Creative Dry Spell? Suck it Up, Buttercup.

Creative Dry Spell? Suck it Up, Buttercup.

Causes of procrastination - laziness, fear of failure, and perfectionism

Thanks to thegeminigeek.com for the graphic.

Have you been ignoring your work in progress for the last few weeks for any number of really good reasons?  I’m here to tell you that you are not alone; but it’s time to suck it up, buttercup, and get the work done. And while I’m focusing on writers here, this is also true for anyone in the arts who has a dream.

It’s the end of April, and the first quarter of the year is over. Hey, writer. Yeah, you. How are you doing on that latest book of yours? Are you writing at all, or have you burned out? Where are you in your goals that you set up in January? In other words (here’s that dreaded question), how’s the writing going? Or is it going at all?

You are what you consistently do. If you want to call yourself a writer, then look to what you do every day. If writing isn’t on that list, then maybe you aren’t a writer.

Before you get mad or defensive, take a good hard look at your schedule. If you say you don’t have time to write, then take note of how much TV you watch, how many hours you tend to family members by doing things they can do themselves, or how many hours of Candy Crush Saga or Farmville or Bejeweled that you play in a single day. If you turn even half that time into writing time, then not only can you call yourself a writer, but you may actually finish that book that’s been lurking on your hard drive, taunting you. Once you finish it, you can edit it. Once it’s edited, you can submit it (or begin the self-publishing process). Rinse and repeat.

The truth is, those who want to write, write. There is no other answer. So if you aren’t writing, the only person you have to look to for answers is yourself. Why? What’s holding you back?

For many people, it’s doubt. Doubt that you can be any good as a writer. Doubt that anyone will want to read what you write. Doubt that success on any scale is possible for you. But you know what? If you don’t write, then success as a writer ISN’T possible because you don’t have a product for people to read. SLAY THE DOUBT DRAGON. He’s not your friend. The only way to do that? Sit your ass down and write. Every day. No matter what, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.

For others, it’s stress. You’re worried that your next book won’t measure up to your last book. Or that your editor won’t give you the next three-book contract. Or maybe, it’s been ten years and you haven’t made your first sale yet and you don’t know how much more energy you can put into a career that doesn’t seem to be paying you back either emotionally or monetarily. What then?

Take a break.

Sometimes, a break from writing is just as important as a break from your Day Job.12420082139_KayakingInHalongBay Instead of feeling guilty that you aren’t writing, which can make you resentful, give yourself a day or two off each week. If you haven’t set writing goals (okay, I’ll write for the next fifteen minutes or, I just need a hundred words today), then try that, too. But most of all, be good to yourself.

The writing life is one of discipline. Without it, your books won’t get written and therefore, your words can’t inspire others. If you have the guts to be disciplined about your writing, then you’ll get the work done.

The writing life is one of bravery. You’ve finished the book, edited it, and now comes the time to send it out into the world. Whether it’s a publisher or a contest or putting it up Amazon by yourself, getting your book out there for others to read and judge is an act of bravery, no matter which way you look at it.

The writing life is yours to claim. There’s no secret handshake, no formula, no Blue Light Special at K-Mart that will show you the way. The only thing you need in order to be a writer is to write. Write consistently. Write diligently. Write bravely.

So. What’s your TODAY goal for your writing/creative endeavor? I’d love to know! (Mine is getting 500 words done before my head hits the pillow tonight.)

)O(

This article was first published in the Los Angeles Romance Authors monthly newsletter, the LARA CONFIDENTIAL, in August of 2013.

How Do YOU Start?

How Do YOU Start?

Causes of procrastination - laziness, fear of failure, and perfectionism

Thanks to thegeminigeek.com for the graphic.

I can’t figure out how to title this post. It’s about commitment, see, and I just can’t seem to find the right title. So it’ll wait until the end I guess. Hopefully by then I’ll have figured it out.

I’m about to start a short story, a sort of prelude to DEMON HUNT, the 2nd novel in my Caine Brothers series. I’m primed – I’ve combed through my email, I’ve scoured Facebook, I’ve Triberr’d and Tweeted and gotten another cup of coffee, went to the bathroom, have music on…the house is empty and I’ve got a full four hours in front of me to be creative…

…but actually starting the story is still a dance step or two away from me. So now I’m procrastinating by blogging about my procrastination. I guess this whole thing is a process.

Commitment to the story is paramount. Deciding where to begin is crucial. I already have my characters, my setting, and I know where I want the story to end. But the variables within the parameters I’ve set are endless. Plus, plotting in any depth gives me hives. (Shallow plotting? I’m there!) How, then, to choose amongst a myriad of possibilities?

I don’t know why this story, at this time, has me balking at the gate like a skittish horse, but there you go. Its true, what every successful writer has said – writing doesn’t get easier as you go along. With every book, you learn how much you don’t know. With every book, you strive to get better – deeper, smarter, stronger. So the bar is constantly being raised, and the writer never meets their own expectations.

I guess I have to learn to be okay with that.

You're either in or you're out.

thanks to Dr. Sven Goebel

Panic doesn’t go away with knowledge. Accepting a hit of panic along with a floodtide of joyous writing seems to be the only way to go. Understanding that the fingers need to just begin – commit to the first words – then the rest of it will come. Permit ourselves to write a shitty first draft – farts and all – will at least get the draft down.

Revision after that is a writer’s best friend. DEMON SOUL went through six completely different first chapters (and numerous main character name changes) before I found the right first chapter to give the right tone to the story. That sixth new first chapter was what helped me sell to the editor.

I know all I need to do is hop to it. Get the words down. 15,000 of them (short story, remember). Once they’re down, I can groom them, perfume them, pluck their collective eyebrows and give them a lovely glow with the right foundation. Once it’s all dressed up in its go-to-party outfit, the story will be ready for publication, and I’ll be one more step on the road to realizing how much I still don’t know.

I guess I’m ready to start. After I get myself another cup of coffee, put on some socks (my feet are cold), and change my playlist to something more soothing than Muse.

What about you? What do you find yourself doing, before you feel ready to plunge into a new project? (Ah, there it is…my title!) I’d love to hear about your tricks and tips to getting those first words down.