Anything but work on the novel….
I should be copy-editing and reformatting the e-book proofs of Empire’s Hostage, but I’m not. Instead, I’m finding lots of other things to do.
Most of my ‘other things’ are writing related. I updated my website, I wrote a book review. I worked on some of the editing work I do. I worked on a presentation I’m assisting with on growing herbs. Monday, a surprise acceptance to read at an event this coming Saturday arrived in my in-box, so I’ve polished that piece, and practiced it, and polished some more. Now I’m writing this.
I tell myself the following excuses: I’m waiting for the feedback from the beta-readers; I haven’t downloaded the latest copy to my ipad (it’s easier to find the errors working with both the ipad and the PC interface); I’ve got lots of time to get this done.; my hips hurt from sitting at my computer too long. All these are true, but I think they aren’t really why I’m procrastinating. I think I’m procrastinating because there is part of me that doesn’t want to let this book out to the wide world, to the ratings and reviews (or lack of them); to the marketing, to the mostly uncaring public…and then there is the fact that, once it’s out there, I need to start the extensive research needed for the third (and probably final) book.
On the other hand, I know there are people waiting impatiently for Empire’s Hostage. I have a responsibility to those people, my public, if you like. It’s a good thing they’re out there: sometimes I need extrinsic motivation. So, I’m going to make a cup of tea, and upload the newest proof to the ipad, and get going on those edits.
Or maybe tomorrow…..
It can take a long time to get back into a routine, especially when that routine is self-directed.
Since my holiday earlier in September I’m having difficulty getting back into many of my routines. I’m not writing regularly, exercising regularly, or even eating as well as I was. Now I’m away from home again, staying at my sister’s house for a while, keeping her cats company for a few days of the three weeks she and her husband are in India playing in the World Bridge Championships. (I can’t even play euchre, but the cats don’t care about that. They’re just happy to have a warm body to sleep with again, rather than just the teenager from across the street who feeds them every day.)
I’m also feeling some of the frustration all writers feel unless their book is a best-seller. While some of of my friends and family have read my work (and thank you all) others haven’t. Which is fine, too – the ones that are annoying me are those who haven’t even mentioned it to me, ever, even though they know it’s been published and a second book is in the works. I can’t work out if they are too self-centred to say ‘hey, that’s great, well done’, jealous, or, oblivious. I shouldn’t let it bother me, but sometimes it does.
I’m going to take this time – four days on my own – to re-focus, remembering why I do what I do, whether it is the writing, walking or what I choose to eat or not to eat. It’s interesting for me to observe that I am still quite easily swayed by external influences (and my own inertia) – I’m not quite as self-actualized as I thought (or at least hoped) I was. An opportunity for growth.
So I’m off for a walk…always the best thing I can do when things just aren’t right.
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.