The Writing Life: Hey, Aren’t You Writing a Book?

Why yes, yes I am. Except I had this deadline for a first draft that expired in January, unmet. I think the gods are mocking me for answering a goodreads question about writer’s block and saying “I don’t really suffer from it, but here’s what I do when it kind of strikes…”

Bazinga! It struck, and my proposed solutions, well they didn’t work as well as hoped. I sat myself down sternly and told myself to write any old rubbish quite a few times, but magically decided to read the news instead. The internet is a terrible thing for the not-fully-motivated. Of course I did do writing adjacent stuff – this blog for instance, and getting some stuff done is an easy way to excuse yourself for not doing the main work ahead of you. But after a while you can’t help but notice it is an excuse!

So I feel rather foolish now. I could go back and edit my answer, but I feel my ill-advised hubris should be allowed to stand and act as a reminder to me in future to not take the ability to write for granted. Maybe I should add in a link to this column as a mea culpa.

I’m normally so full of ideas that it never really occurred to me I wouldn’t be able to write them down. I mean for the last month and a half I’ve basically ground to a halt, but I didn’t stop having ideas, running dialogues in my head, thinking about scenes to come etc., but when faced with the task of writing them down, I balked. I really should talk to my phone when daydreaming book fragments. I really really should do that! *Makes emphatic note to self*

Was I succumbing to doubt? There was some perfectionism going on, not wanting to write shoddily, but a first draft is allowed to be shoddyesque – I ignored that memo however. There was definitely procrastination going on too, but I’m not sure the origin of the procrastination was doubt, I think it rather more distraction – I’m seeking employment, and the process, after a few glorious years of freedom, has been quite daunting. Plus other stuff of life happening, as it does.

I was rather stymied by my fixation on writing the draft in a linear fashion. I could have jumped about and written the scenes I woke up daydreaming about, or the conversations I had in my head, and even though I have in fact already done that this draft, (a first for me, and I found I’m not really a fan of writing things out of sequence and then stitching them in when the main narrative meets them, though it is fun when you get to marry a fragment to the main text – you get a sudden boost to the page total, and feel something akin to the satisfaction of finding a particularly stubborn puzzle piece and slotting it home.) I did not do that this time, my characters were stuck in a spot, and I was stuck with them.

But no more! Yesterday I cranked out a chapter and a half – finally escaped that scene – via a chase, finger harvests, and immolating a bloodied skeleton. As you do. Plus a flood. Got to have a flood.

Does it count as spoilers if it’s in a first draft?

So: progress has returned. A couple of boxes in my outline ticked off. Far fewer remain than have been completed. I would say I hope to be finished by the end of this month – but I’ve tempted that fate already!

And then the first pass of continuity and timing fixes. I’m looking forward to that: having the entire story written out, no matter how much gets altered eventually, will be a great relief.

I don’t have a magic solution anymore for being blocked – I just showed up every day and looked, tinkered, fussed, and distracted myself until eventually the catalyst to write came. Not very useful, but it’s what happened. Knowing I was wasting precious time hadn’t worked for weeks, but maybe the knowledge that much more time wasted would push back my publication date back also finally got me going.

Speaking of, I think I should get back to it! See you guys on Monday!

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One thought on “The Writing Life: Hey, Aren’t You Writing a Book?

  1. Pingback: The Writing Life: What Have Deadlines Got to do with Past Tense Boxes of Chocolate? – Roderick T. Macdonald

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