Tuesday, June 24, 2014 | By: Lynn

Focused Writing with a Hunker Down

I’m just emerging from a “hunker down.” My eyes are sore. My mind is tired. I'm happy.

According to author and journalist Ron Francell , the use of the word “hunker” dates back to the 18th century, when it meant “crouch” or “squat,” positions that related to safety. But more recently in the United States, the word has come to mean to take shelter or hold a position.

My hunker down was sort of a “hold a position.” I hunkered down for a week to finish my WIP. Like many authors, I holed up in front of my computer and held that position, focusing only on my writing for that week. It was a concentrated writing period, and that was why I did it. Life is full of other things to do, other things than my writing, so for one week I did very little but write. With that highly focused mindset, most of my thoughts pertained to my story. That’s what a good hunker down can do.

For me, it’s not easy to ignore distractions. But for the duration of the hunker down I didn’t check emails very often and when I did it was primarily to read emails from only certain people. I didn’t stop to sweep the kitchen floor or call friends or family. It could all wait. I was hunkered down. Meanwhile, the stack of unread newspapers grew. Promotions for my books went on hold. Meals were things I could make quickly or my husband could fix. Dishes either waited for before bed or again, my husband would step in. Laundry piled up while I increased my word count. At the end of the week I’d met my goal.

Several conditions need to be met for a successful hunker down:

-Coffee. I love coffee and making it is the first thing I do in the morning. It is pivotal to a good hunker down. It’s almost a companion that cheers me on during a hunker down.

-Water. It’s important to stay hydrated during a hunker down, so a large glass of water sits beside my endless mug of coffee at my desk.

-Food. I’ve missed meals during my hunker down, but only because I was so focused I lost track of time. It’s important not to starve.

-A comfortable chair as well as variety of writing spots. I happen to feel most comfortable writing at my desk in my cushy, swivel, tiltable desk chair. My mind turns on in the spot. I’m at work. But taking my laptop to a nearby park or in the backyard at the picnic table can help extend my endurance. The main idea is not to get uncomfortable to the point you can no longer stay hunkered down.

-The ability to ignore the call of other things, including a shower or shopping or a nice nap. Barring an emergency, during a hunker down I keep working until bedtime.

Deadlines for an author are an ever-present way of life. Sometimes the only way to meet them is to hunker down and get the writing down. The hunker down can be very wearing, so I try to space them and hunker down only when it’s the only way to complete my project.

Unfortunately, it seems the pause, a lovely time between deadlines when I catch up on reading and cleaning and interaction with others, doesn’t come around as often as I’d like. But I’m not complaining. It means I’m busy and have work, which is a good thing. Balance is best, but when I’m truly under the gun, trying to meet a deadline, I settle in for a productive hunker down.

Do you find occasions for a hunker down? What do you need for a productive hunker down?


RT Wolfe said...

Yes. Coffee first. Then, write. :) Best wishes, Lynn!
-R.T. Wolfe

Lynn said...

Thanks, R.T.!