Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kick Start Your Writing

My astrological chart says I'm not a self starter and I would have to agree. I am a born procrastinator -- on some things, writing being one of them. I love to write and can sit and write for hours on end, usually irritated that I have to get up and tend to nature's call or eat. I have been known to write for 36 hours straight, with nature breaks, of course, and not get tired. I am in the zone. The words are coming. The characters are cooperating and often teaching me things about them I did not know. My fingers are not tired of typing and my backside has not yet reached the leaden stage where getting up is like trying to free my nether regions from a powerful electromagnet -- must be the endorphins and adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream. Everything works fine. I wrote a 100,000-word biography like that once.

Then there are times that I just cannot face the page, knowing that if I do I will be caught in powerful currents and dragged down into the zone where I will not emerge for hours, maybe even a day or two. I cannot afford it. I have to work my day job and do the laundry and bulldoze the detritus from the last writing stint, definitely not a good idea if avoiding surprise visits by the health department.

I do write every day, but not on my works-in-progress. I journal every day, keep up with correspondence and emails, and work, which consists of 8-10 hours of typing dictation, very technical dictation. On the laptop waits my novel or short story waiting to be finished and it calls to me. Like the hunger pangs I ignore when I am in the writing zone, I ignore the siren's call to write until pretty soon, like hunger pangs, the call fades. Then begins the avoidance dance and the procrastination when a deadline looms. It is my fault; I am not a halfway person. I am either all in or all out, my versions of "Do or do not; there is no try," from Yoda to Luke Skywalker. There stands the problem: inability to commit hindquarters to seat in order to write.

Instead, I play a couple rounds of computer games (I prefer skill and knowledge games), work on blog posts, fire off a couple of quick tweets and a run through Facebook to see if I missed anything and then rounds through the various blogs, all while checking email and getting ready for work while sipping a cup of hot green tea that is cooling fast. One job through the widgets to check hits on the blogs and a quick visit to see if anyone has read the latest chapter of the novel I posted on a publishing site. The novel is unfinished and needs a final edit and proofread. It is the reason I have been procrastinating.

I want to finish the novel. Well, it is already finished and needs a little tune-up and loose ends tied. I need to finish the novel before the editor gets to it. I plan to finish the proofreading but, oops, where has time gone. Almost time for work and I still need to eat breakfast (pesky hunger pangs) and take a shower. Maybe later.

Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe this weekend.

By then, a few weeks have passed. Good thing the editor has not contacted me because I have nothing to offer to excuse my inability to kick start my writing engine.

That was yesterday. This morning, I found the answer. I knew it all along because it works for getting the laundry done, the clothes folded and put away, the bed made after the sheets are washed (making the bed every day provides a warm and moist environment for dust mites and other microscopic vermin to grow and procreate -- that is my story and I am sticking to it), the dishes done, the vacuuming finished, exercising and taking out the trash. Once I begin, the rest takes care of itself.

With writing, it is the internal editor that kick starts my engine. One of my critique partners mentioned an extra word in chapter twelve and a comma missing in chapter fifteen. They cannot be allowed to stand or I will forget and the spell check program will not catch them. Into the breach once more I go.

Control-F and type in a few words of the phrase and the extra word is easily found. Next search coordinates go in and, wait a minute, there is something else. How could I have missed that awkward phrasing? Well, that has to go. A few moments later and I am in the zone happily writing and editing and listening to the characters tell me secrets that I dutifully transcribe and polish. The first step is the problem, but the internal editor makes taking the first step effortless.

I do not have the problem in journaling or editing others' work or writing reviews. Deadlines and missing days in the journals keep me honest, but there is no real deadline for a new book or a work-in-progress that has not been contracted. Yes, the problem crops up when I have a long critique and the first glance at the manuscript ends with groaning sighs after glancing at the first page, but the deadline keeps me honest there, too. No, I will just have to rely on the internal editor and program her to whisper errors, typos and misspellings in my ear that she caught on the way out of the zone so that I am anxious one again to go once more into the breach. When that wears thin and begins to go the way of the hunger pangs, I will have to find another way to kick start the writing.

Someone else will have to whisper errors into my ear that engages the internal editor. I doubt I will ever get past the need to clean up mistakes, especially when they are mine.

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