Fact: Nobody works in a vacuum. No matter how easy or obsessive a person you may be when it comes to managing your personal work space, life as it plays is a significant and constant presence in whatever you’re doing. People show up for work (or don’t). Expected responses from a colleague or a friend turn out to be a puzzle instead of a clear Stop or Go. Your own concept for a project doesn’t mesh with a co-worker’s idea of where this thing should be going. Your child is sick on the day of the big presentation you’ve worked on all year. Your companion’s priorities are not your own. You didn’t sleep well. Somebody caught you offguard in a difficult moment. And so on.
The only questions that matter are: how do you cope with the disruption(s) and what do you do with their effects on your mood, motivation, enthusiasm, will to stick to it or chuck it all, etc. So far, the best answer I’ve found is to go with whatever the events bring up as a mood or emotion, or whatever they trigger in terms of memories – good, bad, indifferent, boring makes no difference – and pick up the writing at that point. One character or another can make use of that mind space. Which doesn’t mean the character will spew out the content of your personal enthusiasm, disappointment, elation or despair du jour. It means you use the space you’re in as preparation instead of impediment to the writing. Yes, here again, I’m applying a Sanford Meisner approach to this. Anyone interested in the details will find them in Chapter 6 of Sanford Meisner On Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell.
Does this guarantee you’ll get a good scene? No. One that will make it to the end of the final revision? No. It only guarantees you keep on writing, if that happens to be your priority. Or painting. Or practicing your musical instrument. Or doing whatever else you consider essential to your own self-definition and self-worth. The time for tweaking and double-guessing comes when you decide whether the scene fits at that particular spot, or should go elsewhere; or should belong to another character, another time in story, etc. The main thing being that, at the draft stage of writing, no matter how other people’s energy may affect you on a particular day, and no matter what your personal circumstances may be, you make use of it.
At another time, and in other professional circumstances, I once wrote my way through a difficult time by writing out my resignation letter every single night with all the proper shadings of intent, based on that day’s frustrations. In the morning, I would read it over, and ask myself if that’s where matters still stood for me. So long as the answer was no, I tore up the letter and went back to the job. The day the answer was yes, I revised the letter by removing the personal hurts and low blow comments, and handed it to the appropriate authorities. If writing is the thing for you, you write yourself and your characters into deep shit country, and you write yourself and them out of it, as best you can at that point in time. On the really great days, you write yourself and them into a state of elation any fool and his brother would adopt as his or her permanent living space.
Once more, con gusto.