We asked this year’s faculty to respond to a question related to this year’s theme of disTRACTION. In today’s installment, fiction and comics writer Lydia Conklin tells you how to reward yourself for staying focused.
How do you create an undistracted space for writing?
One way that I keep myself on task while I’m writing is to create incentives. I know it sounds babyish—like getting an M&M for using the potty—but somehow I trick myself into not knowing that. So I might say that if I write until 10am I can eat some carrots, and then in another hour I can have an apple. If I think of something I want to do that’s going to disturb my writing—such as pointlessly checking one of the lists I pointlessly make and then store on my computer—I make it into an incentive. At eleven o’clock I can check the list of books I read last year! It sounds so exciting until I reach eleven, by which point I usually have forgotten about it or the shine has worn off and, hopefully, I keep writing.
LYDIA CONKLIN was born in the Boston area, and attended Harvard. She is the 2015-2017 Creative Writing Fellow in fiction at Emory University, where she will teach undergraduate fiction workshops. She has received a Pushcart Prize, work-study scholarships from Bread Loaf, and fellowships from MacDowell, Yaddo, the James Merrill House, the Vermont Studio Center, and Millay, among others. Her fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. She has drawn graphic fiction for Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. She has taught graphic narrative and prose fiction in a Wisconsin prison, a Detroit public school, at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, and at camps and high school programs. She holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.