[dropcap1]W[/dropcap1]elcome to the latest installment of the Forward Motion Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour! We’ve gathered several writers from amateur to professional, and we discuss one topic for the month. This month’s theme is…well, technically it’s about ‘procrastination’. Procrastination is defined as putting off, temporizing or dragging one’s feet. I use the term ‘resistance’ in the manner of fighting, standing or struggling.
It is a struggle, writing. I’ve spent a number of months over the last fourteen years finding everything in the world to do except write. (Idiotic, really, as I’ve wanted to be a published author for half my adolescence.) I just came off a three week stint in between novels, and am already woefully short on annual word count as well as two weeks behind my scheduled goals. Not because of procrastination (which is what I was doing), but because of resistance — that which caused me to procrastinate. Resistance is caused by a multitude of things, each insidious obstacle personally tailored for every individual. The key is to realize how resistance portrays itself to the individual, and construct a weapon to use against it.
My primary key is fear. I’m a chicken, what can I say? My wife jokes about the yellow highlighter she uses to color in the yellow streak down my back. (At least I think she’s joking…) Fear has been the main stumbling block of my entire life; I don’t expect it to ever be different. What has to change if I’m to overcome this obstacle is my response to it.
I’m afraid of not completing a project. The first time I attempted to write a novel, I finished one chapter. Nothing else. It was a great chapter, too! I edited that sucker no end for months. My friends raved about it, but I never got past that first fifteen pages despite having a rough storyline in my head. I didn’t do much more writing for twenty years after that. (Considering it was a Mary Sue Star Trek story, it’s probably just as well.)
When I finally attempted writing again, I had some discipline under my belt as a self-employed artist. Even then, I didn’t trust my ability to write an entire story to completion. At the time, I was enamored of Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction, and chose to play in that sandbox. Lots of writers putting their longer stories online, posting chapter by chapter on a weekly basis. I did the same. Without realizing it, I’d stumbled on another tool to help me through — the constant barrage of emails from readers begging for the next installment. To appease my readers, I struggled through until the novella was complete and posted online. (Only One is the first lengthy story I ever completed solo.)
That didn’t stop me from being afraid. That didn’t stop the resistance from dogging me. That didn’t stop the sudden irrational desire to clean the toilet rather than write from popping up at the most inopportune times. Instead, I forced myself to sit down and write every day. I didn’t have a word count goal then, but a scene goal — half a scene every day. Some days I made it, some days I didn’t. Such is life.
When I got published, it was with a small niche market. Everything that they contracted with me for were with stories that had already appeared online. I got tired of hearing the readers gripe because a chapter hadn’t been put up on the right day. Though it had been my primary motivation in the early days, not so much now. I stumbled around for three or four years writing and developing a half dozen novels that didn’t make it online, then rewriting and redeveloping them. (The Strange Path comes out next month, and it’s been through four complete rewrites — this final manuscript looks almost nothing like the original.) Some didn’t get completed at all without the constant requests from readers.
Over the course of these slow years, I’ve learned new tools to defeat the resistance I suffer. The Forward Motion Writing Community gave me a lot of resources to draw from, and I’m still minimally active there. These days I stay home to edit my manuscripts because it doesn’t take as much focus, and doesn’t cause too much procrastination. All my fresh writing is done at a coffee shop where I don’t have household chores waiting or access to the internet. Not being able to browse the web or check my email does wonders for my productivity! Since I joined Bella Books, I’ve found another tool to continue putting words on paper. I’m contracted for books that haven’t been written yet! ACK! Must. Make. Contractual. Obligations!
What I’m trying to say is that the resistance never goes away. Never. You’ll always have to fight against it to take what’s yours. Define your resistance — what exactly is it that stops you? Then find ways around it. I’m of the opinion that your resistance is a survival mechanism developed from childhood to protect you from whatever hazards you experienced. Pinpoint it, see how it affects your current procrastination as you stare at the blank page on your word processing program, and develop personal tools to move around it. It’s there for a reason, though that reason is no longer viable. Accept it and thank it for its hard work to help you survive.
Then send it on vacation.