Sometimes I think I’m a little bit more in love with the “idea of writing” than writing itself…
Last night I went to bed eagerly looking forward to morning when I could write for a half-hour before work. It was a good plan since I wake at the crack of dawn and do my best work in the morning. I lay in the dark while, like unruly school children, ideas and topics jostled for attention in my mind. And, like an indulgent teacher, I waited patiently for them to settle down. I even wrote a great opening sentence in my head for one of the ideas and resolved to remember it in the morning. Finally, sleep came and with it the chattering stopped.
Morning dawned and instead of heading for my desk, I headed for the shower. Then I had to iron the outfit I absolutely wanted to wear today. Never mind that there were other perfectly suitable, clean and ironed clothes in my closet; they just wouldn’t do. After that, I remembered there were bills that needed my attention. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for work and I hadn’t written as much as a word.
“That’s OK,” I told myself, “you can write tonight.” So all day I waited anxiously for that quiet, peaceful time when darkness would steal into my cozy home office. My writing path would be softly lit by the lamp on my desk and the quiet clicking of the keyboard would make the words in my head magically come alive on the screen. Later, after I’d finessed them to my satisfaction, I could save them for posterity or at least until I was ready to work on the next draft.
Then I got home feeling tired after a long day’s work. I hadn’t exercised in a few days so thought that would be a better use of my time because it would boost my energy level. Plus my favourite show was on later. The final insult was that I couldn’t remember that darned opening sentence that sounded so good in my head last night.
But in the end, here I am at my desk. There was more procrastination involved, but it was constructive. First, I paged through my favourite books on writing (“Writing is my Drink” by Theo Pauline Nestor, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing Down the Bones’’ by Natalie Goldberg) for inspiration. Among other nuggets of wisdom, I found this sentence in “Writing Down the Bones”: “It is important to have a way worked out to begin your writing; otherwise, washing the dishes becomes the most important thing on earth – anything that will divert you from writing. Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down and write.” Note to self: Shut up, sit down and write.
Next, I typed “writer, procrastination” into the search bar of the Reader page of my blog. And I found that many of you share my pain! I knew, of course, that I wasn’t alone. But scrolling down dozens of posts on procrastination, resistance or writer’s block made me feel connected in a real way to other writers and to the love of writing. Now, inspired by your posts and by Natalie Goldberg’s advice, I have “worked out a way to begin my writing tomorrow”. Wish me luck!
- Do you have a favourite book on writing?
- What helps you overcome resistance to writing
Looking forward to reading your answers!