I’m back on my bullshit this month to talk about a subject that might trigger some self-hate in the room:
Even as I write this, I’m thinking about all of the other tasks and projects I’m avoiding in lieu drafting of this post. Procrastination, especially for creatives, can be either one of two things: a much-needed respite from the to-do list we commit ourselves to or an invitation for ego to falsely remind us of how lazy we are.
I decided to dedicate this #MyFiveList to the art of avoidance and how it may be useful in our lives:
Step One: New Outlet, New Outlook
From time to time (read: every other day), I avoid finishing the first draft of my thirteenth novel by making the words elsewhere. At the right time during the most optimal moon cycle for creativity, you can find me doing the following except writing my fucking book:
– participating in Smut Marathon
– drafting the next #MyFiveList
– brainstorming characters & worldbuilding for an anthology project
– revisiting a draft I promised I would publish 50-11 years ago
Words are words, no matter where they end up, right? In addition to adding to another project, any of the above activities is usually fuel enough to get me back in the seat with my current WIP. But, if all else fails…
Step Two: Tired of Your Book? Read Someone Else’s
I dive deep into a book. DEEP. So deep that I may not see my WIP for a week or two (…or five). While I’m reading whatever I’m indulging – whether it’s an erotica antho or the latest from Gabby Bernstein – I’m learning. Writers read to become better at the craft, so my lit hiatuses aren’t for naught. I take note of dialogue styles that might match my narrative, character names similar to my own, and – because I absolutely suck at this – observe how my fellow authors use setting to punctuate the story. It’s a whole master class when I’m reading in my recliner and ignoring my laptop, TRUST.
Step Three: Gas Somebody Up
When I’m not hiding in a book, I’m loud AF on the socials. Twitter, in particular, is where I finding my writing cohorts who happen to be avoiding their own word vomit. If I’m in a funk about my story, chances are at least one of them is, too – which is the perfect time to retweet their last release or cheer them on while they attempt the next book. It’s a small kind gesture that goes a long way and is one of the best methods to be useful when procrastinating.
Step Four: ‘Dear Diary…’ That Shit Out
There are times when not even a new project, the juiciest book, or the best online exchange can get me out of my writer’s slump. In those moments, the best way I can procrastinate and still produce meaningful prose are when I write words to myself.
Like any writer, I shamelessly own a plethora of unused notebooks. The total number’s roughly sixty, but only two of the ones in use hold my attention for the hard stuff (i.e. misplaced emotions, informally diagnosed personality defects, and random acts of pettiness). Whenever I’m questioning my talent, I ground myself in meditation and give it to my private pages. Even if I’m still avoiding my WIP after a long journaling session, I feel lifted and protected. It’s not for everyone, I know, but I highly encourage writing the shit out to any and all.
Step Five: Reflect
Cheryl Strayed says, ‘Acceptance is a small, quiet room’. When you have an unused laptop haunting you, that room can be tiny and loud. I’ve spent the past two years of personal development working on the concept of acceptance, not only in my relationships but with my creative life. After Pitch Wars in 2018, I had visions of nabbing an agent and becoming my definition at the time of what a ‘real’ writer should be. As I grew as a human and as an author (and after many rejections), I re-evaluated and reflected on who I was as a creative.
What weight did I hold for myself in that space?
Was traditional publishing the true direction of my creativity or was I in it for the clout?
Where do I fit as a writer?
I still find myself asking versions of these questions in the throes of procrastination. Some of the answers end up in my journal (see Step Four). Some stay locked in my brain. Some manifest into an order of cheese fries and/or a spicy two-piece from Popeyes. When I step out of ego and get honest with myself, I can look back at my journey and realize what I’ve accomplished thus far:
twelve novels in five years
half a dozen anthologies
stacks of personal journals documenting my life over the past twenty-five years, the details of which are slowly creeping into my upcoming novel
and yet…I keep writing.
Even when I’m not writing, I know that I will write again. I know that words and characters reside in me that have yet to see the page. That reflection humbles me and makes me infinitely grateful for my life, for the freedom to procrastinate. I was created to create, that’s an undisputed fact. Keeping that in mind, I don’t doubt that the words will come again.