Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

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Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby Aimée » 06 Jun 2010, 16:47

I don't know if this has been discussed before on the forums, but it's something that I have a problem with.
In the past couple weeks of writing my WIP, I've only finished one chapter. I have the rest of the story in my head. I know what happens next. I think. I just can't seem to get the words down. Or it could be a confidence thing and I just don't want to write it. I'm sure others have this problem. What do you do about it? How can you teach yourself to just write the next word, even if you are unsure about it? I always feel like each word I write has to be perfect, even in the first draft. Then I edit each little section before moving onto the next. So then I never finish. I have never finished a novel. I feel pretty lame.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby wildheart » 06 Jun 2010, 17:37

PERFECT NEVER FINISHES. It's as simple as that. If you expect yourself to write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL you aren't going to make it to the end. You have to take risks. You have to be willing to put words on the page, even if they aren't perfect. That is the only way you can get through your writer's block, procrastination, ect.

I am working on a WIP right now. This is the first one I actually think I will finish since I was a kid! That's right, all my other projects are incomplete. Why? Because I was too afriad to keep writing my first drafts without looking back. I wanted everything to be perfect and when I couldn't measure up I would quit.

Don't let yourself fall ino the perfect trap. Set a timer for ten minutes and just write. Don't delete anything, no matter how much you want to. If you have to use a timer every time you sit down to write on your WIP. That might give you the push you need to keep going.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby cheekychook » 06 Jun 2010, 17:39

Everyone has a different style/method/preference when it comes to writing, so clearly you need to choose something that works for you. That said, if your current way of doing things seems to have you stuck in a rut, it may be time to try something else and see how the "new way" goes.

If you have the whole story in your head but you're having trouble writing that next word or next scene why not write something from the end...or from the middle...or basically anything other than the next scene. If you're not comfortable skipping ahead like that then try writing something that's about a single one of your characters; a dossier or even a rambling description of the person (something along the lines of how you'd describe a friend to someone who doesn't know the person). If you already have character histories written then try taking a break from this particular story and write something else entirely---pick a word and write a scene or story using that word---anything to get you writing. Sometimes while you're in the middle of writing something else the inspiration for your WIP will fight its way into your mind---then you know it's time to work on the WIP.

The most important thing for you to remember is that YOU ARE NOT LAME. (And there we have the reason that I am not a journalist; I habitually bury the lead.) There are millions of people who talk about how they would love to write a novel some day and you're a giant step ahead of them, you're in the process of writing one. It is, however, a process. Sometimes it's fun, other times it's maddening, but it's always a process. Be patient with yourself. Remember ALL writing is writing (even forum posts), pretty much none of it is perfect (even after editing), and that's okay (really, it is).

The best writing advice I ever got was an offhanded comment a friend made to me while I was in the feverish midst of writing my current WIP. I sent her some chapters to read and I was babbling to her about plans to fix this or edit that and she took a deep breath and said to me "stop worrying about all that, JUST GET IT ALL OUT". She was right. You're always going to go back and change things; tweak this, edit that, cut a scene, add a scene, change a tag---there's plenty of time to do all that. Again and again, and probably again. Then probably a few more times, just in case. (To paraphrase Nathan: keep polishing it till it shines like the top of Chrysler building then go back and polish it again, you missed a spot.) In the first draft stage the most important thing really is to get it all out. Get it down on paper (or screen) where you can go back and look at it later with fresh eyes (and still later with bleary eyes). There's plenty of time to put pressure on yourself to perfect it all down the road; save some stress for later. ;)
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby Erica75 » 06 Jun 2010, 18:02

I can get the words out, but I get stuck in editing - sending to critique partners, stewing over their every word/suggestion (both good and bad stewing), searching for crappy words like "just" and "really" and spending several minutes deciding if they're really just needed after all (haha).

I have a warning for you - you can't think what you're doing is perfect. Is it possible that your "writer's block" is really (there's the really again, crap) a fear of failure? I know mine was. If you imagine your work to be perfect - and you finish it - and it never goes anywhere, you failed, right? That could be why you aren't finishing. Try to let go - make it as perfect as you can while you move forward and know that it will take more beta readers and critique groups (and eventually an agent and editor) before it reaches P-ville.

One more suggestion - take a week (or weekend, if that works better) off. Do not read your book. Do not write a word. Do not outline. Instead, let your characters talk to you. It might take a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days, but eventually they'll whisper their hopes and dreams and futures to you. With luck - and some concentration - they'll start shouting at you. THEN sit down to write that next chapter - and the next, and the next. . .
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby polymath » 06 Jun 2010, 18:30

My draft writing stalls when I've gone astray. I get a subconscious hunch that nags at me until I realize it. It feels like I've forgotten something important I had to do but don't know what it is. I get lost in the hunch until I've worked through it. I'm most stalled when the hunch has to do with an opening.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby Aimée » 06 Jun 2010, 19:06

Thanks everyone, and you are all definitely right.
I am always giving myself excuses, like I am busy and don't have the time to write. But I think you've pinned it down. It's probably the fear of failure. But the only way for me to fail is if I stop writing. I love writing! I've always said that I will continue even if I never get published. I guess I've just gotten all caught up and have forgotten what I'm really doing here. I'm doing what I love to do. I'm not trying to impress anyone.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby HillaryJ » 07 Jun 2010, 01:20

Willpower.

If you force yourself to write 500 words a day, eventually you will make yourself write 500 pretty good words a day, because you'll get tired of cringing when you read back over the previous day's work. Before I got into a rhythm, that's how some of my days went. Fulfill the goal, even if it's as bad as "He scared her so she ran. She ran and ran, and then she got to the library. She was not at the library for books."

Keep advancing the plot, and soon the atmosphere will ask to be let in on the action as well.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby izanobu » 07 Jun 2010, 02:27

I find also that having a goal in mind when I start writing a story or novel helps. I pick out the things I want to work on, such as dialogue or setting or character voice, and focus on those as I write. Knowing that I'm working on a skill helps me finish things, because even if that particular story or novel doesn't ever get published, at least I won't have wasted my time with it because at least I was practicing so that the next book and the next get better.

I think a lot of the fear of not being "perfect", for me anyway, comes from viewing a book as something huge and important. It's just a book. If I write something awful, I haven't "used up" the idea, I can always take what I learned from writing it and then do a new draft. That way each book has a purpose, but it also is just a part of a greater whole, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that's how I help overcome the fear of not being "perfect". As they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good :)
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby Sommer Leigh » 07 Jun 2010, 05:20

I feel like I'm the queen of getting stuck. I agree with Polymath in that usually when I'm "stuck" it's actually because I've got a gut feeling that something is wrong with what I've written and I need to work that out before I can continue. Not like "Man that paragraph is so crunchy and adverb happy. Must. Fix." I mean like, I've introduced a scene that doesn't work, a reveal is all wrong, I've jumped the shark somewhere, whatever. I've essentially lost the story. Once I figure out where that's at, I can move forward as if the barriers have all been lifted.

When it's not that, when it is simply that I don't know how to move on, or I start panicking because I'm getting close to the end, I make myself move slow with slow, specific goals. "Just write the opening of this chapter." "Just get the characters to the next checkpoint." "just write until you get to the scene change." "Just write until Zoe goes to bed." "Just write until they are about to kiss." Whatever little thing I need to set and somehow I am able to hit those goals even when writing the whole chapter or the whole scene seems entirely impossible.

Good luck. The absolute most important thing you can do for yourself is Not. Stop. No matter how much you hate it or how hard it is. Don't stop. Don't ever stop.

When you embark on a project like writing a novel, or when you go to college as an English major, or poetry major, or creative writing major, I think they should give you a little business card that says "If you want to be a writer, you must write."

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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby Casey Lybrand » 07 Jun 2010, 12:11

So much good advice on this thread!

Re: "the perfect is the enemy of the good" -- I first heard this phrase from someone I thought was AWESOME! When she said it, I thought something along the lines of, "Hmmm, so not trying for perfect can lead to awesome. Noted." It helps with the writing (but not just with writing).
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby SteveYodaScott » 08 Jun 2010, 13:36

Thank you for all of these extremely helpful thoughts. I don't mean to sound like I'm at an AA meeting, but I thought I was alone. If I'm a writer, a must write. And I will. No matter what.
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby dios4vida » 10 Jun 2010, 09:37

My favorite motivational phrase is "Don't get it perfect. Just get it written!"

I was terrible at finishing, too. My current WIP (which is in the final edit stage before entering queryland!) has taken me two years - sure, six months was taken off for medical reasons but I could have found time to eek out a word or two. I was so obsessed with getting it perfect and beautiful that I never went anywhere. I was 18 months in and only had 35,000 words.

Then I first heard "Just get it written!"

Now, six or seven months later, my novel is completed and edited at 75,000 words, and the comments coming back from critique partners are great. It's a wonderful feeling. And you know what else I discovered? When I didn't obsess over the correct words to use or where EXACTLY to take this scene and just wrote from my heart, dog-gone-it my writing was good! At the risk of sounding arrogant, my inner writer - the one that I can't live without and who can't live without writing - was a much better writer than my head. Who knew that by just relaxing and getting words on the page my novel would flourish! (Of course, we'll see just how flourishing it is when Nathan and others get a query in their hands...)
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Re: Procrastination vs. Writer's Block

Postby mojo25 » 10 Jun 2010, 17:47

I often have this problem and I'm not one of those writers who can write X number of words a day, though I've tried. Some ways around this are jotting down ideas for the next chapter, bits of dialogue, description, or whatever comes to your mind. Let it percolate and maybe do research for good details to include. Take a walk with all of this in your mind and then write some more (in your mind only). Then by experimenting, try to find the most productive writing time for you. I find weekends are good when no one is in the house, but other people like early mornings/late night etc etc. Then write your chapter. You might toss out 90 percent the next day, but it's a start.
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