‘I Should Be Writing’
That has become my mantra over the years—or maybe my kuchiguse, my catchphrase. Like anything repeated into oblivion, it’s already lost all meaning.
I say it when I sit through the three-hour marathon of Say Yes to the Dress, or when I spend half a day reorganizing my dresser when I was meant to be dusting because I can’t focus when my house is too dirty. That’s when it comes as a guilty self-admonition. Sometimes it morphs into the far more sinister “I know I should be writing, but…”
“…but I’m tired.”
“…but I need to unwind sometime.”
“…but this is a new episode!”
“…but it can wait an hour.”
And we all know where that leads.
Procrastination is an art I’ve been perfecting ever since I discovered in middle school that I could pull off just as good, if not better, grades on projects I left till the last minute. I thought I’d grow out of it by or at least after high school—live and learn and all that. Unfortunately, “live and learn” was never able to overcome “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I have at least gotten better (through trial by fire) at planning things out over the decade I’ve been writing, but I have yet to come to terms with the fact that deadlines and I just mean different things to each other. To me they start off as amiable, distant, vague goals. A fixed point in time, sure, but what is time anyway? As they near they suddenly become the very tiny lights at the end of a long dark tunnel and a trail of tears. You don’t realize those lights are on a rapidly advancing high-speed train until they’re upon you, and then you either duck under it just in time or get steamrolled. I imagine they watch me and all else who fall to them with mockery and amusement.
Here lies the author, who would be aided by her contemporaries were they not busy ducking their own trains at the moment.
You know, I never liked trains.
But it’s heartening to know I’m not alone. I don’t have a vast amount of writer friends as of yet, but the few I have spoken with on the subject over the years all have similar tales of woe, and taking a minute to research brings up some comforting words:
“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”
― Alan Dean Foster
“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”
― Paul Rudnick
Indeed, I may be just one protostar in the great galaxy of writers, but at least it’s apparent some of the red giants around me can make it work.
It is a relief because no matter where I turn in terms of genre, author, length, and even language, I only ever seem to hear about how people write their entire manuscripts in “a couple of months.” Clearly as someone who has yet to finish anything longer than 20,000 words even with infinite time, this concept is completely alien to me. But recently it’s hit me—how many ridiculous things have I accomplished in a seemingly impossible time crunch? It is really so outside the realm of possibility that I could do it too?
I am a firm believer in the idea of training and in writing practice. Fanfiction allowed me to get into characters’ heads for the first time. NaNoWriMo taught me (a few times) that I can write even when I don’t want to or think I can at all and do what it takes to make a goal. Perhaps it’s a bit fantastical, but it’d be nice to think that leaving things till the last minute is at least preparing me for a prolific career. Then again I don’t need another excuse to keep procrastinating. Let’s just hope it will all pay off someday.
In the meantime I find I could go on with the subject, or its sister-in-torment, manuscript editing. I won’t however—naturally, this post was just another way to put off what I should be doing.
Happy train dodging!
Find more of A. Morell on her blog and Twitter. Follow the blog tour April 20-May 15!
New release “Sparks” now available at Dreamspinner Press in the Juicy Bits anthology.