Distractions and Procrastination
by Alan F. Zundel
My writing is keeping me from writing.
I started this blog to build an audience for my books, especially my upcoming novel. (It’s about a guy who thinks the ghost of his mother is guiding him to save a young woman from an abusive ex-boyfriend—real highbrow stuff.) Only I find that writing posts for the blog has severely hampered my writing of the novel.
One way it’s hampered it is by giving me an appealing distraction from working on the novel. The distraction is writing for the blog. Most of the posts on this blog are book and movie reviews, which I am having fun writing. But the time spent writing them is taken from the time I could be working on the novel.
Another distraction is reading more books and watching more movies so I will have stuff to review. (Who would have seen that one coming?) I would be reading books and watching movies anyway, but producing fresh material for the blog necessitates spending yet more time on those pursuits.
Or so I tell myself. It is all too easy to convince myself that doing something other than what I say I want to do needs to be done before I can do what I say I want to do. Did you follow that? Don’t try too hard.
I can explain it more simply, using just one word: procrastination. When something is important to me to do I tend to procrastinate about doing it. From what I’ve heard, I ‘m not unique in this. (Some people read blogs when they are procrastinating.)
In my case it is not a crippling procrastination, just a mild case I’ve learned to accommodate. When I procrastinate about writing something (way back when it used to be term papers and research articles) I have little rituals that help assuage the itch to avoid it, like straightening up the stuff all over my desktop, or checking my email and FaceBook. I do a little of that—okay, maybe more than a little—and I’m good to go.
But now after I perform my rituals, instead of working on the novel I sit at the desk and write a post for one of my blogs. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I started two blogs. The other one is an outlet for my political concerns. Or so I tell myself. Maybe it is another distraction?
It’s hard to tell. In the case of the political blog (about bringing ranked choice voting to Oregon), it is something that is important to me as well. As important as the novel? Maybe more important in the universal scheme of things, but not necessarily more important in terms of personal satisfaction. Maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. Or maybe they are equal. I can’t tell yet.
I’ll probably figure it out by seeing what I actually end up spending more time on, writing the novel or engaging in the political stuff. Because the internal struggle over this will eventually give in to the impossibility of trying to do everything I am currently trying to do. It always has.
But back to the topic at hand. (See! I get distracted!) This blog here also hampers the writing of the novel in another way. By critiquing the work of lots of book authors and screenwriters I am becoming more conscious of all the ways writing can go wrong. So when I do get back to the novel, which I actually do from time to time (at least once every few months), I think about how my writing can go wrong in the same ways.
Which makes me want to procrastinate even more.
It doesn’t help that the novel is my first piece of fiction. Well, not actually the first. I wrote a novel a few years ago, but that was the typical first-time novel based on the author’s real life. The other books I’ve written have been non-fiction, including a recent memoir. (Some would claim the memoir is more fiction than non-fiction. Whatever, it was based on my life.)
So now I am moving away from non-fiction and stuff based on my life to writing something totally original. I thought it would be a piece of cake. I had already finished a screenplay on the idea, so the story was all worked out. And I am pretty disciplined about writing regularly.
But it is not a piece of cake. If anything, it is a piece of broccoli. I remember my critiques of other authors’ work and see stuff in my screenplay I should change. So the finished screenplay is only minimal help; I am changing the story and thinking up new scenes now.
And when I sit down to write, as I am very disciplined at doing (did I say that already?), I find myself writing blog posts—like this one. Shit.
Of course, that’s after I’ve straightened up the desk and checked my email and various social media accounts.
Oops! Writing time is up! Gotta do the dishes now.