Forgive me Internet, for I have sinned. It's been 861 days since my last post.
Today I want to talk about one of the many Demons that face us as writers. Although, to be honest, I still feel strange considering myself as such… Like a business owner shooting his first commercial and labeling himself a celebrity. But that's neither here nor there. I want to discuss the writing Demon that I struggle with more than any other. If people read and appreciate this one, I plan to talk about various other Demons, but for right now we're going to discuss:
Appropriate, right? See what I did there with the lack of updates? It's almost like I planned this… I mean, I didn't, but you could almost think I did. In truth, I struggle with this bastard every single time I go to put proverbial ink to paper. It's not always difficult to write, but for me, it is always easier not to – to play a game, to watch YouTube videos, to do one of the million other activities that take less effort. It's not just about being lazy, however. For me, it can be about self-doubt, procrastination, or just trying to save myself from the emotional strife of recording the beautiful and ugly highs and lows of my life.
Procrastination is possibly one of the most insidious aspects of Sloth. Often, I find myself internally arguing that I need to take time to compose my thoughts and "pre-write" a chapter or blog post mentally before actually going to produce that content. When actually executed correctly, it's something that makes the process fly by. "Correctly executed" is the key term here, however. More often than not, I find days have gone by, and I realized that I haven't even thought about what it was that I had planned to write at all. Not once. This starts the vicious cycle of disparaging myself, feeling depressed about the whole thing and procrastinating more. Morale can be an enormous factor when putting yourself out there for the world, or even just writing something for yourself. It's hard to do something challenging when you feel shitty, a truth that extends far beyond the arena of the literary world.
So what's the answer? What fantastic life hack will keep the words flowing like wine and the productivity crashing through writer's block like a juggernaut? Just do it. Is the Nike slogan a copout answer? Yes and no. Your mileage may vary, but when I'm actually able to bite down on my mouthpiece and do what needs to be done, here's a few things that work for me.
Be okay with writing something terrible. I don't know if anyone as self-conscious as myself is ever really okay with knowingly producing something that isn't any good, but a lot of writers wiser than myself say that not writing anything at all is far worse. I suppose that comes with the caveat that you actually need to go back and edit what you've written when you're done, but for some, editing is far easier than that first draft. Even if you don't edit what you've written at all, chances are that worst case scenario, you can salvage something from the trash pile that you just spewed forth; some seeds of greatness that you can grow another document from, or idea that may branch off into some other greater chapter or topic.
Set a time limit, and don't do ANYTHING else but attempt to write in that time-frame. Turn off your Internet, close your browser, turn off your phone… Whatever you have to do to cut yourself off from everything but that document in front of you. The only exception I allow myself is music, as it's a motivator for me. A lot of times I will tell myself that I will write until the album I'm listening to finishes. If music isn't your thing, you can set something a little bit more rigid with a timer. Even if you don't produce one word, at least you can tell yourself that you made a concerted, honest effort. I find just that effort alone – regardless of the end result – will boost my morale in the coming days. Again, speaking for myself, morale is 90% of the battle.
Stream of consciousness writing. This is similar to number one, but instead of sticking to your topic and being accepting of something less than greatness, this focuses on writing whatever comes to mind. I have a hard time with this one, but I've heard it works like a charm for others. The time this works best for me is when I've suffered from writer's block for an extended period. Sometimes just producing anything at all is enough to get things moving. Last time it happened, all I did was try and build one perfect sentence. For me, just writing one true thing… One thing that speaks to a basic human experience or shared truth can make me feel better about the whole thing.
While I don't think I've written anything revolutionary here, these are the ones that have worked for me in the past. But y'know what? Sometimes they don't work -- sometimes nothing works, and I've learned to forgive myself for that, as long as I've tried. If I beat myself up over lack of productivity, that only leads to a downward morale spiral.
I feel that it's understandable and possibly necessary to reprimand one's self for laziness, but slacking off and not producing are two totally different things. It took me an embarrassingly long time to differentiate those two things.
I've actually had a partially written version of this post sitting on my computer for over half a year, which is just... exquisite irony. However, I've recently decided to ignore some of the depressing bullshit I've been dealing with lately and buckle down on my work, and then today I received an incredibly kind e-mail from a complete stranger. It refreshed me on why I'm writing this book, and to a lesser extent, why I do this site.
I'm not going to promise anything, but I hope to start updating here again. Ideally, if I actually begin making headway toward my goal of publication again, I'll actually have things to update with.
So, until then... see you, space cowboys and girls.