This Memorial Day weekend should have been very relaxing for me. I was off from my day job, and I could spend the day writing if I wanted to. So thatâ€™s what I tried to do. However, instead of popping out ten or twenty pages today, I found myself practicing Writing Avoidance.
It wasnâ€™t a severe case of Writing Avoidance. No, the symptoms of that are the sudden need to clean out the refrigerator, basement or attic. I was only suffering from stationary Writing Avoidance, where I remained in my desk chair but found myself doing things other than writing.
For example, I would write a sentence or two, then check my email. Then come back and write a couple more sentences, then check my Twitter. Write a couple more sentences and start surfing the web for American Idol interviews. Change a couple of sentences, then realize there is a Bones marathon on, so maybe I should check out a couple of episodes (even though I own all of them on DVD).
This, dear readers, is Writing Avoidance.
I knew something was bugging me today, but I couldnâ€™t put my finger on it. And because I couldnâ€™t put my finger on it, the doubts crept in. I am on deadline with a book. Will I finish it in time? The editor recently read my first few chapters to better design the cover copy, and it was a nail-biter while she was reading it. But she gave me the okay to keep going. I should be over the moon, right? But the doubts had already sunk their claws deep into my psyche.
The market is tight. What if they donâ€™t like the book? What if they want me to rewrite the book? I canâ€™t seem to get those first chapters right. Why is that? Is the magic gone? This book seems harder to write than all the others. Maybe Iâ€™m losing my touch.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Writing Avoidance or not, I needed to get pages written today. My deadline looms before me, and I pride myself on turning in my manuscripts on time. But how to get past this funk? How to convince my muse to stop sulking and get to work?
The best cure for this is to call another writer.
So I did just that, called my friend Susan Meier, who talked me off the ledge and reminded me of all the important answers to those questions.
The market is tight. What if they donâ€™t like the book? The editor already read it. She likes what youâ€™re doing. Next question.
What if they want me to rewrite the book? See #1. Also remind yourself that this is your twelfth book for them, and your last book required minimum revisions.
I canâ€™t seem to get those first chapters right. Why is that? Is the magic gone? This is your process. You do this with every book. You hammer at those first chapters, looking for the story, and then when you find itâ€¦ZOOM! The book spills onto the page at warp speed.
This book seems harder to write than all the others. Maybe Iâ€™m losing my touch. Every book is harder than the last because you grow as an author with each one. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Youâ€™re not losing your touch; youâ€™re just experiencing growing pains.
Only another writer could understand the frustration of Writing Avoidance, especially one who is familiar with your patricular process. Itâ€™s not just that the work is not getting done; itâ€™s also that there is something interfering with your creativity. However, once you understand what is bugging you (such as, say, tension from feeling overwhelmed), you can work through it and get on with business.
This is why writers need other writers. Sometimes there is no one else in the world who could possibly understand. And itâ€™s amazing how ten minutes on the phone with another writer can do more to cure your Writing Avoidance than an hour talking to anyone else.