Will I Ever Write Another Novel?
Let’s face it, all writers at some point face resistance. When we do face resistance, we think about other things, do other things and put the writing off. It doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King, an indie author, a journalist or a blogger. Its human nature and we can use every excuse under the sun not to sit down and write. We don’t have enough time. There are other priorities. We need to do the shopping. We need to do the washing-up. We’re tired. We need to get the laundry on.
In fact, before I finally sat down and began this blog article, (supposed to start straight after the school run), I managed to nip to the supermarket for night nappies, check my Facebook and Twitter Pages, make a cup of tea, make toast (even though I’d just had breakfast), put the dishwasher on, wipe the table down, install voice recognition on our Mac, answered a message from my old job about an issue they were experiencing, organised a play date, sent a happy birthday text to my cousin and flossed my teeth. Phew! If it takes me that long just to sit down to write a short blog article, how the hell am I ever going to write another novel? Yes, it will come as no revelation that I face resistance every single day.
Last night for example, I’d booked to go to a local writer’s circle. It got to 6:30 PM. I was tired. I’d had a busy day. I wanted, desperately, to crash out on the sofa, encouraged by the thought of sharing a nice bottle of red, a chocolate bar, and some Netflix. I’ll readily admit that one of my major resistances to writing in the evening is the television. Surely I’m not the only one whose inner self feels that it has the God-given right to relax and watch television. But does it get me any further in my writing? We all know the answer. It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime though.
So I was seriously tempted to give the writing circle a miss. On realizing that this was a case of internal resistance rearing its ugly head again, I decided to tackle it head-on. I knew that if I pushed through it, I would enjoy and benefit from going. So I made myself go anyway. We did an interesting exercise around a character’s entrance into a room using metaphors and similes. In the end, the thought of writing seemed more difficult than the actual reality. So maybe for me at least, pushing on through it, is how I need to manage my resistance.
Is Procrastination A Waste Of Time?
Should we view procrastination as wasting time though? Sure, sometimes it can result in us experiencing stress, guilt or anger when we realize that we’ve given into our impulses yet again. Perhaps it depends on our personality type though. For some people, procrastinating is actually part of their creative process. When they’ve had an idea or written something, the time they spend in-between doing other things allows them time to mull the idea over. I often like to think about my ideas and come back to them a little later. Sometimes after a period of procrastination, I have a better idea or vision. Also, there is something to be said for having a timely break. It can’t be healthy to write all of the time to the absolute detriment of everything else. Doing something else can make you feel more refreshed. There are some writers who write in short intense bursts, even using an alarm to time themselves. In the interlude, they take a mini break, allowing them to procrastinate or do other things and they view this process as revitalizing.
Resistance can also be down to something more negative. It can be down to our inner self sabotaging our wishes. It can convince us that we don’t have the time, the energy or the creativeness to achieve what we want. But there are authors out there that get up early before work, stay up late after the kids are in bed and spend their weekends writing. Some people fit it in around work and have written novels by writing for just 30 minutes a day. Some authors, including myself (during nap-times and a period of managing resistance well) have managed to write a book whilst on maternity. Mary Adkins, Author of ‘When You Read This’, began work on her book six weeks after giving birth. There will always be a reason not to do it. But there will always be a better reason to do so. These authors have managed to find the time to fit writing in somehow. They’ve all found a way to manage their resistance to it.
To combat this, we have to change perspective. Look at our available time and maximize it differently. Become aware when our inner self is attempting self-sabotage. Consider if you could set that alarm one hour earlier? Or what about booking a writers retreat session? How about scheduling a weekend to be free? Think of all the time spent out for lunch or at Starbucks, Costa Coffee etc. Could you replace those for a few months with writing time instead? Chances are that if you prioritize writing, there is some way to fit it in.
Fear of Failure
Something equally difficult to deal with is the fear of failure. Putting yourself out there as an author can be a big thing. Many fear that they’ll be revealed as incompetent or not truly worthy of being called an ‘author’ or ‘writer’. Essentially, they look at themselves as a fraud (called ‘imposter syndrome’ by psychologists). In an act of misguided self-defense, our inner self tries to sabotage our attempts to succeed, especially if it can see that we’re very close to our goal. In Megan McCardle’s article for The Atlantic (Feb 12, 2014), https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/why-writers-are-the-worst-procrastinators/283773/ she reports having watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. They were all college graduates who could write in complete sentences, so it wasn’t due to them being lazy incompetents. Instead, they’d become paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that wasn’t very good.
The way that we manage resistance may also be down to our personality type. Megan McCardle, explains this further in her article where she describes how an eminent Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, identified that some people have a fixed mindset and some people have a growth mindset. She found that some people positively relished things they weren’t very good at because they felt that failing was a learning experience. I guess the same goes for many entrepreneurs who often report several initial failures, from which they learn before they hit the big time. Furthermore, Dweck reported that the people who disliked challenges thought that talent was a fixed thing that you’re either born with or not. The people who relished them thought that it’s something you could nourish by doing the exact things that they weren’t good at. It could be time to reflect on your mindset. Is it hampering you? For me, there was a phase of my life where I was in the other camp. Although I loved writing, I did everything I could to avoid it, travel, other careers and socializing. I told myself I didn’t have time, I needed money and what’s the point, I wouldn’t be as good as all the successful authors out there. Now I understand what was going on. Thankfully over the years, I’ve come around and my mindset has evolved. I’m no longer paralyzed by the fear of failure. I’m happy to put my work out there and use the feedback to learn and improve my writing. As Dweck said, it’s an opportunity for me to grow as a writer.
One issue for me is a fear of solitude. The problem lies, herein, writing is, of course, something done best in solitude. Sometimes I put off writing simply because I don’t want to be on my own. So I prioritize social occasions above writing. There’s also the struggle with disconnecting myself from my phone and social media. My need for human interaction isn’t met by writing so for someone like me, I need to manage that. I’ve found that by having a scheduled social enagagement mid-week, it means I can work the rest of the week, safe in the knowledge I have allocated time for socializing. Or maybe I should become a trendy blogger sitting in a coffee shop, looking cool with my latte, headset, and Macbook. Don’t know how I’d ever get anything done though!
Not having a deadline can also contribute to more procrastination. As an Independent author and blogger, although I have self -imposed deadlines, I’m not bound by any legal agreement to meet them. I often find myself thinking ‘I can do it later’ because, after all, I can. A traditionally published author, though, is more likely to have critical deadlines to meet. They are required to honor their commitments. So it may be the case that having a deadline helps. It creates a sense of urgency which in turn probably creates more of a structure and routine to the process of writing. Nobody wants to miss an important deadline or turn in empty pages after all.
I need money. I mean I Really Need Money.
Successful published authors are more likely to have left their jobs, therefore creating much more of that most precious of commodities, time. Something else that can be a strong force of resistance is money. Chances are, most writers don’t make an awful lot of money at first and, some never do. Not generating money can serve to reinforce the resistance. Many would-be authors have sabotaged their efforts when they’re so close to finishing or stopped midway through writing a draft because they’ve told themselves they must get a job or they must make some money. Well, I’m not going to sit here and judge, we’ve all been there. So what if they take a job but still work on their draft in the evenings, early morning, weekends etc.etc. It goes back to our internal resistance employing the same tactics over and over again…you don’t have time, you’re too tired, you need to prioritize making money yada yada.
Time For A Resistance Review?
The biggest thing for me right now is to face my resistance to writing another novel. I’ve already written half of it, but I’ve lost heart, don’t think it’s good enough and quite frankly have become unmotivated. Is it going to end up shoved away in a cupboard somewhere? Other ideas for a story seem more appealing and yet I haven’t started those either. I started this blog to chart my journey, offer tips and inspire but to do that I need to practice what I preach. And there we go…I haven’t got time, I need to work on my blog, its not good enough – they’re all in there. Now is a crucial time for me as I’m learning what’s driving my resistance and figuring out the way forward. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that I will write another novel.
Resistance affects everyone in all aspects of life and writers are no different. We all have different drivers underpinning our resistance. The thing that sets successful authors apart from those, not so successful, aside from talent, is that they know how to manage their resistance. Some people embrace it, don’t feel guilty about it and use procrastination to make them more productive when they do write. Others have found strategies to push through it and move forward. Maybe now is the time for you to do a resistance review?