Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Perseverance: The most important word for authors

I've been struggling with demons lately. Of those demons, the worst has been procrastination. I find myself waking in the morning, vowing to accomplish a lot of work on my novel during the day. Instead, I find myself planted in front of the computer reading blogs by literary agents and editors about the publishing industry. I tell myself that I'm not wasting time because I need to know what's going on in the publishing industry. When I get off the computer, I pace through the house, looking for things to do. I might wash dishes, which is actually something that sucks if neglected. I eventually find myself sitting on the sofa, watching television or surfing through the channels to find something to watch. God knows that daytime television is an absolute waste of time to begin with because there's never anything worth watching anyway. Usually, I can pull myself away and plant my butt in front of my laptop to knock out some editing or to write a few pages. My goal is to edit/write 10 pages each day, but recently, that number has dwindled and I find myself compromising with a few pages, varying between 3 to 5 each day.

I'm losing my forward momentum and I realize that to stay on this path is the smooch of death. So, today I asked myself what was the problem. Why was I plagued with this monkey of procrastination on my back? I believe I've found the answer. When I wrote the first draft of my first novel, I made myself sit down and write 1,000 words everyday. During that time, I had days when I couldn't bring myself to reach my goal, let alone sit down in front of the computer. That's just life, we're not machines, after all. But, I also had a penalty system. If I missed a day, that meant that I had to double up the following day. I was pretty firm with myself about this and finished my first draft three months after starting it.

Now that I'm revising that first draft (I'm currently on the third revision) and working on the first draft of my second novel, I've found myself in a major procrastination rut. When I looked deeply at the cause, I realized that some of the problem arose from the blogs I've been reading. Most of the agents talk about certain elements that make a story sellable: intriguing plot, voice, style, believable dialog, rich characterization, visual settings and imagery, etc. I've since gone back and asked myself whether these elements were evident in my work. Feeling a boatload of self doubt, I find it intimidating to sit down and continue to embarrass myself at my laptop. Also, making repetitive passes through a mountain of pages to look at the dialog, characterization, etc. is such a daunting task that it takes the wind right out of my sails. I find myself without the motivation to continue.

Now that I've identified the problem, it seems that the only solution is to just persevere, to lower my head and charge into the task at hand. Internally, I feel as if I'm on a timeline with a quickly approaching deadline that I know I'll fail to meet. But rationally, I know there is no such deadline. My eagerness to sell and publish my first book is getting me worked up. Self doubt is playing into it as well, squashing my motivation. If I don't stop it now, this could be a never ending cycle. I guess this is what writer's block is like. I've heard many writers discuss about this problem, but have never experienced it myself until now. But, I know what I have to do.

When I finish this blog, I'll turn off the stupid TV and plant myself in front of my laptop, and like the Nike slogan says, just do it! I urge you to do the same.

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