They Tell You It Gets Easier. They Lie.

Choice-FearOrFaithRestless and unsettled. That’s how I’m feeling tonight.

I’ve had one of those days where there is plenty to do and I’m making progress, but it’s all in fits and starts. I’m working on preparations for NaNoWriMo, Write Along The Highway, and our local Young Writers Program. It’s amazing how involved projects like these become. Thankfully, knowing the positive impact it has on my local community is plenty of reward and I love the opportunity to meet with people who share my passion for writing. The thing is, all this project management and planning, letter writing, research, searching for sponsorship, and promotions and publicity all detract from time I could spend writing.

The thing is, all through the day I had the opportunity to settle into some writing, but instead found ways to avoid it. These sorts of projects are great procrastination tools. I feel validated, rewarded, and justified in spending my time doing those rather than working on my book. After all, I’m doing something for my community, for children, for fellow writers and the literary arts in Western Australia.

But now I’m running out of time before sleep descends. There are only so many hours in a day. Thankfully that deadline is making it more and more difficult to put off the real writing much longer. So, in a last ditch effort to avoid the writing I’m blogging. I plan to have a shower right after this too because water soothes. I’m hoping that the heat and steam will help calm the mind and agitation within me so that I feel comfortable moving forward.

What sorts of things do you do in the lead up to your writing time? Do you have a routine?

Steven Pressfield talks about routine and ritual in The War of Art. My current routine seems to involve a lot of avoidance but the real key is to make the decision to begin. That decision is accompanied by the opening of Scrivener and iTunes, plugging in my headphones and tucking them into my ears, and then clicking play on my current WIP playlist. Once the music starts I tend to find the groove comes down over me. The difficulty, and most of the anxiety and angst, comes in the pre-time before making that turning-point decision. And yet, every day it’s just as difficult to get to that decision point as it was the day before.

They lie when they tell you it gets easier. In my experience, it doesn’t. But then, perhaps I’m not the norm in that regard. Perhaps it’s my individual weaknesses. Perhaps it’s the way my Bipolar influences my mood states. Perhaps it’s any number of things that lead to this way I approach writing with mixture of dread and wonder. I don’t know if what I experience is normal. Do other writers feel like this? Do you experience it when facing your creative dreams?

And with that question, left to wander cyberspace and any fellow writer who comes across it, I’ll sign off, go have that shower, and click that play button. The decision is imminent.

“Every day we have a choice. We can live in fear or move forward in faith.” – Billy Cox

Today, I choose to move forward.

On Momentum and Opposing Forces

The end of another day is rolling around. It’s 9.40pm and, as I look back on the day, I know I’ve had a good one. I spent a fantastic hour and a half talk with a children’s book author, Sioban Timmer, about our local efforts for the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program. There is so much to organise and I feel very much out of my league because children are not my audience as a writer. But, as a writer, and mother, I feel it’s important to encourage future generations of writers, and, in a way, writers are my audience so reaching them young and fostering their passion, encouraging and inspiring them to become the literary artists of the future is an important part of giving back to the community in a way that enriches all our lives. Having said that, it’ll be a lot of work, especially on top of my existing NaNoWriMo ML duties. But it’s also another fantastic way to get out into the community. I’m both thrilled and excited, as well as daunted by the months ahead of us.

Still, as the night grows later I look back on the day. Although I’ve been meaning to get started for the past several hours, I’ve still not been working on the book. I was feeling so proud of myself on Sunday. I spent several hours writing at the State Library. It was a wonderful environment, and I felt very in touch with myself as a creative individual, doing the thing I love. It was another, window in the city moment. I was on the third floor, overlooking the Cultural Centre, and occasionally I would glance around the room and smile at the plethora of MacBooks that filled the landscape. Mostly, I suspect, they belonged to university students studying hard. But who knows, there may have been other writers amongst them.

Of course, Sunday was a fantastic day, but on Monday my focus turned to the video game. On Monday afternoons I tutor my daughter and her friend in video game design. My daughter’s friend is a budding artist and I’m showing her how to use graphic software to design the graphics for video games. My daughter is learning the programming and mechanics of game design. Together, they’re producing their very own game. Game design is a long, time-consuming process. In a way, it shares many similarities to novel writing. But it’s not novel writing. So, despite my best intentions to make time on Monday to write, I didn’t.

I comforted myself with the fact that as I’d done several hours on Sunday I could give myself a break over taking a day off. But then Tuesday passed me by as well. Admittedly, I spent the day on Tuesday playing video games with my son and doing my best to distract myself from the fact that I was attending an award ceremony that night. As a nominee I was both excited and terrified at the prospect of winning an award. And with my social anxiety I knew I needed to pace myself by keeping the nerves at bay as best I could. Video game distraction works wonderfully. Alas, I didn’t win, and I thank goodness because I would have had to give a speech and that would have been horrifying. But I also didn’t end up getting any writing done that day.

There’s this thing about momentum. It’s a law of physics. An object in motion will continue in motion unless acted upon by an opposing force, further a stationary object will remain stationary unless set in motion. I find this holds very true with my writing. Resistance is one of the forces that has a habit of acting against the motion of my writing. I could be going great for seven days straight, in motion, making progress, moving ahead. But it only takes a small wall of resistance to have everything come to a sudden, jarring halt. I find it so much harder to get started again. It’s always the starting that is hard for me. Once I’ve started, that law of physics keeps me rolling onward.

Two days of no writing, and I’m looking at almost 10pm. I need to make the writing happen. I need to start. Go away resistance, this book is getting finished. It’s my time, right now, and time is running out!

Return To Writing – End Your Writing Hiatus Today!

Yesterday, I posted a comment to the forlorn-looking Crafting Fiction Page on Facebook. The page is forlorn-looking because I’ve been on hiatus (for the most part) for several months. While I have posted here sporadically and occasionally drifted through Facebook with a question, comment, or recommendation, it has been mostly quiet on the writing front in my life. And I have missed it. Every day, at some point in the day, I’ve thought, “I should write today.” It’s a drifting thought, usually followed by a great big dollop of what Steven Pressfield in The War of Art calls, “Resistance with a capital R”.

One of the things I noticed during my hiatus is that the writing, the characters, tear away flesh from the inside-out of my body. The book I started working on in December of 2006 claws against the inside of my skin. The characters are screaming; I had turned the volume on their voices down to a mouse-whisper but behind my eyes I can see their mouths gaping in muted cries of terror. Honestly, they are like b-grade horror movie stars. They plead and quiver as if some great monster threatens their very existence. And I suppose it does, it’s name is Resistance.

Every day the pain and emotional turmoil of not writing has been splitting my heart. I have excuses, the primary being that I was busy with full-time university study on top of single parenting, a new romantic relationship, keeping a house, and all the other million things that make up living a normal life. The point is, while I was living a life of sorts I wasn’t really living. Without my writing I feel more like I’m ghost-like, moving through the motions of pretending to be alive but intangibly ineffective in the real world. My mind and body participate but my soul is absent. Do you ever feel that way about your writing? Is it such an integral part of the person you are supposed to be that not writing feels like a kind of death?

Eventually, in the pain of not writing it occurred to me that the simple fix would be to write. Of course, simple fixes are never simple. I turn my computer on with the intention of putting words to the page and there it is again, that demon, Resistance. I experience it in a profoundly tangible way as anxiety attacks. Every time I contemplate writing my heart thuds in a rapid staccato that might lead to the explosion of arterial walls. When I, for the barest moment, dwell on my novel, or the non-fiction book at the top of my ‘in progress’ list, or even this blog my breath catches and my lungs grow tight so that I think the cavity of my chest is being crushed in an ethereal vice. Right now, my fingers are brushing across the keys but my hands are quivering, my stomach is churning, and inside my mind the voice of Resistance is yelling “Run!” I want to give in to that plea because I know the moment I stop writing all of those sensations will disappear and I will feel this overwhelmingly beautiful sensation of relief. But I won’t stop, do you know why?

I won’t stop tonight because I remember the pain of my not writing tearing like ligament-by-ligament slices with a dull scalpel. If I don’t write tonight then instead of this anxiety that I’m feeling right now, instead of this Resistance, I’ll feel shame and resentment and guilt. If I don’t write tonight then I’ll be failing to live into the person I truly am. I’ll be less of myself and less of the person I was created to be. I choose to be here because I’ve weighted the two experiences and I believe that writing is worth more to me than not writing. I actively choose to defy Resistance, and it’s a difficult and demanding choice, but it is one that has to be consciously made.

So now, I’m asking you what I asked on Facebook, “What’s the longest hiatus from writing you’ve ever taken and why did you stay away so long?“, and then I’m going to say: If you are still on hiatus, choose to end it today. There is no reason you can give that justifies not living into the person you are meant to be and if you are meant to be a writer, if you believe your writing is a part of the soul-creature you are in this lifetime then you owe it to yourself to begin again. All it takes is a promise to yourself, an active choice, a commitment followed by action. Start small, a paragraph, a page. Decide that you will write today, and do it.

You know that horrible anxiety I was feeling? It’s easing up because I look down at my word count and can see I’ve written over 800 words. That’s pretty good and I’ll give myself kudos for that. I did it. I sat and I wrote and I survived the blaring of my heart and the crawling of my skin and I came through. That sense of incredible relief that I would have got if I had stopped earlier will come soon but the shame, resentment and guilt will not because today I wrote. Today I lived into the person I am supposed to be and I’ll do it again tomorrow. Will you?

Sit. Write. – The No-Distractions BIC Technique

Procrastination and distraction are two of the greatest detriments for writing professionals. Often, they play hand to hand with each other, the latest distraction is simply another excuse to procrastinate. In Singleton’s latest book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds George writes:

Pep Talk No. 29 – Do Yourself A Favor
Turn off your cell phone. Place it in a room far from where you write. Sit. Write.

This pep talk, while short, cuts right to the point. A writer needs to break away from distractions like cell phones and internet. Leave the laundry to soak, turn the television off.
To be a successful writer we need do one thing. Write.

The ability to write is a remarkable gift. With it we have a new world, a new state, a new sense of purpose any time we turn to the page. Breaking free of the constraints of a high-tech world can be challenging. Today there are a multitude of distractions. Things we could be doing, things we feel we ‘should’ be doing. Ultimately, being a writer is about choice.

I choose to write, right now.

I choose to write when I could be watching Army Wives on television. I choose to write when I could be having hot chocolate and marshmallows at the local cafe. I choose to write when I could be washing dishes or vacuuming the floor. I choose to let the answering machine handle my calls, ignore the postman as he passes, and trust my kids are safe in school while I write.

Right now, I choose to: Sit. Write.

Being a writer requires sacrifice. Every choice we make requires sacrificing the alternative. For everything I choose not to do right now there will be a consequence. The dishes will still need to be washed and that hot chocolate would really go down well but for this moment, I sacrifice an empty sink and a warm belly for the words on the page. We choose for a greater good, hoping that the sacrifices we make are worth the consequences and that the final result leads us towards a greater happiness.

What sacrifices have you made for your passions? What passions are you sacrificing?

WRA’s Seven Procrastination Busters [Meme]

Procrastinating? Try these procrastination busters or share your own.Have you ever wondered where memes begin? The idea of writing a review today brought fourth nothing but procrastination so I thought I’d do something cheeky and creative instead. I thought I’d be the origin of a meme. So, without further ado I give you:

WRA’s Seven Procrastination Busters [Meme]

Tip 1: Get Out, Work Out.

Get out of the house. In a way this might be giving in, but the idea is to work the blood through your body and stimulate your mind and senses with a new environment and a little sun, cloud, or night sky.

Tip 2: Stubborn Determination

Sit there staring at the empty page and allow the anger, resentment, and frustration to build. Fight against your inner instincts; a war of the mind. Let the part of you that is resolved to accomplishing the task give the tantrum throwing toddler voice inside you a firm, “Now.”

Tip 3: Progression Elsewhere

When procrastination drags it is a great time to get everything ‘else’ done. You’ll feel productive, accomplished, and energized for the rest of the day’s tasks.

Tip 4: This Computer That Computer

Change your medium. If you have a second computer it can sometimes help to switch. If not then the good old fashioned pen to paper or typewriter is as great an option. The change of medium and location can free the mind and motivate your senses.

Tip 5: Change Your Focus

Try changing your tactic. Look at your task, rethink your idea, and look at alternative ways to accomplish your goals. There may be a better option that will fire up your motivation and get you moving forward.

Tip 6: A Melody to Sooth the Beast

Dig out your headset and slam watts of music into your ears. Do you have select play lists set up that key you into writing? Often just hearing the opening track will put you in the mood and get the words flowing.

Tip 7: Conscious State Change

If the above failed it’s time for the big guns. You need to call on your inner self to create a state change. Procrastination of this sort is often blocked by an emotional factor that holds you back. Do you feel the task is daunting, boring, intensive, or time consuming? Even if you know that you will enjoy working once you begin it can be hard to get past that incessant voice.

It is all in your head and you need to change your state. Stand, close your eyes, listen to your music and consciously bring yourself into the moment. Absorb your surroundings, feel the ground under you, the air and clothes on your skin, hear the music pulsing through your body, and just come to be.

In this state of complete presence there is no anxiety, fear, or frustration. You simply are, and that is completely beautiful. When you have found that place of calm, you will find your focus. Draw on that sense of self as you proceed and follow your heart.

I Tag You!

With seven tips I’m going to tag seven blogging friends. If you really don’t want to participate, don’t feel you have to. If I don’t tag you specifically you’re still tagged if you’d like to join in. If you don’t want to join the meme but have some procrastination busters of your own to add please leave a comment. Leave a comment even if you don’t have any busters to add, tell us about your own struggles with procrastination, can you resonate with any of the tips above?

  1. Michele L. Tune of Writing The Cyber Highway. You’re TAGGED!
  2. Melissa Donovan of Writing Forward. You’re TAGGED!
  3. Sharon Hurley Hall of Get Paid To Write Online. You’re TAGGED!
  4. Amy Derby of Write-From-Home. You’re TAGGED!
  5. James Chartrand of Men With Pens. You’re TAGGED!
  6. Christina Katz of Writer Mama. You’re TAGGED!
  7. Ben Cook of Blogging Experiment. You’re TAGGED!

Remember, the topic is procrastination busters, seven tips, and seven tags. Have fun!

When I COULD be writing…

Procrastination, again… I COULD be writing but I keep wanting to do anything else. ANYTHING ELSE. There isn’t even a reason why I don’t want to write. It’s not painful, I’m not blocked, I have topics I could write about, lots of them, it’s just any time I start thinking I should write I get this niggle.

Do you get that niggle too? That whining little voice that says, “But…” “wouldn’t you rather play The Sims?” “wouldn’t you rather watch a movie?” “shouldn’t you rotate the laundry?” “you’d do better to go for a walk while it’s not raining.” “if you want to lose weight you should spend 30 minutes dancing instead.” “you still haven’t finished reading that library book.”

It’s hard not to listen to that voice. I want to give into it. I don’t understand why I want to not write more than I want to write. I know how much I’ll hurt, how I’ll hate myself, how I’ll regret hours wasted, how I’ll feel guilty and horrible if I don’t write and yet at this moment, not writing feels safer, better, more comforting.

Life passes in these circles. So many of my writing projects could be finished if I didn’t keep slamming into this wall every time I think about beginning them. Every time I sit at the keys. Every time I start letting my mind wander on where I want to go. Every time I THINK TOO MUCH!

I know how easy it is if I DON’T THINK! If I could cut my brain out and just act. Don’t think about writing just write. Don’t think about sitting down to write just start writing. It’s the mind, those evil insiduous thoughts that put walls up before my goals. Those thoughts, this mind that wanders too much, that conspires against me. Why does it do that? Why can’t my body, mind, spirit, all work together to accomplish what is best for me?

Even when I’m writing, like I’m writing right now, I’m forcing myself to be here. My mind is still spinning through my head telling me all I could be doing instead. All I should be doing. All I’ll be doing if I just stop, now. I have to force myself to finish.

This is why writing gets painful. It’s not the words, the story, it’s not the pain of telling a tale or the agony of not knowing my characters. When I’m there, writing it, living it the whole thing is laid out before me and I just write it down. It’s the thinking about it that trips me up.

How can I get my HEAD out of my writing? I just want to write.