It starts by staring at your blank page, or at your daily task list, or at your calendar with its inalterable deadline, and acknowledging that you have absolutely no motivation to dig in and git’er done. So to the Google you go, in search of listicles and how-tos and productivity hacks that you hope will turn you into a writing machine, even though you know (not-so-) deep-down that it’s all just procrastination. You read tip after trick after suggestion of all the things you should be doing, or could be doing, or that everyone else is doing to be a better, more productive, more successful writer. By the end of it, your work is no further along, and you’re left with a sinking understanding that you are unequivocally inferior to all the other writers out there who simply have “it” together as evidenced by all their expert advice.
I can’t be alone in feeling this way, can I? I am not the only writer who struggles with routine and habits and lack of mental energy. Surely there are others out there like me who can’t seem to write, write, write, write, write with laser focus All. The. F#$@ing. Time!
… … … [Veronica breathes; un-channels her inner Bruce Banner]
The plain truth is that, when I look at all the things which I’m supposed to be doing to be an effective writer, I feel pretty defeated. Write without distractions, they say. Block out time to sit and be productive (Yeah, but what happens when I have lots of time and no desire?). Don’t you know you should turn off the Internet? Set a routine, you NEED a routine (Clearly you don’t have kids). Avoid social media and your email. Do NOT edit as you go! Take frequent breaks, at least once every two hours for fifteen minutes (Two hours??? For Realz???!!). Make time for exercise (Blech!) and drink lots of water (Double blech!)—but neglect everything else except your writing (Um… wait, what?).
It’s all too much, and at the same time that I’m drowning in despair because I’m not being an effective writer with all these wonderful habits, I’m being no writer at all because I still can’t find the motivation to pound out the words no matter what advice I try to follow.
Let me tell you how my day’s gone so far:
- I identify a topic for this blog post at exactly ten-oh-one in the morning, after eating breakfast, browsing the news, doing my budget, and generally slouching in my bathrobe for an undisclosed amount of time.
- I stare at the clock on the microwave for about three minutes, feeling guilty that I am blogging and not working on my manuscript. Even though I know blogging is important. Even though I know that my manuscript is more important. Even though… huh. I never noticed my microwave clock digits were green. I wish they were blue.
- I write half of paragraph one. That’s enough, I give up.
- I get up and wash a pot from dinner last night. Those mashed potatoes have to be soaked enough by now that they’ll unstick. The fate of the free world depends on getting those mashed potatoes off the side of my pot. Or something like that…
- I sit back down and write the second half of paragraph one. Probably should. It’s just five sentences. I can do five sentences.
- Ugh… five sentences suck. I get up and stare at the window for a while because the thought of writing another word is extremely unappealing.
- Okay, ffffine! Let’s start on paragraph two.
I’ll save all and sundry the rest of this embarrassing display of procrastination at its finest. This blog post has taken me all day. And still I consider this an accomplishment, because there are times when a blog post takes me a whole week! But when I take to The Google to figure out how to get my butt moving on this whole writing thing, I just want to throw in the towel because I can’t do it the way They suggest I should.
I’m not gonna lie… it’s kinda demoralizing. And that is probably the opposite intention of every well-meaning article author trying to dispense helpful advice to his or her fellow authors on how to be more effective/productive/concise/successful.
Therefore… screw it. I’m not paying attention to one more listicle. I’ve had all the writing advice I can take. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know … well, not necessarily what works for me, but what definitely doesn’t.
I’m sure that listicles and how-tos and productivity hacks are great for beginners. But I’m not a beginner. I’ve been at this for a number of years now. Between my own novels and blog posts, and my freelance content writing, I really don’t need to rely on other writers to tell me how to write. I find that, in doing so, I end up trying to fit my square-peg self into the illusion of a round hole which the online “expert” culture of http://www.ultimatewritingadvice.come-on/eyeroll encourages. And consider this: all those articles out there, cobbled together from tips and tricks and hacks and suggestions, is usually a curation of many different writers’ one best trick. That’s many different working styles, personalities, and habits formed over a lifetime of successes and stumbles put into posts of one thousand words or less for what you – one single freaking writer – should be doing.
So for anyone that’s reading this, let it be known that my own personal takeaway from today’s introspective exercise in procrastuctivity (read: rant) is this: the only certainty to being a productive writer, meaning a writer who produces something, is that the only thing I need to do is keep coming back. Come back for big chunks of time, for little chunks, even for micro-chunks. What works for me one day may not the next. Shunning distraction may be counterproductive, if the alternative is sitting at my computer, staring at a blank page. Taking frequent small breaks from writing to attend to life may be less effective than taking frequent small breaks from life to attend to writing.
To all my writing friends out there who, like me, indulge in moments of self-doubt where you aren’t sure if you’re “doing it right,” I say: don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by all that writing advice. You go ahead and do You, whatever You is. There is nothing overwhelming about that. In the meantime, I’ll do Me. And Me today included not following any kind of routine, Chiving sloth memes, a battle with last night’s mashed potatoes, and in between all that and more… sitting down for VERY short periods of time to slog a few words out. And then a few more. And then a few more. And hey… look at that… I’ve got a blog post! Day well spent.
Veronica out. There’s a squirrel outside that needs to be stared at.