I procrastinate. A lot. A few months ago Jinn linked me to this blog post about writers who procrastinate. And whilst I’m definitely guilty of watching YouTube videos and surfing Reddit instead of writing, I usually avoid falling into the trap of doing things I consider non productive. Things that you should only do after all tasks are done: gaming, Netflix, Reddit etc.
However, writing brings self doubt. Am I good enough? Are these words worth being written?
And when I’m not sure I’m good enough, instead of not writing and staring at my office wall for several hours while weeping, I finish every task on my to-do list.
It’s mostly things I’m good at. Things I know I can do in my sleep. Everyday things. And they have to be done eventually, so it doesn’t matter if I start writing a bit later in the day, because at one point or another I’ll have to get up and do these things anyway. Right?
First come the important things. I’m good at cleaning. I know what to do with a dirty bathroom or a carpet covered in dog hair. Cleaning is not hard. Fiction writing is hard, so when in doubt, clean.
I’m good at training the dogs. Lola is a stubborn Cocker Spaniel but it’s easier to teach her a new trick than to write a book. Since the dogs need their daily walk and play-time and mental stimulation, may as well invest some time before I write.
I’m good at cooking. Sometimes I spend over two hours perfecting a stew or a chilli, just letting it simmer over a small flame and infuse with flavour.
I slowly tick off all tasks from my to-do list. Every now and then I sit down in front of the computer and try and get an hour of writing in. But the self doubt is lingering and the to-do list still has things to offer.
I haven’t baked in a while. Upstairs needs vacuuming as well. The bookshelves need dusting.
Once I’m done, it’s sometimes too late to start writing fiction, or so I tell myself. And I should feel good about myself, after all I was productive. The dogs are happy. The house is sparkling and dinner is on the table.
But I didn’t write. And I feel like I’ve not put in the work I promised myself I’d put in.
I rarely just surf the Internet. If I spend time on the Internet, it’s to research how much fuel a plane needs or how fast a body decomposes. Or to read how-to articles. On writing. On publishing. On editing.
I’m learning Greek, because my partner is half Greek and speaks the language. Learning vocabulary is never easier than when I should be writing.
All of this is productive. But all of this is not writing fiction.
I asked myself: what is my main problem, why do I avoid writing? Why do I run away from it?
Self doubt. Fear of not being good enough.
I hand myself excuses like: I’m unable to outline and I really need an outline or I’ll just lose myself in the middle of the story again, never quite managing to tie everything together in the end.
Or: I keep coming up with new settings and premises but never an actual story.
My biggest weakness is coming up with actual characters that are layered and have depth. Characters people will care about. Characters that have lives, hopes, dreams, and adventures. I’m good at coming up with the technology they use, and the world they live in. I have ideas for settings. Not ideas for actual plots to set in those settings.
But. As I said: these are just excuses. They’re excuses I’m handing myself to not write. To not create those characters and make them have adventures.
I did it though this week. A thousand words of fiction a day. Most of the time I did all my tasks before sitting down to write but even if it was after dinner, I always did write the thousand words. Every day.
The words aren’t very good, at least not all of them, but I do think I got two ideas for a bigger story out of them. I’ll try writing the first for now and then move onto the second.
Hopefully, it’ll be something worth reading.
In the meantime I really enjoyed this article on how these 12 contemporary writers revise their work.
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See you next week,