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Not so very long ago I blogged here about commitment, about choosing a WIP and staying with it for better or worse, richer or poorer.
Um, yeah. About that.
The relationship wasn’t working. I tried, I really did. I deleted characters, scenarios, and plot points, and added new ones. I stopped and took a break. I started over. The WIP and I had date nights. We discussed our issues. I tried this premise and that premise and I found myself doing anything but write.
Obviously it was a discipline problem, right? So I forced myself to write. 500 words a day. That’s all. Easy. Usually I can spew out 500 words in 15 minutes. Usually once I’ve gotten started, I want to keep writing.
Nope. Not this time.
And so I’m considering the possibility that this WIP and I were not meant to be. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and move on. Now, I’m not saying it’s over for keeps. I’m suggesting that we see other people, try other things. Maybe when we’re both older and wiser, we can try again.
I’ve got to confess that I already have a new love. In fact, to be perfectly honest, the new WIP and I were having an illicit affair even before I finished Swimming North. The good news about this is that when I sit down to write, the words and ideas fall all over each other trying to get onto the page.
Maybe it will last. Maybe it won’t.
We’re taking it one day at a time.
Butt in chair, fingers on keys.
I can’t even guess how many times I’ve heard those words or something like them, all meaning the same thing – my job as a writer is to show up for work, no matter what. No waiting around for inspiration, dilatory muses, or “being in the mood.”
Knowing, of course, is not the same thing as doing. Since finishing Swimming North and sending it out into the big wide world to seek its fortune, I’ve found an alarming number of reasons not to fully engage with another WIP. I’ve been sick, I’ve been busy, I’ve been working on author promotional materials, I’ve been brainstorming, I’ve been planning, I’ve been reading comparative titles just in case an agent falls in love with Swimming North and asks for such things.
But I have not been writing.
And last night I finally admitted to myself that this is largely out of fear. Yep – my name is Kerry Schafer, and I am a cowardly writer. Swimming North, much as I love it, was an ordeal at times. Some of the revisions left scars on my own psyche, I swear. I don’t want to go through that again – spending the hours creating, polishing, refining – only to realize in the end that these words, these characters that seem so beautiful, are actually harmful to the book itself and must be excised.
I’d like a little magic writing dust that would allow the perfect draft the first time through. And so, I am afraid to create anything because it may never see the light of day. I am afraid to commit to a new project because it is so much like being married, and you just never know when you dive in what the outcome will be.
Seriously. The old fashioned marriage vows might just as well be recited by every writer sitting down to write a novel. “For richer for poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” That’s what it’s all about. None of this dabbling while the writing is easy and then setting it aside for a newer, sparkly idea. If I’m not prepared to commit to another project, I’ve got no business calling myself a writer.
Once I realized that my problem was fear, there was only one course of action – start writing. I have a personal mandate that involves tackling whatever scares me. Which is how I found myself last night, butt in chair, fingers on keys, wrapped in a blanket to calm the fever chills generated by this ungodly bug I’ve picked up from somewhere.
I didn’t expect much. My brain was foggy, I couldn’t see where the plot was going. Still. I promised myself five hundred words, any caliber of words, for better or worse. And I discovered all over again that when I sit in the chair and move my fingers over the keyboard, writing happens. Maybe not awe-inspiring prose, but progress still. And by this morning I find myself committed, the structure of this novel finally coming clear in my mind.
“What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
I have been absent. I’m sure hundreds of people, including agents and editors, have stopped by the site daily and lamented my long silence.
So, I would like to apologize, and offer up the following list of possible excuses. Please select the one you personally find the most appealing, as I can’t seem to choose between them:
1. I won a trip for myself and my family (including the dog and two cats and the fish) to Europe, and have been happily immersed in good wine, excellent cuisine, and enchanting works of art.
2. I finished writing Swimming North, and in an unprecedented and serendipitous moment, a top selling agent called me up on the telephone, said she had learned about my incredible story through a prophetic dream, and offered immediate representation. Of course I dropped everything to finish up last minute revisions and has out the details.
3. In a fit of despondency, believing I would never finish Swimming North or write anything worth reading, I stepped in front of a bus. I have spent the last month in a coma. I am typing this with my toes from a hospital bed, as both arms are broken and in plaster casts.
4. Aliens abducted me. It only seemed like a few hours, but weeks of time have unaccountably gone missing.
5. The cat took over the house and wouldn’t allow me access to the computer.
6. I developed a disabling fear of my laptop and was forced to engage in radical desensitization therapy before I was able to type a single word.
7. Overcome by a fit of perfectionism, I have been working on this blog post night and day for weeks, unable to polish it to an acceptable state for posting.
8. It began with one hot buttered rum at bedtime, and progressed to non-stop drinking. My family staged an intervention, telling me they preferred my internet addiction and urging me to get back to blogging, twittering, and endlessly tinkering with my never ending rewrite.
9. I read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. I thought the King was onto something and gave the idea a try. Unfortunately there is no page in this house to pull the plug, and I finally had to do it myself.
10. I procrastinated. Then I felt guilty about not blogging, so I procrastinated further. I forgot the password to log in to WordPress. More guilt. So I avoided WordPress completely, for weeks.
Enough with excuses. The writing must go on, and does, along with all of the real life complications. Time to hit some revisions before bed.
Confession of the day: I am a coward.
Yep, it’s true. I fear many bizarre and small things in my life, including telephones and talking to people I don’t know. Considering that I’ve chosen a job which glues me to a phone and requires me to walk into jails, hospitals, and private homes, where I converse with cops and corrections officers, inmates, doctors, nurses, and people from every possible walk of life, you might think I’d learned to confront all of my fears and that I practice the Art of Courage.
You would be wrong – at least when it comes to writing.
Here I am, at the brink of completing this draft of Swimming North. I’ve been wobbling on this brink for two days now. In fact, I’m considering ordering in a lawn chair, a good book, and a case of beer. Maybe I could just sit here until I die. The view isn’t half bad, and I have my memories of the trip to sustain me. Of course, it’s an uncomfortable location in which to spend the rest of my life; rather precarious – a strong wind or a misplaced lawn chair leg could send me hurtling into the depths.
I can’t go backward; it’s too late for that. And if I move forward, one of two things is going to happen: I’m either going to discover that I have wings, or I’m going to crash on the rocks below. They are jagged, pointy rocks. I’ve survived that crash once or twice, but vital things were broken and I really don’t care to do it again. I dream that maybe I’ve earned my wings this time, but I’m not certain, and as long as I hesitate here, on the edge of life as I know it, I can dream and imagine and avoid reality.
Okay. It’s a metaphor, and it’s over dramatic. Failure isn’t going to kill me. The bald facts are these: I’ve written almost to the end of Swimming North, The Fourth Re-write. And once I finish it, it will be time to look back over the manuscript and ask myself those very difficult questions. Will it work this time? Can I consider it the last of the rewrites and move on to the relative simplicity of revision and editing? Or have I failed, again, in even coming close to writing what I set out to do? If I’ve failed at that, have I succeeded in writing something else that is worth a damn? I tell myself that I will NOT rewrite this manuscript one more time, but my entire genetic code refuses to let me walk away.
What genetic code is that, you ask? The Norwegian Viking Code, that’s what. Viking warriors were shamed if they survived and their leader died. They fought until the bitter end, preferring death on the battle field to the life of shame they would lead if –
There I go again into the melodrama. And while blogging is a Worthy and Important Activity, it is also a Means of Procrastination and Delay. I am off to take the plunge and see what happens. If I don’t come back – send all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men. I might just be in need of them.