Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back on Track from Procrastination

Keeping with the theme of obstacle illusions, I thought today might be a good one to talk about procrastination.  This week I returned to my day job full time, got both children (mostly) into their respective schools, and did very little writing.  I could have gotten up earlier to write in the mornings.  I could have written, even if just for ten minutes, at night before bed. 
Did I?  No. 
Why?  Procrastination, plain and simple.
I am the type of person who needs to know what direction I am going and when I need to get there.   I partially outline my stories before starting, and I set goals to keep me on track with my writing.  These two personality traits created two forces that worked against me this week. 
The first is that I have hit the point in my novel that is unknown territory.   I know how I want to end the book, but I am not sure how to get there.  Additionally, I have 60,000 words in a variety of computer files, and I am starting to feel the effects of fatigue.  The writing is not flowing so quickly, and instead of the thrill of discovery, I have the feeling of slogging through mud.   The idea of sitting at the computer and picking my way through my subconscious was not terribly appealing.
The second is the continuous tug of war that I experience between reasonable expectation and failure to meet the goals I set.  I missed my goal for finishing my first draft by June, then the end of June, and then the end of July, leading to a huge derailment of the writing train.  I became disappointed in myself, and was not going to let myself off the hook easily for missing my mark not just once, but three times!   The emotional self-flagellation did not increase writing output, but had the opposite effect.  I didn’t want to hear the voice berating me that I could be done by now if I would have…
Benjamin Franklin stated “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”  The reality is that beating myself up for not meeting a goal does not do me (or anyone else in a similar situation) any good.  Regardless of the reasons why we procrastinate, us procrastinators need to get back on track, and continue on our paths.  We need to accept where we are at present,  make a plan to pull ourselves up out of the mud, get pointed in the right direction, and gain support to keep us there.
Easy enough, right?  I have decided to get up at five o’clock to write before I go to work for the next week.  That’s my plan.  My support is my husband, of course, but also the fact I have shared my plan with you all.  If anybody out there needs to make a plan and wants to fess up and share it here, please feel free.  We can have a support group, right here on Motivation for Creation! 
Photo courtesy of: <p><a href="">Image: Matt Banks /</a></p>  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Warning: Obstacle Illusion Ahead

"Life is full of obstacle illusions."  Grant Frazier

An obstacle is something that impedes our progress or achievement.  Obstacles come in all kinds of forms and are as individualized as everything else that occurs in our lives.  The key word in the quote by Grant Frazier is not obstacle, but “illusions.”
When I began writing today’s blog, I categorized true obstacles as those that are beyond our control, and obstacle illusions as those we actually have some control over.  As I thought more about the concept, I came to realize that even true obstacles have an illusionary component. 
Once we set off down the path to realize our dreams, we must test every obstacle we meet to determine where the illusion begins.  It may be that what we thought was insurmountable will turn out to be a minor bump in the road.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Earlier this week I was driving to meet my writer support group of one, and serendipitously saw a bumper sticker that spoke volumes to me in its five words.

It said, "Don't believe everything you think."

Oh... That's right.  I routinely forget that lesson.  Kind of embarrassing, really, considering I am a firm believer in cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

That is how dastardly self-doubt is, though.  It sneaks without footprints into your brain, and waits until you are distracted with the cares of life to rear it's ugly head.  "You can't do it," it says.  "You're wasting your time."  "You might as well give up."  Don't believe everything you think.

Conversely, self-pride can lead us astray as easily as self-doubt.  "It's okay if you do that."  "You know what you're doing, they don't know anything."  "I don't need anyone's help."  Don't believe everything you think.

The truth is in the middle.  The bumper sticker is really a call to discernment.  It encourages us to examine ourselves and our thoughts, keep the wheat and throw away the chaff.  By knowing who we are, and what we believe about the world and ourselves, we become much more stable in all endeavors.  Then we are not so likely to be tossed around by fleeting thoughts, and much more able to meet our goals and dreams.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Learning to Speak

Voice is, for me, one of the most confusing concepts a writer learns about.  Sub-plots are a close second, but that is probably another post.  When you ask seasoned writers what exactly "voice" is, they look puzzled.   They tell you that voice is different from style, and that voice is you, or more specifically how you sound when you write.  They say that you have to learn what your voice is, and what type of writing suits it best. 

Over the last two years, I have slowly been figuring out what my voice is, and what it isn't.  When I re-read my writing, I believed I was never going to develop a voice that sounded like the writer I wanted to be.  I was gratified to read somewhere (I can't remember where anymore) that your own writerly voice sounds dull to your own ears.  Hallelujah!  There was still hope.  I could still be another Dean Koontz or James Rollins.

I missed the point, though.  While in Gunnison at the Writing the Rockies Conference, I attended three presentations and had one conversation that brought the concept of voice home to me. 

Are you ready?  This was a magical a-ha moment for me, and hope it might be for you.  In one of the workshops, after we had done several exercises to help us identify our Voice, the instructor asked us to free-write about our Voice as if it were a creature.  A-ha occurred right there.  A culmination of two other presentations dovetailed into that one exercise and I realized that my Voice is not who I am.  My Voice is not me.  My Voice interecedes for me, communicating what is inside me to the outside world. 

What makes the manner in which we communicate different, and therefore makes our Voices distinctive, is that we do so through the sum of our own experiences.  When I write a story about vulnerability, I am going to think about being bullied in high school and how vulnerable I felt.  I might remember a conversation with my husband about vulnerability.  No one else would have had those exact two same experiences, and so can not intercede with the outside world (aka write a story) to communicate vulnerability in the exact same way I would.  I can not learn my Voice, but I can learn how it is different from all others.  It is the difference that is exciting and fresh, and why the best advice any writer can give you is to tell your story with your Voice.

But then, it got even better.  I had the first twenty pages of my novel manuscript critiqued.  The critiquer gave me two words of advice.  The first was that to make it as a writer, you have to assume some level of arrogance.  Okay, I thought, I can fake it.  But then he noted all the mushy words I used - adverbs like really, likely, perhaps, maybe.  It was embarrassing how many circles were on one page. 

He called it as he saw it, and he was right.  I was afraid.  I was afraid to use my Voice to tell my story.  I was afraid to be arrogant.  I was afraid to "just say it."  Why?  Because I was afraid what I wrote wouldn't be clear to the reader, my story might not be liked and/or I would fail.  Another huge a-ha moment. 

But the amazing thing is that Voice isn't just about being a writer.  We all have a Voice, who interecedes with the outside world on our behalf, protecting the vulnerable inner self.  Some people use their Voice to push people away, some people don't use their Voice at all, remaining hidden inside of themselves.  Children have the most adorable Voice, filled with the wonder that stands in for the life experiences they haven't yet had.  We all have to learn how to use our Voices, to share ourselves in ways that are different, and fresh, and distinctive, and good.  Because deep inside, we are all worthy to share our story.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...