I’ve been feeling really crappy this week. My doctors have been tinkering with meds to try to get my blood pressure under control, and the side effects of the meds have knocked me for a huge loop. Which is my way of apologizing for this being a day later than it should be. AND is the best way I can think of to start this entry!
I’ve been reading magazines (writing ones, primarily) and Facebook posts quite a bit this week. Both meant I didn’t have to think. Both made me think, there’s irony in that, I think.
People pay a great deal of attention to what people say about the kinds of things they are writing. I have. For years I’ve looked at the fact that poetry really doesn’t sell so well unless you are a famous poet. But if they don’t sell, how do you get to be a famous poet? If people aren’t buying what I am writing, why is what I’m writing relevant and why do I see the kind of things that I’m writing in print? That seems to be the ultimate catch 22 conundrum.
I read an article in the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest that speaks a great deal to this. No Reservations, in the inkwell column, suggests that, despite the fact that people seem to claim that memoir as a genre is a cheap overused hack of a writing venue. But it also points out that people are making money with it and is a great way to break into the writing life as a paid writer, often a well-paid writer.
Hot on the tail of that article, I read a post by Christine Schwab on Facebook that the publishing industry is in a state of flux (go figure, most of my attention right now is focused on being able to publish epub-mobi-ibook format to get my words out) but that the fact that it is in flux shouldn’t keep writers from writing and shouldn’t discourage any of us. Her quote seems to sum it up pretty well…
“it has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things come to them. They went out and happened to things”
-Leonardo da Vinci
This gave me great hope, this week, because what I’m currently playing with is a series of memoir kind of books, or maybe more to the point fiction based to a great extent on reality, a book with my son that is directly memoir, and my poetry. Maybe there will be a market for my work. Maybe not, but I’m certainly not going to let that doubt stop me.
AND you, dear writer/reader, should not let it stop you. Don’t kill your darlings. Follow your heart, chase your dreams, and maybe think about writing out your deepest darkest secrets or your biggest ugliest pet peeves and see if there might just be a market for your words. You can’t be the only one, and don’t we all, secretly, like to eavesdrop on other people’s lives? I’m not kidding myself that I will make ten thousand dollars (but I might, and why not take that chance), but maybe I can do something better, touch just one person who needed to be touched and leave a small mark on eternity.
Okay, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!!!
It’s true. You never will be be. But you can use the gold standard of perfection to better yourself, to push yourself forward. How? One word – procrastination. Let’s explain that. Procrastination is something we do in order to avoid working. It’s natural, but it can be pretty habit-forming and time-consuming. You might find yourself with six spare hours, a quiet house, and a blank computer. You’ll think – ‘Perfect! All the peace and quiet I need to polish off the last three chapters of my thriller mystery novel!’. Six hours later, you’re still on Reddit. Or Facebook. Or whatever you do to waste time. Because to procrastinate is easier than working.
The subject of procrastination has been, as we say in the field, ‘run into the ground’. So we won’t go into too much detail about the subject. In fact, we’ll cut the procrastination and get right to the point – how to avoid it.
If you write a lot, or even a little, there’s probably several projects you’re working on, a few separate things you’re writing. So write them down. Make a little list of what you could be writing. For me, it goes something like this – a post for The Writer’s Corp, a Hebrew short story for a book, a chapter in another book, a post for my site, or an article for a newspaper. These are all things I need to write. So I make a list of them.
The secret to solving procrastination is to define your goals. Knowing exactly what you have to do is the first step to getting them done. So write down all the things you have to do, and start with the one that looks the most enjoyable to write. Try to do all the things on your list.
Now, the point is that you will not accomplish everything on your list. You might only do one or two of them. Don’t let that discourage you – remember, just a minute ago you were having trouble starting. The trick is to get going, to start writing – to start is the hard part. Aim higher than you can realistically do at once, and just knowing what you want to write can be an excellent way to get yourself writing.
At the end of the day, you may not have accomplished all your goals. Not every checkbox will have a check in it. But you’ll have made progress, and you’ll have beaten your procrastination.
When Nesher Ehrman succeeds in beating his procrastination, he also writes poems and short stories, which can be found at his site.
Guest Bio: Jane Sherman received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University in 2011 and lives in Westport, CT. An excerpt from Chapter 1 of her memoir appeared in Weston Magazine, which includes 7 other magazines in the group. She blogs at http://hostileentry.com/
“Come on, check Facebook. You know you want to see what’s happened in the last ten minutes with your friends,” the Distraction Devil whispers in my ear as I gaze at the blank page on my computer screen. “No, I’m not going to waste this hour. I want to get a block of new writing down. Get out of my sight!” I reply. “OK, OK — have it your way.” The Distraction Devil slinks to the corner of the room, but he’s still there, weaseling his way back into my head, forcing me listen to his insistent voice. Bing. I hear another email message arriving. I could just see who it’s from. Perhaps it’s work related and I should just glance at it right now. But I resist, sigh and take a deep breath. I relax my shoulders. I ignore the Distraction Devil, who is jumping up and down just behind my shoulders, glowering like a maniac.
“I’ll get you, yet,” he says, gritting his teeth. He isn’t used to being ignored.
“Call from Cooper James,” the telephone announces.
Oh dear, it’s my daughter. I should answer. What if it’s important? What if she wants to talk over something crucial?
The muscles in my neck become tight. I consciously tense and then relax them so that the knot doesn’t develop into a worse spasm.
I don’t answer the phone, even though I want to. Maybe just one game of Solitaire would soothe my frazzled nerves. I know, however, that it’s never just one game. “Why don’t you indulge yourself? You deserve it. A game of Solitaire will relax you,” I hear the devil murmur. “Only one. You can manage that.” I know, however, that it’s never just one game. I glare at him as he turns his head away from me, attempting to conceal a smirk. I look at my desk on both sides of the keyboard. Every piece of paper in the pile on the right side of my desk is important. Still, it’s messy. I don’t like disorganization. I like neat. I should straighten up the pile, discard those papers that I can get rid of and make them line up so at least the pile looks good. My mind wanders even more. The Distraction Devil is still in my head. I hear him snickering behind me. He thinks he’s winning. The kitchen is dangerous territory. Maybe I’d believe that I’m hungry and need to eat something…anything to distract myself from what I truly want to do. “Stop,” I shout to the evil temptation hovering near me. “I choose not to be enticed by all these extraneous activities. Get in the cage, right now! Stay there and don’t say a single word! Don’t even clear your throat or sigh.
So today, I’ve battled the Distraction Devil and won this round. Of course, there’s always tomorrow. He’s using this time to design other techniques to distract me.