Excuses, excuses…or the penalties of avoiding writing

by nancy on August 14, 2011

So it’s been a few weeks since I did my required 30 minutes-a-day fiction writing session. Oh, I had reasons of course:

  • A client project that was taking every available minute (except for those allotted to “In Plain Sight,” “Covert Affairs” and “NCIS” reruns)
  • A two-week visit from my father, which also included a drive to Indianapolis to spend time with his brother (even though I did have my laptop and could easily have worked while my Dad was sleeping)
  • A garden that needed weeding, shrubs that needed pruning and a lawn that needed mowing (like that wasn’t a fact of summer life)

So, where was I? Oh, yes, enumerating my reasons for not spending half an hour a day doing what I claim I love best to do: making things up.

So, here am I am, avoiding my desire and wondering why I feel so down, so depressed, so inadequate, writer-wise. Gee, it doesn’t take a psych degree to know that the longer I avoid writing, the worse I feel because, in this case, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder but instead leads to “out of sight, out of mind”—and in doubt of my writing ability.

What set off my writing hiatus? Rita, of course. Even though I may have come up with yet another way to improve my second novel-in-progress, the fact is I need time away from it to gain some perspective. Many writers have the same experience and end up with a much better manuscript. But the setbacks I encountered writing Rita have created a labyrinth of fears: fears that I will never actually write a publishable novel (after all, Finding Fran is still looking for a home), and worse, that I have been fooling myself all these years thinking I could write any kind of fiction (my publishing credits in that category, few that they are, notwithstanding).

I have broken one of the cardinal rules of writing. I have concentrated so much on “writing the Great American Novel” or “writing the great American Short Story” that I have forgotten that my original January 2010 resolution was just to spend 30 minutes a day doing what I love: writing fiction. In short, I have focused more on the destination than the journey and so got off track.

Solution? Simple. Spend 30 minutes a day writing fiction. Any kind of fiction. With no expectations or judgment.

Clock is ticking. Bye for now.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Wally Wood August 17, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Nancy, Procrastination is the symptom, not the disease. And it sounds as if you’ve identified the disease (impossible expectations for yourself that no one of us could reach), and it makes more sense not to write than to fail. What I tell my prison inmate writing students (I’m a volunteer) is to write every day. If you don’t feel like writing, write about what it feels like when you don’t feel like writing. I do that myself; indeed as recently as two days ago.

As far as writing a publishable novel, I could not find an agent for my “Getting Oriented: A Novel About Japan.” It does not fit a natural category; I’m an older writer so how many more books do I have in me; I have no platform–I can imagine all kinds of reasons why I could not publish that have nothing to do with the work’s quality. So I published it myself, and we’ll see if I’m able to attract any readers beyond friends and family. Even if I don’t, I’m proud of the book.

Keep writing. As David Mitchell, the author of “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” told me, “You learn to write by writing.”

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Nancy Christie August 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Thanks so much for your comments and encouragement. And good luck on your book! (Gosh, now I wonder if I fall into the “older writer” category too…)

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