I have written about procrastination before (Putting off til tomorrow... oops it's today) I started seriously thinking about the short story An Eye for Detail around 24th May. I wrote down some ideas and then sat on it. I did some research and then sat on it. I used several excuses to put off starting.
- I just need a little more research
- I can't find the words for the perfect opening paragraph
- I want to let it all settle, to let the story bubble away so that it will all make sense later
- I need to get the house work done
- my other work has been stressful and I have to relax
- what if no one likes the way I write
I sat down earlier this week and tried to analyse the real reason behind my procrastination (I can't speak for other writers but suspect that the following is probably a universal one)
- the fear of an empty page and writers' block
- what if it is just really bad /fear of rejection
- If I have lots of time, it should be perfect. If I have little time, then I have an excuse for it not being perfect.
In essence it is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of fear itself.
I have read several times now, you can't call yourself a writer unless you actually, well... write! Don't worry if it is not fantastic, mind-blowing prose. The best piece of advice I have read was: Anything is better than nothing. If nothing else, it is learning the discipline of extracting words, from the mind, to describe the thoughts and ideas that reside there. Recently, when I have had a block and started to procrastinate, I have tried writing something else. I have written about a random writing exercise in Practice, Practice, Practice. Even this blog is a form of practicing the discipline of writing, as it provides me with a regular deadline. (even if the writing is not perfect).
Once committed to paper (or word processor), these words can be filed away or reworked. They can be used as notes or starting points, when a writers' block hits, in the future or used as part of a larger project. If they are not committed into readable words, then they are just that - an idea. I am getting a box full of handwritten notes and a whole computer folder of 'use later?' and 'utter crap'. (Yes, they are actually named that).
I have also read (paraphrased here) that many people say they want to write but don't actually put pen to paper (or finger to the keyboard). Others start writing and then stop, never to finish any project. The second best advice I have read was: You can only call yourself a writer if you finish the story! When I am having a bad writing day, I keep telling myself this. So when did I call myself a writer? I stuck to this definition and only dained to call myself a writer when I had finished a few stories and sent them off. (though I have also read since then, that blogs count in this definition).
I often think of the above when I start procrastinating. Truthfully, is doesn't always get me off my butt. What it does is to remind me that I am not alone in my struggles. It gives me inspiration to write... something. Anything.
Finally three weeks later, I am on the downhill slide and this short story is almost done. During this time, I have written down an idea for another short story, finished a section of an art project that I have (not surprisingly) put off and completed a first draft of another short story. I have now managed 2973 words, a spell check, a major edit, three minor re-edits and four proofreads (hopefully with the last one to go) of An Eye for Detail.
It is due to be emailed out by the 20th so I have another week for the final stage. Fear of rejection. Every time I reach this stage of a short story, I start wondering if it will be good enough. I balk at the possibility of rejection. I then think of my two mantas (outlined above), yet again.
Anything is better than nothing; it will never be perfect. and
You can only call yourself a writer if you finish the story!
Within the next two days, I will regain my resolve, boosted with the above advise, and email the story. If I don't, I cannot call myself a writer and the dream will dissolve. I would love another 1000 words to fill it out more but I am restricted with the word limit of 3000. I am content with the imperfect version I have now. I have come to terms with the fact that the story will never be perfect. I will keep the character development and interaction rather than re-writing and adding more detective stuff. It my choice.
The competition is really just an excuse to give me a deadline and a spark for an idea. Ironically, I write because I enjoy it; I write because I have to.
Yet I still procrastinate.