Tuesday 14th March 2017
I’ve discovered that most writers are incredibly inefficient.
It’s a criticism I’m also guilty of. I’ve done loads of work over the last couple of years to change from a pantser to a planner – to go from winging the story as I write, to having a structure mapped out – and yet I often get frustrated at how easy it is to procrastinate.
The revelation came today when on day 2 of my forced Take-It-Easy sickness break, taking it easy was just ridiculously natural. Had Star Wars The Old Republic not had a patch I would have probably played it all day. Why is it that I find it easier to goof off than actually write? Especially when I have the chapter all mapped out. Heck, I actually enjoy the process of writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think writers do need to recharge – fill the mana bar as I like to refer to it as – but that’s at the end of a project and even then I’m sure there are better ways to recharge your creative batteries than watching all seven seasons of Buffy or playing MMOs 24/7. I’ve heard tales today of professional writers who skip writing for several months when they have a book to deliver.
And I’m not judging because in my own way, I’m super bad at it as well. As this morning proved, it doesn’t take me a lot to find something far more interesting than writing. Let’s face it, the last 2 days of doing nothing hasn’t been a challenge. In fact it’s come far too easy for my liking.
I think it all comes back to the Micro and the Macro. When the macro of publishing a book can – from first draft to paperback novel in the stores – be a process of several years or more, the day to day (the micro) can seem unimportant. And you could argue that as long as they deliver the book in time, then there’s no harm done.
But I see this as an opportunity. I see this as an incentive to work on my productivity, because if I’m efficient in a sea of inefficient authors, then that allows me to put more books out, gives me time to improve my craft, and allows me to try side projects. It also means I can do my work and then be free to do other things for the rest of the day if I like.
I went through my ToDo list today as a result. As happens, it gets a little cluttered over time. Tasks drop in importance and then keep getting punted forward as unimportant. So I went in and cleared them out, deleting the tasks in order that my list has a bit more clarity and focus.
There’s a couple of big projects that have been put back and back, and clearing the clutter has allowed me to see them more clearly. The first is a number of short stories I want to write. I’ve kicked that one a little way out with my Climb the Sky initiative but I need to set a Saturday or one day every month to write a crap draft.
The other thing is the synopsises. I was going to send this in a year ago and I have no idea why it is taking me so long. Is it because I have to delve between different writing styles and worlds, switching my head from one made-up universe to another? Or is it that just editing chapters can be a chore and I’d rather procrastinate? I think the latter is more likely.
I’d like to be a full-time author one day. Up until today I always thought I’d be quite good at it. I’m quite disciplined when working from home with the day job, and when I’ve taken time off to finish a rewrite, I’ve been very dedicated. But I still think there is work to do.
I listened to another short story tonight whilst cooking. This one was Abere and the Poisoner. I liked bits of it but there were also bits I didn’t. For example, I liked the idea of swapping between two stories but the storyteller POV felt a little clunky to me being read aloud, and I don’t think the tales interweaved enough. But, not a bad story, I just keep feeling that short stories never have strong enough endings for me.
I’m also making very slow progress with my Gardens of the Moon re-read. I learnt a technique for speeding up my reading and have been trying to implement it but I totally ignored it last night. I first read the novel a few years back when I was trying to fill in holes in my reading (which as an incredibly slow reader is extensive) and upon completing it on my second try, wanted to find the time to read the entire series.
I’m not a little less concerned with what I should be reading these days and reading for pleasure instead, so part of me doesn’t really care even if it takes me all year to read the book. I think it’s so easy as a writer to start reading books you feel you should be reading rather than books you enjoy. That’s when reading becomes a chore rather than an joy. So whilst I do very much want to speed up my reading, I’m not going to stress out over how few books I read each year (I still maintain that reading slowly has given me a better understanding of craft).
I also watched a ton of social media videos on Youtube, looking for advice on growing my audience. I tried something a little different with Instagram today, targeting writers through hashtags and then asking them to pitch their novels in the comments. Lots of likes, very few apt comments which makes me wonder (outside of friends) whether most of my followers are just bots (I know that’s not true but it sometimes feels like it).
I also fixed an issue with the website (and possibly created a new one). I think I have notifications of new posts now automatically going to Google Plus and Linkedin as I found that it wasn;t working. However, in doing so I think I screwed up twitter and Facebook notifications. We’ll see when this issue goes live.
Not sure what I did today but my back and neck were really stiff this evening. So much so that I only wrote about 1000 words on the novel before heading to bed (and those words were a struggle). Sometimes if I sit crooked and lean my elbow on the desk I can twist my back. A couple of days of sitting properly can cure it. I suspect, spending 2 days sitting at my desk (and undoubtedly sitting crooked) has probably done it.
My stomach has seemed to calm down a little, and what’s been interesting is that this little airgap has allowed me to see what’s impacting it. There’s been talk this week of FODMAP having an impact and because there’s been nothing happening to stress my stomach out minute to minute and I have such a controlled diet I have noticed that milk and artificial sweeteners do seem to aggravate it quite aggressively. What’s interesting to me is that when I don’t have them I feel a real craving for them. So the next stage is to try and work out why. I suspect that it might be my body wanting sugar so I’ve even experimented with the occassional full-fat drink rather than a diet version. This is an example of me taking ownership of my diet and trying out these little things.
The other thing discussed today is the fact that my weight rapidly going up and down can only be down to water retention. I always say I can’t have beef without putting on several pounds, but is it more the carbs that come with it or the beef itself? We’re also looking at my water intake. I believe I drink 2l of water a day but I’m back on caffeine while I write the book and perhaps the addition of that is mucking up what my actual (rather than perceived) intake is. I plan to monitor it tomorrow.
So perhaps these last few days have not been a waste, even if it’s just for the conveniently timed cold I seem to have. I do feel a lot of progress has been made but as always, answers seem to come in the form of more questions.
So despite doing nothing, I think I achieved a lot today. Do I still feel inefficient? Most definitely. But you know what? The fact that I can make improvements makes me happy. This isn’t about min / maxing my day as much as getting to the end of the day and feeling good about the progress. I’m not sure I always loved the process of being a writer – of growing, learning and failing. I think I used to work towards the reward of ‘having written’ but over the last couple of weeks I think I’ve come to love the process of ‘doing’ so much more. I think that comes from learning to have patience for the macro and focusing on the micro.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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