There’s an old joke about cis men and self-gratification: Nine out of ten guys masturbate, and the tenth one is a liar.
The same could be said for writers and procrastinating. I think we’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t delay working on their manuscript. I rarely procrastinate with anything else in my life (maybe biz accounting because ugh) but even I put off working on my stories.
Why do we do that? We love writing, so how do we justify not writing? I suppose it could be a number of things like:
- We’re blocked.
- We’re feeling insecure about our merit as an artist.
- There’s something great on Netflix we need to binge.
- Hey, when did my closet get so messy?
- I haven’t talked to my mom in awhile. I should phone her.
- Ugh, my nails need a good trim.
- Oh, there’s a sale on Amazon!
- I should work out. Maybe at walk outside at least.
- What’s Talia doing? I’ll send her a text.
- I’m hungry and there are no cupcakes in the house.
- I should bake cupcakes.
- Oh, no flour. I’ll go get some now.
- I’m tired from my sugar rush.
- Just a short nap will do.
- Oh hi, honey, I you’re home early!
You know, extremely hypothetical things like that. *cough*
Just DO EET!
Seriously, this is what works for me. I have found myself absolutely not in a state of mind to write, but like with exercise, if I start, I end up doing pretty well. I have all sorts of legitimate excuses I can pull out of my bottom, like chronic pain and fatigue, but I wrote Life in the ‘Cosm while really suffering. So, I know for me, it can be done. (Again, this is my life and no judgment on anyone else who deals with pain and fatigue.) I have dictation apps and apps that read things back to me, and these accessibility tools got me through my first book.
What I’m discovering now is that if my brain doesn’t want to brain within a certain structure, then I’ll just let myself brain any way I want to. If I don’t want to continue with a specific chapter just yet but have an idea for another, then I’ll write the new chapter. Often, I’ll go back to the former chapter and be able to write it better so it links to the new content.
Lately, I’ve just gotten into writing short stories. Wow, this is great fun. Because of the limited word count, the end comes much sooner than with a full novel. It challenges me to write more with less, and I’m wondering if this will help me improve my overall chapter writing. I often like to think of short stories under 5K as scenes or chapters. Works in my mind, anyway. Short stories are a great kickstarter for a procrastinating writer, in my opinion. Poetry would work a treat, too!
You are better than you think you are.
Ohmigosh, this. Last night I went on a spectacular ride of sheer panic at my perceived lack of skill. My bff talked me off the ledge and I tried taking her word for it. Sometimes at night I go into I’M THE AWFULLEST WRYTUR IN THE UNIVERSE AND BEYOND mode. Often I’ll get some sleep, start writing again, and then all is well.
I really believe the remedy to thinking you’re the awfullest wrytur in the universe and beyond is to keep writing. Get out of your own head. You’re better than you think and if you’re that worried about your skills, you’ll probably do what you can to improve yourself. Remember, every one of us writes crappy first drafts. Every. One. Of Us. I seriously encourage writing crappy first drafts, because at the end of it, you have a first draft, dood!
So, off with you! And me, too.
Time to stop making excuses and do the thing. Even beginning with a few words or sentences. Writing a paragraph is more than not writing one. Imma take this advice, too.
Must dash. There be words I must smith!
Good luck, fellow scribes!
Cait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ‘Cosm, a space opera about aliens with issues (Renaissance Press). She’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Networkblog.