The Perils of Procrastination
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
I’m not sure how it got to be quite so long between opening the pages of my current manuscript, my work in progress (WIP), or writing on this, my much neglected blog. You see I adore the written word. I am an author-in-waiting who is beholden to books and the gifts they have given me. I am a voracious reader who devours novels almost as fast as I devour cups of tea. And I am also a master procrastinator.
Since returning to writing some years ago, I read in a totally different way. I still get swept along in the magical story contained within those crisp pages, the exquisite settings and the relatable characters, but I now also find myself analysing sentence structure, admiring characterisations, and wondering how the hell the author created such a cohesive work of beauty. I long to create such beauty.
Apparently I can write. I have been told that I can by several of my favourite authors, whose writing courses I’ve attended. I’ve even pitched the idea for my novel to a publisher from one of Australia’s major publishing houses and she said it sounded ‘intriguing’ and to email her when I had a polished first draft. Sounds encouraging, doesn’t it?
Yet herein lies the problem. Two years on from that pitch and I still don’t have a polished first draft. I don’t even have an unpolished first draft. What I have is a cluster of words (in its current incarnation that cluster equates to twenty-four thousand, four hundred & fifty-two to be precise) and an outline of my story.
I am a visual person and have laminated images of my characters that sit on my desk as I write. Some are random people picked off the internet (what was that I said about being a master procrastinator?) whom the moment I saw them I knew, they were my Lucy or my Clara. The hunky English actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen is my inspiration for Markus. I saw him a few years ago in the movie Faster and was mesmerised by an Ashtanga yoga scene he performed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_gQbbAlNB0
Writing is hard and it has to have its perks…and watching that yoga scene can be classified as ‘research’, well that’s what I tell my husband anyway! But I digress. I know the story I want to write. I know who my characters are. I have a working title, The Forgotten Family. I have a fully formed visual of one pivotal scene which plays over and over in my head like a movie trailer. The scene even has its own soundtrack, Strange Birds by Birdy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hxIGKNhW1Q (yeah I know, more procrastinating) and is set on the rooftop terrace of an old sandstone mansion, in waterfront Woolwich.
The song lyrics speak to Markus who has just received a Facebook message from his father and he takes out his frustration by kick-boxing a punching bag. I see that scene so clearly. Every…little…detail. It feels so visceral and so real. But getting it to translate onto the written page is proving harder than I imagined. And so I stop writing. Writing is hard.
I have the best intentions. Driving home from work I say to myself ‘when I get home, I’ll brew a cuppa and do some writing.’ And what do I do? I brew a cuppa and pick up a book, someone else’s book and get lost in the pages. As I read my inner voice says ‘you should be working on your own book not reading someone elses.’ But I am good at silencing that inner voice. ‘Reading is research, essential for good writing’ I say. It’s true. But it is also an excuse, another way to procrastinate.
A wise writer friend recently nailed why writers often procrastinate. She said, ‘I think perhaps I’m subconsciously stopping myself from writing because the story is so much better in my head than when I put it on the page, so by not committing it to writing, I haven’t ruined it.’ And there it is in a nutshell.
I am scared that when I actually write it, it won’t be good enough, that it won’t read on the page as well as it does in my head. While it’s tucked away in the recesses of my imagination my story is safe. But of course the whole point of writing books is to share our stories. If I never release it into the world I can’t fail, but I also can’t succeed.
And so here I sit typing. Writing. It started yesterday with a measly two hundred & sixteen words of dialogue on my WIP. Today I decided it was time to re-visit my blog in an effort to get the words flowing, somehow writing a blog post seemed so much easier than slipping within the pages of my novel. But I started writing this post at nine a.m. this morning and only now, some ten hours later, do I type the final words.
But it’s a start. And with a writing retreat looming in November with the fabulous Vanessa Carnevale (and a promise to her that I would turn up with sixty-thousand words), I need to get writing. Fast.
So wish me luck and if you have any tips to stop procrastination (yes Di, I know, GET OFF FACEBOOK!) please let me know in the comments.
Till next time,