“Don’t Like to Write, But Like Having Written”
Dorothy Parker? George R. R. Martin? Frank Norris? Robert Louis Stevenson? Cornelia Otis Skinner? Clive Barnes? Gloria Steinem? Hedley Donovan?
No one is sure exactly who first said that. (see The Quote Investigator)
I suppose most writers have felt that way at some time in their careers. I did hear one writer of Romance novels say that she could spend all day writing, that she had no interest in doing anything else. I don’t remember her name (my version of writer’s block). Maybe I was in shock. I do remember thinking at the time, ‘So, you’d rather write about romance than actually experience it?’
Or, maybe that was just my defenses kicking in since I am one of those writers who need to duct tape themselves to the chair, face a blank wall and have all required refreshments close at hand. Even then, there are emails to write and answer, research that leads me far from what I was looking for in the first place, like ‘Gee, who really said the above quotation and who the heck is Hedley Donavan?’
So I have to find ways to trick myself into sitting down and actually writing. Last year I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is a self-imposed marathon of writing. On November 1st of each year, “participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”
I made it to 40,000 and I am still working on it. (more on that later).
In my own defense, the delay wasn’t all the fault of procrastination. Family emergencies sent my life in a totally unexpected direction, which forced me to rent a new house, fly out East, a car accident in Missouri and a bunch of other surprises jumping out of the shadows for no other reason than give me more excuses not to write.
The interesting thing about dragging my feet when it comes to writing—or should that be dragging my fingers?—is once I do get started and the words are flowing it becomes a wonderful roller-coaster ride of exploration, discovery and joy.
Often I’ve had to ask myself, “Writing gives me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure. It’s like conducting an orchestra or painting on a blank canvas with words of colors yet to be seen. Why then do I procrastinate? Why do I find a hundred and one things to distract me?”
Yes, there are times of frustration like when your words are pouring forth and then suddenly come to an abrupt stop. Or when you know that one word in the sentence is so wrong but you can’t think of anything better. But I know that no matter what you do in life, you’re going to have some bad days.
And when those days happen, I go and find a way to trick myself into making my writing a priority so I don’t end up with a dozen unfinished manuscripts nagging at me.
If any of your readers have a few tricks of their own to vanquish procrastination, please let me know. I could use a few more.