So I managed to get up by alarm this morning at eight, then wasted a whack of time reading the newspaper, fed the horses, and got to my computer by 10:10. This was to be a back-on-track writing morning. I started off by reading a chapter of a Bird on Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, to get me in the mood as it were. To be honest, it’s a dodge. An avoidance. A distraction.
I love writing when I’m doing it, but when I’m not, I’m running scared–away from imminent disaster. Sometimes I think I should be a drunk or an addict, so the millions who read my books–in the future–can say how I suffered for my art. “Maybe it was his demons that made him great,” you will say, thinking of me wistfully, giving your head a few such-a-shame passes back and forth.
I am writing this blog to keep me away from working on my novel. I’m afraid the novel’s dreck. I’m afraid it will be too short. I’m afraid I’ll change course too many times and none of my sub-plots will untangle. I’m afraid…that I can’t do it.
I wonder if other self-employed workers have this problem with distraction, avoidance, and self-doubt. Does Fred the plumber decide to check facebook for an hour before he goes on a job? Does Dave the drywaller doubt whether he can hang gyproc straight?
I compare myself to other writers I know. One gets up before the dawn and writes for hours, totally committed and focused–a much different personality type from me. My friend M. can write marathons. “I wrote 10,000 words today,” he says. But he’s bi-polar and incredibly prolific in the manic phase–the blessing, not the curse of his condition.
So to help me write, I have a list of guidelines, just for me. And they do help. Here are a few of them:
- Write at a particular time, not when you feel like it.
- Write or work at writing every day to improve and to build momentum.
- Don’t follow distractions such as e-mail.
- Don’t give in to doubts about your ability to write. You have a voice unique to you. Use it.
- Writing is a right brain activity. Thinking about writing and why you can’t is not. Start writing and get in the zone.
- Don’t lose contact with the enjoyment of writing and the desire to write well.
- Don’t worry so much about the First Draft. Only be concerned with the words stopping, not what they are. You can take out whole chapters later if you have to (Second Draft), but by persevering with production you may be taken down pathways you never expected or planned for.
- Be flexible with your novel or short story plan. Let the characters tell their story. Write to discover what happens. Enjoy.
That’s it. Notice that the word “enjoy” comes up more than once? Now I’ve got to get down to my writing.