When the System Breaks Down

We’ve talked in the past about compartmentalization–where you somehow separate what you’re working on from other things you’re working on to train your brain to get into the right frame of mind faster.

Normally this is excellent. But, as you probably know, what works for one person will not work for another, and what works for one story will not work for all of them.

That latter point is normally more true when dealing with research techniques, or trying to get your characters to do what they need to do.

But with this edit, I’ve actually had the compartmentalization break down, which is a first. I set up this great workstation–laptop in the middle, decked out with a mouse and everything, with notes on the right and a copy of the original draft for reference on the left. I had scene cards and post-it notes. It was isolated from the mess and the family, in a nice, quiet corner of the basement.

(Though, admittedly, there are a lot of spiders in the basement.)

It was, in theory, perfect. I’d go downstairs into my little editing corner and immerse myself in my work, and I’d be done in record time.

But it didn’t work. I couldn’t focus down there at all. I tried for weeks.

In the end, I brought everything back upstairs and set it up on my work desk. The same desk I work on my client’s manuscripts and write ghost articles for websites. The same desk where I play computer games and chat with my friends.

Now, as discussed previously, place isn’t the only way you can compartmentalize. You can do time of day, type of music, anything really. But I’m editing at a variety of times, from early morning to late night, listening to the same music whether I’m editing or working for a client, and I only own one pair of wireless gloves. (Well, I own two identical pairs. So.)

I admit I’ve never been a full follower of compartmentalization–I do whatever I need to wherever I happen to be. Sometimes it fights a pattern, sometimes not. But I’ve never had compartmentalization not work before, where just by setting aside someplace special for a project means the project doesn’t get done.

I guess there’s an exception for everything.

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