Here I am, in my best writing place, in the study carrel at the university that I’ve used on and off for thirty years. I’m supposed to be working on Empire’s Hostage. I have my lunch, and my coffee; I have my notes and a mug of water. So why I am I not writing?
Well, firstly, it’s because writing is hard work, and like much hard work it’s easier to procrastinate than do it. When I do start (and I will), if I hit a flow I can write for hours; other days the whole process is excruciating, as if I forgotten who my characters are and what they are doing, or at least why they are doing it. If that happens it’s really tempting to shut up the laptop and go home, but what I should do on those occasions is wonder if subconsciously I’m seeing a problem: maybe my plot or my character’s motivation or feelings aren’t clear. And if they aren’t clear to me, then they won’t be clear to a reader. Time to re-read what I’ve written, sometimes from the beginning, with this in mind. This is a valid piece of the writing process, so I shouldn’t see this as wasted time.
Sometimes it’s just that my mind isn’t focused: I’m still thinking about the shopping list, or the conversation with my husband, or the car that cut me off at the intersection. This is where I find rituals – if that’s the right word – are important; it’s why I write in the same place in this library, with my coffee at hand, when I could choose anywhere. I actually tried a new location, large tables facing the big windows on the ground floor. It was quiet, and I could spread out – and I couldn’t write there nearly as effectively as I can where I’m sitting now. Even the walk from the parking area I use is part of getting my mind into the right place to write. Madeleine L’Engle once said to be a writer, one needed to be able to write anywhere. I wish I could, but it’s just not true for me.
Writing this blog post falls somewhere between procrastination and warm-up. It’s a form of metacognition – thinking about thinking – I’m thinking about why I procrastinate. I could also think of it as a warm-up, or a new part of the ritual. To be honest, I’m not sure yet. But now I can feel my characters tugging at my mind, wanting me tell the next part of their story – so I should heed that call. I hope it’s a day of good flow: I’ll go find out.