growing idea with time and effort. I sit at my computer and write. I grab a pen and notebook, and write. Click click click click … tap tap tap. Pause. Click click click. Tap tap tap. Tap tap. Click. Pause.
Sometimes my pauses are to re-read, re-word. Sometimes they are dedicated to more brainstorming. But at the end of my writing sessions, I look down at my hands and realize that those pauses have also included something physically painful, and I’ve actually managed to draw blood on occasion. (Gross, I know.) I admit to having the ugly, subconscious habit of biting my fingernails, and unfortunately, the surrounding skin is never spared either. I do it without even realizing, and I do it ALL THE TIME when I write. So, what’s the solution? A pack of gum. A pack of gum in my laptop bag, right near where I write. A pack of gum near the notebook by my bed, where I might decide to write. A pack of gum saves my fingernails. Busying my teeth with something other than my own nails protects me from a painful habit. During Ramadan I can’t use that crutch, of course. But I can try to schedule my writing after iftar, so no need to worry.
So now I’m sitting at my computer writing … writing and chewing my gum. Click click click. Tap tap tap. Pause (chew chew chew). Click click. Tap. Everything’s going along smoothly, then I hear it – that too good to resist sound: ding! Facebook is telling me I have a notification! So exciting, right?!
So I check it. And I read all the new posts on the news feed. (There’s a great webinar I can’t wait to attend!) And I chat for a few minutes with my brother. It was his message that I’d received the notification for. (He just told me how his son describes him as being ‘the donut man.’ Isn’t that so funny?) I check my email while I’m at it. (My best friend wrote to me! I haven’t seen her in a while so I miss her so much; I just had to respond to her message right away.) Okay, okay … I’m all done. That was only twenty minutes … time to get back to work.
I click back to the document. And I start to–… okay, first I have to remember where I was. Let’s see. Okay, I think I was here. Yes, definitely. Or … no? Where was I??!??!
Do you see what happened here, my friends? I got sucked into the internet trap. If you do not resist that urge to check Facebook and email and Twitter and all the other social networks, you will lose your train of thought and your momentum. You’ll waste precious time that you’ve set aside specifically to hone your talent, to develop the idea which may lead YOU to become the next Nobel Prize winner. (Yes, it could happen.)
Now I’m trying … trying to exhibit discipline in my craft, trying to avoid the attractive distractions which will only impede my progress. I have a browser page open to an online dictionary/thesaurus, and another to a grammar site which I sometimes check. I tell myself I can check my Facebook and email when I finish with a specific piece. It’s going to take practice … but I’m trying.
Sticking to my gum, avoiding Facebook, and here I am … click click click. Tap tap tap. Chew chew chew.
And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in rank that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.
The Qur’an, Surah Al-’An’aam (Chapter of the cattle) 6:165
Hend Hegazi was born and raised in Massachusetts (USA) and graduated from Smith College with a degree in biology. She currently lives in Egypt with her husband and four children. Hend’s first novel, Normal Calm, is now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can catch her blogging at hendhegazi.wordpress.com