Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting Down to the Writing Business

Saturday morning I did something I haven't done in a long time. I poured a cup of coffee and went into the living room for a thinking session. There's a special chair in there for meditating or puzzling through a problem. It's a little glider with a green early-American style cushion on seat and back. Rocking, or in this case gliding, seems to help my thinking process, moving it along in a way. The motion is calming, and don't we all think better when we're calm?

What I needed to think about was:

Reading, critiquing, blogging, and tweeting,
Lallygagging, sleeping, writing, and eating,
There's not enough time to do them all,
Who in the flying hell do I call?

For help, I mean. Is there such a thing as procrastination-busters? A group dedicated to breaking the television/movie habit? How about a twelve-step method for beating the "meet me for coffee at Starbucks" or "let's do lunch" addiction?

The same two manuscripts I was talking about three months ago, one that needed "one more good read" and the other that was ready for revisions, haven't been touched.

I've fiddled with my blog, playing with the new Blogger templates. I took two trips. I've spent hours in the garage cutting up old cardboard boxes to conform to our town's new recycling opportunities. I ordered a new storm door and had it replaced. I rewrote my To Do List, which is down to 21 items, although it doesn't have anything on it about daily writing time. I accepted a book to review for The Blood-Red Pencil blog, and I added a new weekly guest blogger series to my own blog.

I'm still working one afternoon a week (for three hours) at the Northern Colorado Writers studio, I taught another self-editing class for NCW, and I attend the group's monthly morning coffee and writing discussion. I'm on the editorial committee for the Senior Center's Mountain Scribe Anthology. And then there's all that really frivolous stuff I do like grocery-shopping, strolling through Farmers' Markets, laundry, and occasional bouts of housecleaning.

What is it about sitting down to write or revise that's so difficult? I see the question pondered over and over by writers, but I still don't know the answer.

What I finally decided as I sipped my coffee and rocked (okay, glided) is that it's okay not to write if I want to do something else instead. The only thing I have to do is stop, think about what I'm doing, make a conscious choice, and then proceed. No stress. No guilt. Just know what I'm doing and why.

I'll write when I choose to write.

So I took a deep breath and let it out. I felt better. Even felt a little bit like cleaning off my desk so I can work with a hard copy of my novel as I read and make revision notes.

But first, I had to meet a writer friend for coffee at Starbucks, buy fresh local strawberries and spinach at the Farmer's Market, set the sun tea jug outside, write a blog post and pre-schedule my guest blogger's post for Thursday, wash those strawberries that had perfumed the whole kitchen, make shortcake and whipped topping, wash the spinach, check my e-mail one more time, and read for an hour before starting dinner.

And so it goes.


Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I love this post! You could have written it about me! LOL!

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about doing all those 21 "to do" things on your list!

I've made that decision this year to write when I feel like writing...not forcing myself to write. And guess what? I've enjoyed it more and writing more than before!

Please send me some of that yummy strawberry shortcake!!

Karen Walker said...

Welcome to my world,Patricia. And you know what? It really is okay.....

Jan Morrison said...

Oh Patricia, how completely refreshing it is to read the truth in a blog. Not that we lie on our blogs but maybe a little by omission and it creeps up on us day by day. I don't really spill on my blog anymore partly because I find it embarrassing to have people that I've never met showering me with empathy and partly because my Dad and sister read my blog and take everything LITERALLY.
Right now, my writing life is going well. I'm doing my revision -sticking to my schedule and really actually liking the process. But I'm also suffering with a bad relationship with my stepson, working with the heartbreak of my grown son's recent decision to leave his wife and three kids, NOT doing my back tax returns, etc... I struggle always with procrastination of one form or another. I tell my clients that procrastination means either we don't really want to do the thing we're putting off or we are scared to do it. I believe this but I avoid it in my own life.
I really like your decision to feel OK about not writing or writing. That is truly the only way. Again, thanks for sharing this. It makes me feel less alienated from the cheery blog world!!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Loved this post Patricia, think I shall have to get a thinking chair.....or a de-stressing chair, A good idea to have one,

Have a good day.

Sugar said...

I do the same thing...It's like I am scared that I will not finish or it will be, for lack of a better word, crap. So..I put off writing because deep down, I feel like I need to. don't ask me why, it is just that way.
But that is the beauty of it. I can do it on my time, when I feel like it.
My to-do lists are on sticky notes all over the place..maybe I'll make a to-do list to organize my to-do lists :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning, everyone. I guess honesty is the best policy, but it's hard to admit over and over what a procrastinator I am. I wasn't like this at all during my working years. Of course, I didn't have a big choice if I wanted to keep working.

Donna, I also printed a blueberry grunt recipe from a blog and I bought two big containers of California blueberries. That has to be healthy, right?

Karen and Jan, I don't vent very often, but I know it helps me when I read another writer's post about revising woes or query rejections. It's only fair that I share my own frustrations once in a while. At least, I keep telling myself, I do have a first draft to work with whenever I get around to it. And it is okay to work on it later rather than right now.

Yvonne, the chair needs to be just right. Not too soft, rocks or glides, and in a quiet place.

Hi Sugar. Fear might just be my problem since both of my wip manuscripts are totally different from the two published mysteries, and I'm going to start looking for an agent. It's almost like starting over, and that is scary.

arlee bird said...

Might as well enjoy life. I know how that procrastination goes. I'm going to have to be making some sacrifices in order to do the things I know I must do. Can't do everything I want to do, but shouldn't get too stressed either.
Good luck.

Tossing It Out

Kay said...

Setting your priorities is a constant effort. I think you're on the right path ... to give yourself permission to do what you do.

As for reworking a draft, maybe your fermenting time isn't completed yet.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Arlee, I know from reading your blog posts that you're in the mood for change, just like a lot of the rest of us. It's hard to make all those choices when we have so little time...

Hi Kay. Fermenting is good, as long as the stuff doesn't turn to vinegar while I'm off playing.

Watery Tart said...

I think the hardest thing is it feels like nothing ever LEAVES the list... we just keep getting new things ADDED. My rewrite/edit pile keeps growing and growing... *sigh*... Good luck making headway!

Eric W. Trant said...

Your Saturday sounds a lot quieter than mine! We had a birthday party and sleepovers all weekend.

But I managed to pour up my cup and sit at the computer Saturday morning in the wee hours while everyone was still sleeping, before the sun rose, and I did something similar.

I thought. I wrote a little, but not much.

- Eric

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love that name, Watery Tart. I've even taking to crossing items off my list with a red pen so they stand out and I feel as if I've accomplished something.

Eric, the thought of kidlet sleepovers gives me hives. Luckily, I'm a grandma now so it's unlikely I'll have to host that kind of event ever again. Early morning thinking in a quiet place with coffee is definitely the best kind of thinking (but I still need my rocker/glider.

Ann Best said...

I've thought a lot about what you've posted here, too, Patricia. If I keep thinking as I'm blogging that I should be writing, or as I'm writing that I'm behind in blogging, then I'm not enjoying what I'm doing. So like you I've decided I'm going to enjoy what I'm doing, whether it's reading a book, writing, blogging, shopping for food, doing laundry (some things DO have to be done). Some days are better than others for everything, but I'm trying to remind myself to Enjoy the Ride.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love your fresh look. Good for you for giving yourself time off. I have so much that's unexpected that I feel I need to write whenever possible.

Clarissa Draper said...

I hate when I'm not writing and I know I should be. Lately, I've just forced my way through it. Even if I've only written 500 words of crap, I still feel better about doing it.


Patricia Stoltey said...

500 words of crap isn't so bad, Clarissa. I'm thinking my whole suspense novel first draft is crap. Maybe that's why I'm putting of the revisions.

Ann, you're right. We need to live in and enjoy the moment.

Carol, the blog makeover was fun. Now I need to do one on my mind and body. The trouble with having more time (as in retired) is that we keep thinking we have plenty of time. We don't. :)

Ann said...

I don't know you talk about procrastination, but goodness you still manage to fit so much into your day. I was just breathless reading your commitments and doings.

The strawberries sound divine!

Dougy said...

thanks for sharing this...looking forward for more posts from you =)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love this! I like the idea of having a thinking session. I think all of us have a hard time getting going on certain days.

Anonymous said...

That's the awesome freedom of being a writer. You can write when you want to. Gotta do Starbucks with friends. Muy importante.

Stephen Tremp

Glynis said...

I often have to withdraw to my craft room and make cards. This settles my brain back into 'writing' mode. I do not consider this activity as procrastination. ;0

Michelle Mach said...

It may not have done much for your WIP, but this post was beautifully written--and seems to have touched a nerve with fellow writers!