By Miko Johnston
It’s a valid question. Maybe a few of you can’t think of an idea, but I’m willing to bet that you’re in the minority. In most cases we have an overabundance of ideas and at least one work in progress, if not more. Why are we having so much trouble writing? In a word:
Okay, we can admit it. We do procrastinate. Why? There are many reasons why, and they’re tied to different types of procrastination.
A dear friend and fine writer often wore a sweatshirt that said, EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT SHINY OBJECTS. This describes procrastinators who get sidetracked by other projects. Often they take on more than they can handle, or they get diverted by the next big thing. The only cure is to acknowledge writing is important enough to do. Focus on what’s in front of you for a set amount of time and literally time yourself.
Do you suffer from perfectionism syndrome? If you have a deadline and still can’t make progress, this may be why. If we can’t get it right, we don’t want to commit to working on our projects. I have a suggestion: GET OVER IT. You can argue about whether there’s crying in baseball, but there is no perfection in writing. Commit to doing the best that you can, then review it and make it better.
Sometimes I open a work-in-progress document and stare at the last bit I wrote, wondering where to go next. Then I close it because I can’t think of anything. Does this happen to you?
Try creating a separate ‘work’ sheet, copy the last paragraphs you’ve written onto it and then…just write. Don’t concern yourself with anything other than getting words down on the page. This technique opens the door to creativity; once your mind is free to explore ideas without judgement, the ideas will flow. Write until you come to a natural concluding point, then read back what you’ve written. I guarantee that most times you’ll find something useful for some part of the story, and sometimes you’ll get what you need. If the block occurs at a point where the story is still open-ended, your ideas may give you some direction to move forward, or warn you, “don’t go there”. If you’re trying to connect your scene with an approaching plot point, try the bridge technique I explained in an earlier post .
Easier said than done, you say? True. But I’m guessing that none of you became writers because you expected to become rich, famous, younger and more beautiful. You did it because you had a passion to write, or a story to tell, or characters whom you’ve created who deserve to live. The world is not an easy place right now; has it ever been? We need your stories out there, whether to entertain or to educate, distract us from our problems or understand them better. Or all of the above. So please sit down, take out your computer, or notebook, or whatever you use to write, and WRITE!.
And why not begin by commenting on this post – do you procrastinate, and if so, how do you get past it?
Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers in Residence, is the author of the historical fiction saga A Petal In The Wind, as well as a contributor to anthologies, including LAst Exit to Murder. She has recently completed the fourth novel in her series. Miko lives in Whidbey Island in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
6 thoughts on “Why Aren’t You Writing?”
I tend not to procrastinate… much. And if I do it’s always for a good reason, such as obeying my dog or working on another project or really needing to do something else. At least that’s always what I tell myself.
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I’m smiling because all those ‘good reasons’ are how we procrastinate.
I am the chief of procrastinators. I put off what I can do today till tomorrow, and then panic, rush aroung, and yell at my Hubby. Sigh. Why can’t I do things when I have a good time and not wait till the last minute? Thanks, Miko for the suggestions for writing. I think they might apply to other areas as well.
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Sometimes we need the pressure of a deadline to get our act in gear.
Thanks for the guilt-trip, Miko! Yes – I am a procrastinator-in-chief. I like the “I’m easily distracted by bright shiny objects” T-shirt. That’s me. Although most of my distractions are not so bright & shiny – more other peoples dramas and disasters to fix. I guess I also feel guilty when I eventually do sit for hours writing – I love it so much and get so inspired, that I’m enjoying myself too much! Thanks for the thought-provoking post – and a great new distraction…
I get that, but think of it this way – other people’s dramas and disasters to fix applies to Lottie Topaz as well. No need to feel guilty about dedicating time to write, and certainly not for enjoying it.