The last time I wrote about my writing process, it was to tell you that I was stuck in the middle of painful restructuring. I have now finished that stage and am on to the final rewrite of my novel. Hallelujah! Followed by, Oh sh*t! as I realize how many weeks since the restructure have already disappeared in the rearview. The writing was to be the no-worries piece of this project because putting words on the page has always come easy to me.
My problem is that I always think I’ve got more time than I actually do. I tend to overschedule until I burn out and then I go into a sort of vegetative state to recover. If my overscheduling included getting tons of writing done, I could work with that. But I de-prioritize my creative work, thinking I can “fit it in” sometime. I focus on seeing family and friends, cooking, working, and at least for this past half year or so, taking full advantage of my open schedule to spend lots of time with horses. That is pretty spectacular and complaining would not be gentlemanlike. All the same this is not getting me any closer to my goal: to dedicate myself to writing. My brain is stuck in “Vacation” gear. What I need is several shifts up and clearly labeled “Writing is Actually Your Job Now, Go Do It.”*
Author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED Talk on this topic that sums the issue up pretty well. Whatever one’s particular problem is–lack of motivation or inspiration, or feeling overwhelmed–ultimately there is only one solution, and that is showing up to work. Saying you will solve the problem another day means the problem will not get solved. Not settling your hands onto the keyboard means no inspiration can speak through them. Any step you can make towards managing a seemingly un-manageable project can only be made by working on it, not by worrying about it. If you don’t show up for the work, the work does not get done. If you do show up for the work–well, some days you end up writing 5,000 words when you sat down to write 500. Mostly not. But those are the days that redeem the rest.
Changing gears is, like most actions in life, something that simply must be done. There’s no game plan for it. It’s not a multi-step process. It’s deciding to do it and just doing it. The only way I will sit down and show up for work every day is by sitting down and showing up for work every day.
As I write this, in itself a procrastination from the novel which is open in Scrivener a simple click away, it occurs to me I can decide to do it right now. I was tempted to pick September as a start point, only a few days away, but this is the failed “someday” approach. I wrote today and felt the rust flake off the gears as they started to turn.
I’m shifting up tomorrow.
- Of course, I’m pretty good at getting writing done (or anything else, for that matter) when someone else is the boss. Getting paid sure helps, too.