I Am the Master Chief of My Domain

So much for the quickie rewrite.

I’m currently stuck in the middle of the second draft of my Domestic Comedy. No, that’s not right.  Truth is, I’d like nothing more than to be stuck in the middle of it; I’m actually bogged down at the beginning. And I’m talking the beginning-beginning — I’m less than ten pages in and I feel like somebody’s dropped me in the middle of the Congo with nothing more than a bread knife to hack my way through the jungle.

At times like this, distractions are everywhere. My house seems to come alive as I sit there at my computer, fidgeting and wishing my daily quota of pages was done already — I can hear our DVD collection beckoning, our CD spinner whispering sweet nothings in my ear, my shelf of unread books whistling my way and asking if I want a date.

And then there’s the Xbox.

Lately, the console is sounding like that loudmouth jerk who hawks Oxyclean and Kaboom on TV: “COME PLAY ME!  THE SCRIPT CAN WAIT! YOU WILL OBEY!!!”  Increasing the temptation is the brand new copy of HALO 2 that I bought on a whim at Fry’s a few weeks ago. 

Here’s the thing — when I’m in the zone and a script is clicking, nothing can keep me from writing.  I’ll write anytime, anywhere.  (This can make driving a little challenging and occasionally death-defying, but hey, sometimes the Muse takes precedence over traffic laws and common sense.)  But when I’m blocked, I find myself drawn to other people’s stories.  I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t read a long work of fiction while making my way through a difficult first draft; if I do, I usually have a better chance of finishing the LA Marathon in flip-flops than I do of finishing my own draft.  And now that I’m a born again gaming geek, I’ve recently discovered that if I’m playing a story-driven game such as, oh, say, the original HALO or BIOSHOCK, there’s no way in hell any work is getting done.  (Unless the Missus cracks the whip and guilts me into getting my ass in gear.)  I know that I need to focus, to concentrate all of my energy and attention on my own tale.

Consequently, I refuse to let myself open HALO 2 until I finish the second draft of the Domestic Comedy.

And now, naturally, as I struggle with my script, I can’t stop thinking about HALO 2.

Sad, right?  What’s even sadder is that I’m actually trying to bargain with myself now.  It’s gotten to the point that I’ll ask the Missus if it would be okay for me to play ten minutes of the game as long as I get my quota of pages done.  Her answer is always the same: “Is the script done?  Then the answer is no.  Now get back to work, asshole.”  (Okay, she doesn’t actually call me an asshole.  It’s certainly  implied, though.)

This inner struggle is not necessarily due to the fact that I’m dying to play a five-year-old video game — though I am, of  course.  It’s just that by denying myself this minor pleasure, I can’t help but focus on it.  ( What can I say, I was raised Catholic.)  But if I give in, then I’ve lost this battle of wills with myself.  I’m starting to feel like I’m in my own one man version of the legendary masturbation episode of SEINFELD.  And I must remain the master of my domain.  The Covenant and the Flood can wait.

Maybe.

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3 Comments on “I Am the Master Chief of My Domain”

  1. matt Says:

    I just wanted to remind everyone about this contest. The deadlline is coming up. I can’t recommend it enough.

    http://www.trackingb.com/?page_id=861

  2. The Last Spartan Says:

    WriterDad,

    I read your story with quite a sense of identification. I know that in the last few weeks, I too wanted to watch a movie, play a video game (I’ve made the playoffs in ‘Madden 09’!) or do the things I usually do when I am unoccupied. I had a Powerpoint presentation to research, create and rehearse. I know what writer’s block feels like and I’ll suggest that you ARE doing all of the right things to combat it. It feels like you aren’t succeeding because it is, in fact, difficult to keep from distraction.

    This is one of the perils of working from home and why I know I could never be successful in such a model if it was my daily routine.

    One thing that helped me though was the “10-minute/50-minute” rule that I created for myself in medical school. I figured that at my worst, I was wasting large amounts of time doing anything from counting ceiling tiles in the library to trying to hit on girls. So, I made a bargain with myself. I had to complete both parts of the bargain. I knew that if I could sit down and honestly do undistracted work for 10 solid minutes, then I’d be good for getting into a groove. The next part was that if I could keep my mind on task for 50 minutes out of every hour, I’d give myself ten minutes to unwind my brain and do whatever pleased me. I figured that was better than 80% efficiency which is always better than what I was previously achieving.

    Another setback it seems is your environment. I know that my computer, TV and Xbox all happen to be in the same room which is not good. It’s the same as the idea that you shouldn’t study on your bed because your mind thinks it’s sleep time. Your brain doesn’t multitask that well in certain environments with lots of stimuli.

    Just a thought. I could be wrong.

    “I’M OUT!” -Kramer

  3. WriterDad Says:

    Matt — I’ve definitely got that deadline marked down.

    Last Spartan — unfortunately, my PC is in our guest bedroom, which is also home to my bass guitar, books, comic book collection, etc. My wife’s PC is in the family room with the TV, DVD player, CDs, more books and the dreaded Xbox. I think I need to just buy a laptop and find a quiet Starbucks to work in…. if Starbucks were open at one in the morning, of course. I’m going to keep your “10-minute/50-minute” rule in mind, too…


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