Welcome novelists (published and unpublished). I thought I’d begin with some painful honesty. I’m pretty sure I’m procrastinating. Ten thousand words away from the end of a novel is an excruciating time for me, and I hate to let my characters go. So instead of typing until I get to The End, I’m here setting up a new blog. My first subject is hiding in plain sight – procrastination, and how it shoots you in the foot.
Almost a decade of mentoring other writers has introduced me to many versions of procrastination:
Home duties: spring cleaning, re-ordering cupboards, replanting garden beds (when I start on the oven I’m at Def-con 2)
Pretend writing work: unnecessary correspondence/promotion, too much researching, hours on social networking, or otherwise crossing the boundary of how much time you normally allow yourself for ancillary writing tasks
Mr/Ms Helpful: Agreeing to help friends/school/family when you don’t need to
Life changes:Gym membership, new job that involves moving house, launching into internet dating, proposing to your long time partner, deciding it’s time to have kids
Basically anything out of your ordinary routine of work/life balance (assuming you have one). Activities mentioned above are a drop in the bucket. There are thousands of ways to procrastinate, and yet surprisingly, only two causes – fear of success or fear of failure.
Fear of failure is easy to identify, because most of us have it. Rare is the author who’s racing to send their manuscript off and have it possibly rejected. It’s only those of us handing in contracted books who feel any measure of certainty, and even then we might be up for revisions. But why, I hear you asking, would anyone fear success? Why indeed, but I can confidently assure you it’s widespread.
I remember a time before my first novel was published, watching the Mel Gibson movie Ransom and feeling sick. All my fantasies of being a “well respected, wealthy, International best-selling author” were suddenly in question. Did I want to be richer than Stephen King if it meant someone might kidnap one of my precious children? I don’t think so! And you might imagine this sort of thing is easily rationalised and dealt with on an intellectual level, but so often what the head knows and what the heart feels are two completely different things. So while I knew intellectually I could keep my children safe, my ever-fearful mother’s heart wasn’t convinced. Easily identified now, but that shot me in the foot for a good couple of years, so every time I’m tempted to procrastinate, I ask myself “What am I scared of?”, and I’m asking myself that right now.
While I’m here, I’m also asking you. If you’re not where you want to be, if you’re procrastinating or shooting yourself in the foot in other ways, ask yourself, “What am I scared of? What aspect of my dream author life doesn’t sit as comfortably as the adulation of readers, the fat bank balance and the satisfaction of creating stories?”
There’s something there. There’s always something there. Finding it, facing it and defusing it is how we learn and grow.
Good luck with your self discovery. Let me know how you fare.