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How total immersion can help you finish your novel

At a raw food retreat I attended in 2004, raw food guru and author David Wolfe said two things that have stuck with me through the last ten years. This post will discuss the first principle. My next post will go over the second one.

He said that if you want to become an “expert” in any field you have to totally immerse yourself in that field: study it, read books about it, talk about it, write about it. Eventually, you begin to dream about it. Total Immersion.

Writing and finishing a novel requires the same type of immersion. Even when you’re not sitting down to write, your story needs to be running in the background of your subconscious.

Author Heather Sellers writes about this in her book, Chapter after Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams.

“If you don’t surround yourself with your book, you risk it creeping away from you—or you unintentionally creeping away from it.”

Sellers uses the metaphor of “surround sound” to show the level of total immersion we need to write our book. Think of how these speakers totally surround us in sound wherever we are in the room. Then think of surrounding yourself in your novel this way.

What happens when I miss a day of writing? The volume on my surround sound is lowered. What if I miss three or four days in a row? My surround sound turns off. Pretty soon, I can’t even find the remote control to turn the speakers back on.

Analyzing my own writing habits, I realize it’s this start and stop pattern that kills my motivation and creativity. When I come from the place of trying to fit my book in around my work life, my book becomes a hobby. It may or may not get finished.

This is the space I’ve been in over the last year. I’ve been immersed in my business—so much so that even when I was supposed to be writing, I was thinking about what I needed to do next in my business. During my everyday activities, such as doing the dishes or going for a walk, business thoughts were running in my subconscious. I don’t need to beat myself up about this because this level of immersion was needed at the time, but now I’m in a space where I can change that. Yes, business will still get done, but now I can make the shift to putting my book first and fitting everything else in around that.

I’ll need to get up earlier and let go of anything that isn’t writing or business related for awhile, but I’m willing to make the sacrifices for my book. It’s a little like being in love, isn’t it? I’m excited to surround myself with everything that is my book.

How can you make this shift of putting your book first? Try Sellers’ exercise at the end of Chapter 7. Here are the basics:

Make a list of 20 short items—one per index card—that need to be done for your book. Examples: make a list of book titles, write down chapter names, list possible names for antagonist, research humpback whales, start a scene list, add two scenes to scene list, outline next scene, make a list of bestselling books in my genre, write down each character’s main goal, etc.

Now, scatter these index cards around your home and office: tape one to your computer monitor or bathroom mirror, put one on your nightstand and in your purse or pocket, tape one to your car’s dash. You get the idea. As you go through your day, you’ll have these little assignments to keep you immersed in your book.

I’m going to do this exercise and see what happens this week. My intent is to make the shift to total immersion in my novel. I’d love company and to hear how this exercise works for you.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I already believe you’re right, but it’ll be interesting to see how your system works for you. I’m preparing to move 620 miles in early February, but after that it’s “total” immersion. For now, I’m just trying to keep up with my blog and take small steps on my novel.

    January 21, 2014
    • Thanks for the post and I think the small steps are important, too! We also have a life to live, work to do, and BIG things that come up like moving. Good luck! As for my goal to shift from my business running in the background of my brain to my book, I’m making progress…I found myself thinking of my story a few times this week when I wasn’t working on it. Yay!

      January 22, 2014
      • Congratulations! The amount of work you can accomplish on your story while physically doing other things is considerable and underestimated. Keep up the good “story” work. 🙂

        January 22, 2014
  2. Jeannine #

    Yeah, I’m looking for the remote control too. But I know it’s temporary and other creative stuff is getting done, so I’m trying not to stress. I’m sure it’s under a couch pillow somewhere.

    January 22, 2014

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