Karolyn Sherwood, Author

Overcoming Obstacles

One of the best ways to learn a new language is by plopping yourself into a foreign land where you have no choice but to figure out how to ask for food, bathrooms, and shelter. (If you think you’re going to use Rosetta Stone, be prepared for a thousand hours at your computer–or failure).

I’m using that same logic to learn how to write in “less than ideal” conditions.

At home I have a writing nook, a small room that’s all mine. My room, mind you, doesn’t have a door, but my hubby and I are empty-nesters, and our home is generally pretty quiet. (Word to the wise: If your partner is a TV-lover like mine, buy him/her wireless TV headphones. Best $50 bucks I’ve ever spent!) Point being, of course, is that I have the ideal writing conditions; it’s quiet, focused, and organized.

The correlation is that I have a mental block about reaching my MDWR (minimum daily writing requirement) if my space and time frame isn’t ideal. I generally won’t even try to write unless I can isolate myself from noise and distractions.

Additionally, I have ADHD. I used to be ashamed to admit this, but I now hope to help others learn from my experiences, help them master this disorder and improve their lives as I have. This is an extra barrier to getting into my “flow” in order to be creative.

So… when my husband and I decided to take a road trip from Iowa to California, I knew I had to think this through before I pulled my swimsuit out of my dresser.

Writing for me isn’t optional. Writing for me is like running for, well, runners. If I don’t write (or work on my writing career in some fashion) everyday, I get quite cranky. Something about writing keeps me grounded and sane. I have an intense passion to be published, and I knew taking a road trip wasn’t going to get me a book deal unless I found away to write under less than ideal conditions like (gasp!) country music on the radio. (If I wasn’t going to chat with my husband, the least I could do was let him pick the radio station.)

Now, I have heard that there are people who can write well amidst chaos (though I have yet to meet one, so it could be an urban myth). And I could site a thousand examples of others who’ve overcome worse hardships than the Dolly Parton Torture Test. But I figured if others could do it, so could I.

I made a vow to break my dependence on Ideal Conditions.

A recent study (sorry, I can’t remember who or where), said that our world has become so crazy with TV and the Internet that human attention spans have diminished over the past few decades. Plus, as the mother of four boys, I once had to train myself to pay attention to every noise, not block them out. But if the above is true, then a determined woman should be able to train herself to improve her concentration, right? It’s mind over matter, and you all know by now that I am a very persistent when it comes to achieving goals.

As I write this, it’s only Day 4 of our trip, so it’s too early to say how successful I will feel by the time we arrive at our destination in California. I have gotten a little writing done so far—including this blog post—but I realized that my husband and I chose to drive in order to see the country and visit family, so gluing my nose to my laptop was defeating the purpose of our trip. Western Oklahoma, however, did prove to be a fair time to take my regular dose of Adderall and practice blocking out distracting noises.

Above all, though, there is one thing that works for me every time: When my mind starts to wander, I picture my book propped up on the front table of a Barnes & Noble and tap out another decent sentence.

Now, please, if you have suggestions that can help me, I would really like to know: What works for you?

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