HOW TO COMBAT A WRITER’S WORST ENEMY
by Bruce Hale
Nearly every writer has felt it — that deep inner conviction that even though you should be writing your latest story, the most important thing for you to do right now, this very instant, is trim those blasted toenails.
Or feed the cat. Or sort that box of old photos. Or clean the oven. Or check to see if anything has magically materialized in the fridge since you last checked it half an hour ago.
Ah, the siren song of procrastination! We know we want to write. We love writing (or at least we love the feeling of having written). And yet, when it’s time to apply the “bum glue,” we find reasons to wander. So many wise writers in so many different ways have said, “writing = derriere + chair.”
Still, we avoid, we dilly-dally, we find any and all reasons not to sit down and work. Are writers just a masochistic lot? Do we get some payoff from punishing ourselves?
Don’t ask me. I’m just as blind as the next writer. The last week or so, as I’ve been starting my latest book, I’ve noticed some strange occurrences. Time and time again, I sit down in my lovely, comfy, ergonomic chair to write. And then, an hour later, I find myself in the living room with no idea how I got there.
Alien abduction, perhaps?
Or I wake to find I’ve spent an hour futzing about with e-mail or surfing the Net. It’s frustrating, especially when I’ve set myself a minimum page goal for the day.
Am I just your basic psycho?
I don’t think so. (At least, not for those reasons.) Lately I’ve begun to look at this whole approach-avoidance thing as part of my process. Maybe this is just how my muse operates.
True, it’s not the tidy, organized method I’d prefer. But the creative process is a strange and amazing thing.
As anyone who’s ever tried to push a stalled car can tell you, it takes a lot of effort to overcome inertia. So maybe that’s what this behavior is — part of the push to overcome inertia and get the story going.
I’m finding that if I cut myself a little slack, it helps. Not let myself off the hook, exactly — I still have to show up everyday and make the effort. But I’m working on not beating myself up when at day’s end I’ve only produced one page instead of three.
After all, progress is progress. And I look at it this way: Hey, at least I’ve gotten my nails trimmed.