Lists! Lists are just amazing things. Lists help salve the soul and bring order to chaos. Whenever someone makes fun of me for making lists upon lists, I just smile sadly. How horrible it must be not to know the joy of a well-ordered list!
A well ordered list could save the world. Or at least, it could help you come up with a kick-ass plan to do it. ^-^
In the post just before this one, I talked about how I missed the deadline for the finished first draft of my short story, Romaine. Missed is really the wrong word, as I didn’t come anywhere close to finishing on time. Even though it was a self imposed deadline, I was pretty crushed that I wasn’t able to get it.
Well, after a relaxing anniversary weekend with my Scholar, I sat down to think about exactly why it is that I failed in such an epic manner. I assure you this is not a list of excuses to make myself feel better. In this post I’m going to look carefully at each point and figure out how to avoid that problem in the future. Perhaps this way I can turn my failure into something useful.
Fair warning, this post might get a little long.
So here is my list. ^-^
Why Didn’t I Make My Deadline? (Romaine)
1. A large setback of being sick for two weeks.
This is probably the thing on my list that I had the least control over. A lot of times when I’m sick I can still function just fine, but in this case I was loopy, half asleep, and/or coughing my lungs out for two weeks. Even after I started to get better, I was still really tired for at least another week.
My first thought on how I can avoid this in the future? Maybe I need to try to take a bit better care of myself. More than that though, I need to be able to bounce back from a big setback. Big setbacks don’t just come in the form of killer ooze lodged in your lungs and cranium, they can also be things like lost pages (the ultimate writing horror!), sudden family events both good and bad, bouts of depression, huge swaths of writer’s block, and so on. And how do you bounce back from things like that? Well, I think the most important thing is not to panic. After that I’d say be able to gauge how much you still have left to do, and step up your output accordingly until you’ve caught up. This is something I still need some practice with. ^-^
2. Bad writer’s block on the first dialogue scene, and then again on the second one.
This really goes hand in hand with the first point on my list, since this was another huge setback for me. Ah yes, that’s another important note: big setbacks don’t always, or even usually, come one at a time. They like to pile on top of each other like puppies at nap time, except faaaar less adorable. For this reason it’s even more important to be able to bounce back after a setback, and quickly.
As far as the writer’s block itself, I honestly feel that it just took me a long time to figure out what character and plot information I was trying to convey in these scenes, not to mention what would be the best way to convey them! This is a problem that I didn’t have when working with ‘Take Me On’ earlier this year. I feel the main difference is that with ‘Take Me On’ I had such a clear picture of how it would go, of who the characters were and what they wanted. Of course you don’t always just get slapped with that kind of clarity for a project, but I think if I’d worked more on developing my ideas for ‘Romaine’ before I actually started writing, then I might not have struggled so much with these two scenes.
3. Giving in to slightly self-indulgent feelings of failure.
I’m not actually sure how much this really contributed to missing my deadline, but I know that I certainly could have gotten a lot closer to finishing if I hadn’t done it. Who knows, maybe I would have finished after all! Also, convincing yourself of your own failure and not even trying because “there is no point anyway” are really bad habits to get into. And that’s for life in general, not just writing.
This is an issue I’ve been struggling with for a long time, honestly. All I can really do is keep working at positive thinking and plugging away determinedly to the very last minute! Also, I need to work at suppressing my Anne-ish longing to just swoon onto my bed and declare, “Oh it’s just hopeless!” in a voice of utter despair. Because, even if the drama of it does actually make me feel a little bit better, it is not actually helpful. ^-^
4. I need my own space
I have been trying to figure out what writing habits work for me as a writer. The thing I keep coming back to is that I work best when I have my own space that can be my designated working space. Right now however, that is a bit impossible. For financial and giant dog reasons, my husband and I pretty much live in one room. There is no way that I can seclude myself when I want to write. Sometimes I go to the mall and write there, because being amongst a large group of people who don’t care what you’re doing feels pretty secluded (also people watching!), but since I spend the majority of my week there already, working, I don’t like to do that very often.
A good sort of compromise I’ve found is using a writing totem. Here is the awesome post that first introduced me to this fantastic idea. Basically, a writing totem is something that you wear or have with you while writing, to help you focus. They are excellent writing tools! Mine is a pair of fake glasses, because glasses make me feel writerly. ^-^ When my Scholar sees me wearing them, he knows it’s serious business and not to interrupt me. I think this is probably the best I can do to get ‘my own space’ for writing at the moment. So basically, I need to stop being so spacey and remember to wear them more.
The ultimate deadly assassin of projects everywhere! Procrastination… Sometimes I feel like yelling it ala Captain Kirk’s iconic shout of “Khaaaaaaaaaan!” It doesn’t work quite as well with the extra syllables though.
I think my procrastination on this project mostly stemmed from the same problem as #2 on this list: being unsure of where I was going with the story and how to get there. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but a lot of my, “Well I’ll just do this later.” was really me feeling like I was running in circles with some scenes, and not being sure how to stop. It’s amazing how quickly that makes writing not fun, and when it starts not being fun it’s soooo easy for me to start feeling like I never get to do anything fun. Unfortunately this leads to me doing things like ditching my planned writing time to play Guild Wars 2 instead, or read a book instead, or watch a marathon of Numb3rs episodes instead… you get the idea.
I have two plans to try and prevent this problem in the future. The first one is that when I feel the urge to put off working on some writing, I need to stop and ask myself why that is. Am I just stressed and in need of a break and perhaps something tasty? Or, is there a deeper problem that is making me feel like actively avoiding my writing? If the latter, what is that problem and how can I fix it? I should be spending time working on that, rather than checking my facebook and taking a nap.
The second thing I need to do is to be sure to allow some time for fun things like books and games, as well as writing. It’s one of those important balance things. Also, if I know that I am planning on doing some serious playing at certain time, then when I am tempted to play while I’m working it’s much easier to tell myself, “Well, I can do that later.” This also works with ice cream, by the way. ^-^
So in conclusion, I have a lot of things to work on!
Have you also had problems with any of the things I’ve listed? If you have any further ideas on good ways to avoid these problems, or other thoughts you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment! ^-^