I’ve been writing with publication as a goal for years now. Certainly other people have been at it longer than me. I’m no expert. But I thought I’d be more settled by now. With one book published and two more slated to follow this year, I expected to feel differently, more capable, more efficient. It’s pretty annoying to fall into old habits. I’m distracted by promotion. I’m letting my personal life get in the way. I’m worried my work sucks. I’m…the same writer I was before my book was published. Isn’t that a kicker? Publication isn’t a cure-all. It’s not some panacea for procrastination, fear, lack of focus and doubt. In fact, it’s no match for those things. Like it or not, those things are part of being human, and just like I had to learn to live with them as a child, I have to learn to work with them as a writer.

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Maybe it’s the time of year, the colder temperatures, the early darkness, but I’m wearing thin the wood floor between the dining room (where I write) and the kitchen. Every other sentence, sometimes every other word, I’m tempted to grab a snack, refresh my tea, pour some water. It’s procrastination isn’t it?

Other people struggle with the Internet, surfing or tweeting in between sentences. Not me. I struggle to stay out of the kitchen. I’m up to six 16-ounce servings of green tea a day. (I wonder if that’s a problem.) When I manage to avoid tea, I’m filling a 32-ounce glass with crushed ice and water. Then I try to write while I chew every last piece of ice and shiver violently. (Not the best writing environment.)

I wish I could be a focused writer, one who never glances away from the screen until the chapter is complete. These people do exist don’t they? Maybe not. Maybe we all have our vices (excuses), ones that drag us away from the task at hand. I’d like to explore this topic more, maybe even find a way to curb the impulses, but I can’t…my tea is ready.

Elley

I think I’m a workshop whore. No, get THAT image out of your head, because I’m not hiking my skirt and doing the nasty at workshops or conferences. I’m simply obsessed with online workshops, and it’s becoming a problem.

The last workshop finished less than two weeks ago. Halfway through the month-long workshop, I stopped participating (including homework). I read each lesson and assignment, hoping something would sink in, but full participation fell to the wayside as I picked up a new non-fiction writing opportunity, struggled with various fiction works in progress and paid an insignificant amount of attention to my family (shameful, really). At the close of the workshop, I told myself: Self, this is it now. You need to manage your time better, so you can finish this manuscript and spend meaningful time with your family.

Do you think Self listened? Hell no.

Here I am less than two weeks after the last workshop closed and I’ve signed up for one that starts in five days and am about to sign up for another, which won’t start for months. (Is that progress?)

Why do I do it? Well, the easy answer is because a writer should always be learning and bettering in regards to craft. But I suspect I’m using this noble excuse to cover up something more sinister. I’m procrastinating. It’s hard to write like hell when your attentions are split. And it’s hard to buckle up for the ride of rejection if you don’t have anything else finished to submit.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about this. I’d be lying if I said I was committed to stopping the whoring around, but don’t they say admitting there’s a problem is half the battle?

Yes, you read the title right. Yes, I’m sometimes afraid of writing. There are lots of reasons why. What if I don’t know what to write? What if what I write sucks? What if what I write is good but in an entirely different direction than what I’d planned and now I’m faced with intensive rewrites or scrapping the WIP and starting anew? What if it hurts too much to write this scene? What if it doesn’t hurt enough? What if these words take me nowhere? Worse yet, what if these words take the reader nowhere? What if they take me somewhere I never wanted to be?

For me, writer’s block isn’t about not knowing what to write—it’s about being scared. When I’m away from writing for longer than a couple days, doubt creeps in. I lose my rhythm. I no longer hear the story in my head. And I start to procrastinate writing sessions, filling my day with gardening, shopping, decorating, shopping, reading, shopping, eating, shopping…

Yesterday was the first day since the first week of July that I wrote anything substantial. Of course, it took me to the last possible second to force myself into my desk chair. By then I’d already weeded, spread mulch and even planted four plants (a first for me), showered, took a trip to Lowes, stopped by CVS, dropped by the violin shop with my daughter’s violin, and shuttled my kids to McDonalds for snack-sized McFlurries. Tired and ready to pass on writing again, a little voice whispered, “But you promised.”

I looked at my son sitting beside me and then to my daughter in the backseat, but it wasn’t one of them. (Their mouths were full of McFlurry.) It was me—pathetic, neglected, little old me—and I didn’t have the heart to say no this time.

So I gripped the steering wheel, nodded proudly and announced to my kids, “I’m going to write a thousand words when we get home.”

My daughter said something like, “Wow! That will take you forever.”

My son replied, “No, it won’t. Mom types like a speed demon.”

And so I thought about writing 1000 words and typing “like a speed demon” the whole way home. By the time I sat at the laptop I’d done the math a few times. One thousand words five days a week times four weeks times three months equals sixty thousand words. I can do that. (When I’m in the zone, 5,000 words a day is no problem.)

But slow and steady wins the race, right? Yes, I know that’s a cliche. And yes, I know there’s not an actual race, but there is a finish line (submission, publication), and I’m not getting any closer staring at a screen hoping for sparkling dustings of fearless inspiration.

One thousand words a day isn’t much for a speed demon. 😉 And that’s exactly what I intend to be, because when I type fast and let the words pour out of me without thought, that’s when I’m the happiest. I forget this when life weighs me down and slows my writing enough to allow my internal editor to stand in a corner of my mind with my internal critic where they taunt every word I write. It’s hard to be happy when you’re under attack from your own psyche.

But guess what? The internal editor and internal critic are afraid of the speed demon. They must be, because when I’m typing like an SOB, those two are nowhere to be found. *Blows on the barrel of an Old West pistol*

In the end, I wrote over two thousand words yesterday. I wrote fast and furious, and I loved every minute of it. Today I’m going to do the same.

Who’s scared? Not me.

How about you? I hope you’re pounding those keys with a vengeance.

I hope this post serves as a kick in the ass, because I need one. I’ve been writing full time for over a year, and I’ve submitted four times. Four. I’m pretty sure that ranks as pathetic.

The first time I mustered the courage, I sent an email query to an agent who responded a week later with a lovely request for the first three chapters and synopsis. A couple weeks later, I received an email rejection in which the agent told me to work on my “atmosphere.”

I did—even though I wasn’t sure what that meant. I read a lot more, and I told myself that when I’d atmosphere-d my MS to perfection, I’d submit to another agent on my list.

I did that. The agency’s policy was email queries. If they were interested, I would hear something in about three months. I didn’t hear anything.

In the meantime, I wrote. I participated in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) and submitted the first chapter and synopsis to my latest (at the time) manuscript (MS). I received a rejection with feedback.

Taking that feedback to heart, I made changes. I found a great critique partner (CP), and she offered me additional perspective on the rejected MS. She saw the story fitting into another Harlequin line, and as if by fate, the line announced a pitch contest.

I entered. Sent along two paragraphs and waited.

Not picked.

Now? I keep telling myself I’ll submit after my synopsis course. But I’m starting to think I’m procrastinating. (I even procrastinated on making the determination that I was procrastinating.)

Four manuscripts are waiting for me to do something—five if you count my work in progress (WIP). The first is the single title submitted to two agents. The second is an MS I edited down from a single title and steamed up in hopes of submitting to Blaze. The third is a single title I haven’t looked at in over a year. The fourth is my SYTYCW entry, which I submitted as a Blaze, then rewrote to make a Desire and entered in the Desire pitch. The fifth is being written as a Desire.

At some point I need to submit, don’t I? I keep telling myself that every writer has a collection of stories under the bed that were never meant to be submitted. Is this accurate? Are these my “practice” manuscripts? Or am I making excuses?

I give myself to the end of this synopsis class to decide. (Lord, this sound like another excuse.) Really. I’m going to have my CP hold me accountable. (Are you reading this, Nicole?)

Whether it’s one, three or all five, I’m going to submit. Soon.  And I’m going to stop making the following excuses.

Non-valid Submission Excuses

  1. Publisher X takes too long to respond. (Oh yeah? Because sitting in a never-opened file in the laptop or stashed in a dusty box underneath my bed is the shortest route to publication.)
  2. International postage is such a hassle to deal with. (Could be. Don’t know. I’ve never made it to the post office to find out. And I won’t know unless I do.)
  3. Publisher Y only accepts snail mail, which means I have to print out the entire manuscript. That’s so much paper, ink and time—not to mention the price of postage. (Most of these publishers do not require the entire manuscript up front, so if I’m actually to the point where I’m facing a request for the full manuscript, the cost and time of printing and the cost of postage should be outweighed by the sheer joy of getting this far.)
  4. I’m still not sure if the story fits. (Usually said after reading oodles of books from the line I’m targeting. I actually do this…pretend I’m not “getting” the line or focus on one scene in my manuscript and deem it un-Blaze or un-Desire or un-whatever.)
  5. The story’s not ready. (After four revisions, a read through by my “ideal reader” and a full critique by my CP. When exactly is it ready? Beats the hell out of me.)