Motivation and procrastination: the swings and roundabouts of being a writer
June 25, 2012 2 Comments
They say there’s no rest for the wicked. I don’t really know what that means, but if I were to interpret it literally, I might wish I were wicked. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be battling procrastination for the second time this year.
When motivation is the dominant paradigm with which I work, I write anywhere between one and three thousand words a day. Every day. But when the drive wanes and the procrastination demon appears on my shoulder and starts whispering in my ear about being tired, or cleaning the house, washing the car, making that phone call, or Twitter and Facebook, or any of the myriad of other misnomers it uses to tempt me away from writing, I can do nought but despair.
I need to start THAT manuscript, you know the one—it’d been incubating right the way through writing the last one. I’d kept it on the back-burner lest it detract from the one I’d actually been writing. But now that that one is finished, a terrible thing has happened. Even though I’ve written the synopsis, developed the plot, created and matured both the protagonist and the antagonist, I haven’t written a word. Not a single word.
I’m familiar enough with my own writing habits to realise that, for whatever reason, procrastination usually occurs for me as I’m nearing the end of a manuscript, and if not addressed judiciously it can develop and harden into a full-on writers’ block. And that, my friends, is a whole other ball game.
But this time, I’m at the beginning of a manuscript that has been incubating one way or another for a very long time. I’m ready. Ben and Olivia (my main characters) are ready.
Everything is in place. I’m keen and enthusiastic, even excited about it. So what’s the problem?
Perhaps it’s that the next project has begun the process of inception before I’ve penned the beginnings of this one. It’s a dilemma. Both are the beginnings of series, both are YA and both have the potential to be ongoing projects.
I write because I love writing. I love creating worlds, and scenarios, and people who then dominate my life for the year or so that each novel takes to complete. It’s a joy. There is a saying along the lines of ‘if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life,’ and it’s true. I can (and do) spend every waking hour writing—when I’m in the zone. Or maybe it’s just that the one I’m ‘supposed’ to be starting is the artefact for my PhD, alongside which I need to write a symbiotic exegesis. Maybe it adds a layer of pressure that is preventing me from even commencing the project. Fear of failure? Perhaps. Though I would’ve thought that might apply regardless—writers, by the very nature of what they do put themselves up for public scrutiny anyway.
But there is a flip side. And when the procrastination demon hits, or the writers’ block appears, it all comes crashing down and my bliss morphs into headache-inducing, teeth-grinding, wits-ending hard work. I can better understand (intellectually and emotionally) the procrastination that occurs nearing the end of a novel, it’s part of getting ready to farewell a project. But it’s the procrastination at the beginning of the project that has me perplexed. Words of wisdom….anyone?