Archive for the ‘Procrastination’ Category

h1

Fighting Off Writer’s Fatigue

May 15, 2015

novelist powers
I’ve hit that moment in novel writing, the moment when I’m worn out by the demands of such long prose.

I call it WRITER’S FATIGUE. 

A novel is a long-distance race. I don’t run long distance in real life, but I imagine there comes a point when the mind/body rebels and says: to heck with this, let’s go get pizza.

The impulse is to STOP RUNNING.

Just as, in my case, the impulse is to STOP WRITING.

A novel is a daunting project. It can’t be done in a day. Perhaps, a month? But, usually, much, much longer.

It is a long term project, requiring repeated declarations of commitment.

And, sometimes, the end point seems such a long way away….

Once again, I wish I were a poet. 

I think of William Carlos Williams, slapping em down on prescription pads in the middle of being a doctor.

Feeling the satisfaction of completion!

Of course, the creative process is never ending. Write one poem, up comes another. It’s never really DONE.

But, on a small scale, when one creative idea moves from being just a silly concept into the bold reality of fruition……well, that moment is indeed sublime.

Poets must feel it with more frequency than novelists.

Isn’t there’s a spectrum of creative gratification? With the most instant being on the one end (with oh, say, twitter poets and haiku artists) and novelists on the other? Perhaps mega-novelists should be at that end. Those whose single creative idea takes many volumes. (J.K. Rowling, perhaps? How did she write 7 volumes without ripping her hair out with impatience?)

My fatigue is based on my impatience. I want to get to the end without all the work.

Of course, the one thing I can do is narrow my focus. Forget the end point. Just look at putting one foot/word in front of the other.

How else do I get rid of my obsession with THE END?

Maybe I should just skip to the end and write backwards? That might diffuse the ‘ending’ of its power.

Take that, Ending! You have no power over me anymore!

PS. This comic was first seen in the post Why I Want To Publish but given that I reference William Carlos William and his poems-on-prescription-pads (which goes to show you can write ANYWHERE, no excuses!), I thought I would post it here as well.

williamnote

h1

The Benefit of A Consistent Writing Practice

March 13, 2014

quit sulkingIf you’ve followed my blog recently, you’ll know I suffered a setback…a month’s worth of novel writing ‘disappeared’ due to a corrupted computer file.

I have tried to rally from this loss but to be honest: it hasn’t been easy.

I don’t wanna, has been my grumpy attitude towards having to re-write scenes already written. I said it better before, I’ll grouch as try to recollect a particular turn of phrase from those deleted sections.

Nothing is good enough. The material feels boring. I’ve tread this path before and I resent having to tread it again with less verve and inspiration.

Never before has writing felt like such a grind. It is PRIME TIME for procrastination. I don’t wanna. I’ll do it later. Another time. When I feel like it. *sticks out tongue at computer*

But I know it needs to get done. I want to finish this story, it needs to be told, its been a process of many years and its so close to the end, I can taste it. I don’t want to wait until inspiration strikes. I need to make the inspiration happen now whether it wants to or not…

So I’ve finally adhered to that old adage: WRITE EVERYDAY.

I used to write when I could break away from daily life. My ideal writing time was when I was jazzed by an idea or had set aside the luxury of ‘a few hours’. Those two combined was a heady mix of ‘writer’s bliss’. When I was jazzed and really had the time to tap into it and cause it to manifest…man, those were the best writer times EVER.

Looking back, my writing practice was a mix of turbo writing madness followed by an infuriating barren block, followed by a trickle allowed by circumstance, followed by a block, then a trickle, then a turbo…it was an inconstant pattern, actually: rush, stop, lurch, stop, rush, lurch. I felt at the whim of the Writing Gods. They seemed to be having a good laugh at my expense, those rascals.

But I’ve decided now I cannot wait for ‘inconsistent whims’. Otherwise, I’ll never get over this hump. So I’ve decided to drop the bar of expectation low. My reasoning: a low bar is better than no bar at all.

I’ll actually put on the stove timer. I started with ten minutes. Moved to fifteen minutes. Surely I can spare a mere fifteen minutes everyday? (If I turn of Netflix, I can.)

I tell myself: SIT DOWN AT THE COMPUTER, WRITE TO THE TIMER. GO.

Setting the timer allows me to enter my novel with minimal expectations. From this vantage point, the only way to go is UP. And so…I go UP.

Interestingly, I have found myself exceeding the timer on occasions. The timer will ring and I’ll look up from the screen: huh? what? I’ve been too involved in writing to notice the passing of time.

This method is helping me deal with my grumpy writer attitude. By the end of my session, I am typically transformed, regaining confidence–and bit by bit, my writing is growing. I am slowly recapturing what I’ve lost and my novel is growing. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes at a time.

Such is the benefit of a consistent writing practice.

PS Don’t have a timer, you say? Try this one on line!

writer decisions

h1

Writing a Novel is a Long Term Relationship

February 6, 2014

beenalongtimeppicI’ve found that when you hit your forties, the past becomes a bit of a blur. Pretty much everything seems to have happened ‘awhile ago’.

But the other day, I took a moment to really try and add it up. I had to think back and work it out:

I started my novel in university after I took that Romantics English course and became enamoured with the time period. Lady Caroline Lamb became my muse and–boom! The novel started pouring out.

It went through innumerable fits and starts. I rewrote the beginning a half a dozen times, wondering if the whole thing would just fizzle out like so many other writing projects (since about the age of ten) but no, it kept on. I kept chugging on.

I took that Romantics course in about the year 1996/1997 (you know you are getting older when you say things like ‘about the year…’ because so much time has passed you can’t precisely pin point it!). The genesis for my novel came shortly thereafter. Given that this is now 2014, and I’m almost-but-not-quite-done-my-novel-yet, so far I’ve been working on this ($@#%^%$) thing for…oh,  let’s say fifteen years.

FIFTEEN YEARS!?!? No no no no, I said to myself. That simply can’t be right. Add it up again.

So I did. And the approximation stayed the same.

FIFTEEN YEARS!

I have no idea why it has taken me this long. Other writers fly through their novels in a year or so–or, if they are doing ‘nanowrimo’, one month!

Believe me, I have tried to analyze it: Is it fear of failure or fear of success? Are negative beliefs holding me back? Is it my subconscious? Am I a perfectionist?

Or, more practically: Do I need an outline? (tried that) Do I need a writing goal? (tried that) Do I need a deadline? (tried that too!) Or do I just need to get my bum in my writing chair more often? (only to have this happen–or this or this or this).

I finally had to say to myself: all this wondering about not getting it done is getting in the way of getting it done. As a friend of mine once said about the impending birth of her child, an event to which no amount of planning can truly prepare one: ‘she’s gonna come out the way she’s gonna come out’.

And that’s the same with my novel. It’s coming out the way its gonna come out. So stop fighting it, darling, and just go with it because though the pace may not be to your liking, it’s coming, slowly but surely, it’s coming into being!

But consider this…

  • I’ve been with my novel even longer than my husband. (This is a long term relationship!)
  • My novel is older than my first born son. (This is a long term relationship!)

Also:

  • Writing a novel means you must marinate in its essence–no matter where that takes you. You must be willing to sit with it when it’s happy and joyful and when it wakes up crying at 3am.  (This is a long term relationship!)
  • Writing a novel means you will psychically bond with it. It will be your shadow, a ghostly doppelgänger following you around during your ‘normal’ life. You are ‘two hearts beating as one’ as you do such mundane tasks as wash the dishes, watch TV and stand in line at the grocery store. (This is a long term relationship!)
  • Writing a novel means there are moments of difficulty and moments of contentment and times filled with silence and other times filled with the dramatic rush of words. It all ebbs and flows. (Just like a long term relationship!)

You may want to ask me: Julie, after all these years together, how do you keep the flame alive? Aren’t you bored?

And the only answer I can give is: love. I’m still crazy in love. I love my difficult characters, my twisting plot, my historical setting. I love laying down new words and reworking old words and spending time with the words, building it and building it.

My novel, my dear old friend.

longhaulpic

h1

Writer’s Procrastination

March 15, 2012

Recently I got back on the writing track, rediscovering my novel after a substantial absence. I sat down, read it over, thought to myself: YES! THIS IS GREAT! I MUST KEEP GOING!

And then…

…talked myself into doing the laundry.

Yes, folks…it’s…procrastination! KERPOW!

I have no idea why writers get struck by this particular brand of lightening now and then. You sit down raring to go, cracking your knuckles in anticipation, for here it is, that desired WRITING TIME!

You get all cozy in your writing spot but then realize…you need a cup of tea/coffee. Oh, and a sweater. Oh, and you’d better get up now to use the washroom so you won’t be disturbed later in the middle of something good…

When you get back to your laptop, you ‘accidentally’ hop on Twitter to see what everyone else is doing (anyone else writing out there? Hello?). Finally, you click on your writing file, so you can you-re-read what you’ve written before this session, all the better to orient yourself in anticipation of creating brilliant work…but, oh, wait! You’re  tea/coffee cup needs a refill, though the sound of that liquid sloshing only makes you want to pee again… SO YOU COME BACK FROM THE BATHROOM…AND THEN…

Opps. Look at the time! Your time for writing is all done! Aw, shucks!

A neat little bit of self-sabotage.

Why do I sabotage myself like this? What am I so afraid of when I sit down and ‘not write’? That the writing will be bad? That it will be so rotten, stinking bad that it will undermine all my efforts and ruin my dreams of publishing? Will it truly be so bad?

There is no such thing as bad writing. All writing is a starting point. If I put something down I don’t like, it can be re-worked. At the very least, it can illuminate the path-not-to-take, a negative illuminating a positive.

But if I have nothing down…if the page is blank…then there’s no where to go. There is no foot hold.

The only ‘bad’ writing is ‘no’ writing! You can’t improve upon a blank page!

Soooo…message to self: alphabetizing the spice cupboard can wait! JUST KEEP WRITING!

h1

The Return…

February 26, 2012

Well, here I am! I’m back! So sound the trumpets and let the confetti fall from the sky and get ready to cut the cake, baby…!

What? What do you mean there’s no cake?!

It’s funny how in an author’s life there are big stops and starts and large interior, seismic moments that no one has a clue about but you. Writing is so intensely personal.

I’m returning to my almost-finished novel and in my mind the red carpet should be rolled out and I should be handed a glass of Champagne…

I had to step away from writing for a while, primarily due to work. In my day job I’m a teacher. I get to teach fun things like reading and writing and a lot of my creative energy goes into making that material accessible and interesting.

My novel, which is my own, special, highly personal creative project, suffered from a serous lack of attention.

I thinks it’s mad at me.

I’m going to have to approach it gently, give its lots of praise, as we slowly get reacquainted. What a pretty little novel you are! Such a good novel! We’ll get you all polished up, patch up all the plot holes, get you ready for the grand finale…isn’t that right, sweetums? 

I want to get back into The Writing Life!

Then maybe we can have some cake?!

h1

Writer’s Guilt

February 4, 2011

I’ve been taking a break from my novel lately. Partly, this is because I had the flu for a week. And partly, this is because we…um…(facial tick happening) we…uh…(eyes are darting around nervously) we really just needed a break.

Alright. You got me. I’m lying!

I’m not taking a break! I’m avoiding the damn thing! I’m running away. I’m In Hiding. I’ve put on my camouflage, I’m ducking and covering and sneaking past the computer on tip toe, shushing everybody: Be Quiet! Don’t wake it up!

And for that I am suffering a serious bout of Writer’s Guilt. Uhg.

Come on. You know that feeling. The I-am-supposed-to-be-writing-but-instead-think-organizing-my-socks-is-infinitely-more-interesting-and-its-not-just-so-my-hands-can-be-busy-while-I–mediate-on-my-plot-problems sort of feeling.

It’s avoidance, pure and simple.

Every writer knows deep inside when they need to take a break from their writing (to let the ideas settle, to gain perspective, to mull things over) and when they are out and out procrastinating.

Why? That is the question to answer. I know I love my characters. I know I love the process of creation. I know I want to finish it. I just can’t seem to get near it right now without feeling like a skittish filly.

Why? Perhaps I’m intimidated by how much work I have left to do. Perhaps my Inner Critic is overly active right now and I’m feeling sensitive.

Still, I need to jump back in. I need to re-read where I’ve been, get back in the vibe, maybe do a bit of free flow writing, just play and let the ideas come, the writing equivalent of jazz.

The remedy? Face my fears, I guess. JUST DO IT.

And I will. I promise. Maybe once this episode of Murdock Mysteries is over…

Oops. Nope. I better take care of this now.

My novel is barking at me. I better let it back in the house.

PS. Writers,  how do you overcome Writer’s Guilt?

h1

Procrastination Is Its Own Art Form

May 26, 2010

Instead of working on my novel, I decided to muck about drafting query letters and one sentence story pitches, with the understanding that this activity might give my writing renewed focus (rather than, say, giving me an anxiety attack).

So here’s my one sentence story pitch (with thanks to Nathan Bransford, who I’m coming to adore, in spite of his being one of those scary lit agents)…

Here’s his template for a one sentence story pitch:
When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST.

And here’s my version:
When Caroline Honeychurch discovers that her dead husband may in fact be alive, she has to sift through their difficult past—while navigating an increasingly complicated present—to figure out what the heck really happened to him.

Hmmm. Still needs more work. Guess I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day!