You write to learn. Trust me on this one. I’ve learned more in the ten years I’ve been writing than I did in the twelve years of concentrated education that is otherwise called my childhood. Some of the lessons I’ve learned during this journey are obvious things you’d expect– plotting, editing, little bits of trivia that my research has given me, but others aren’t quite so obvious.
I learned most about me.
Strange, isn’t it? One of the more recent lessons came when I purchased a book on the recommendation of my editor (was she trying to tell me something?). The book is Outlining Your Novel: Mapping Your Way to Success. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Before I read this book, I would have told you that I do not outline. I’m more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of writer. So, I read this book, created an Excel spreadsheet that would please the most anal of organizers, and began filling it in from a book I was working on. I was astounded to discover that I could fill in every single question. I knew the ending even though I’d never actually thought of it consciously. So, I am and always have been an outliner– I was just even more like Anne Shirley than I thought. I keep it all “filed away in my imagination.” Well, guess what? I’m not getting any younger. Since I’m not getting any younger, I decided to start filling these kinds of things out. It’s important. I’d hate to get somewhere and actually discover that I now have *gasp!* Writer’s Block!
That was another thing I learned about me. Procrastination and Writer’s Block are not synonymous in regards to me. I’ve never had writer’s block. That’s not to say I won’t GET it someday. I’m human. I can have blank times with the best of them I am sure. However, I’m still in the “have more to say than I have time to get it on ‘paper'” mode. However, I do procrastinate. I discovered that my reasons for procrastinating are usually one of the following:
- I do not want the story to end. I am most likely to procrastinate near the end of a series. I did it with Wynnewood and I’m doing it with Aggie.
- I need space. I’ve learned that if I don’t take time away from a story, I get too bogged down in details that do not matter. Procrastination at those times is really just about gaining distance. That’s really all there is to it. I’ve learned– usually– just to set it aside and work on something different now, but for a long time I frittered away DAYS to gain that distance.
- I am tired. I am often so eager to work on a book that I do not recognize the clear signs of exhaustion. So, I fritter even more time away in the attempt to relax– only I don’t know that. I’ve started asking myself, “Are you tired?” every time that I discover myself looking for excuses to procrastinate.
- I have made a mistake and don’t want to have to fix/delete it. Too often I avoid doing the dirty work– killing the section that didn’t work. Ugh. So instead of doing what I have to do anyway– I just waste MORE time.
Other things I have learned are often things I didn’t want to learn. Things that make the scene I’ve been waiting to write impossible. It couldn’t have happened. Or, I discover that my character won’t do it. I used to think that was bunch of nonsense. Characters do as they are told. You are the dictator, they are the puppets– right? Ahem. No. Not mine. They are wayward children with minds of their own and often do not respond even to the most consistent chastisement. Naughty things that they are.
I wonder what I’ll learn this year?