Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Deadly Sins ... of Writing

by Joyce

Sorry for the late post--blame it on Verizon/Yahoo. I mean, really. What's the point of high-speed internet when the speed is slower than dial-up???

Back to the subject...

Yesterday, Annette touched on a topic that could be considered one of the Deadly Sins of Writing--time management. It's so easy to overextend ourselves, even those of us who don't work normal jobs. Sometimes I think managing our time is harder when we don't have regular jobs. It's really easy to tell ourselves, oh, I can do that later. Or we try to do too much in a day. What works for me is a schedule. It's certainly not a rigid one, but it's a schedule nonetheless. Otherwise, I'll put things off till later--which leads to the next deadly sin.

Procrastination. I'm a recovering procrastinator. I really have to work at not putting things off. My husband is the complete opposite. If someone mentions something to him, he'll get it done right away. Me? I have two weeks to do it, so I'll start on day thirteen. Drives him crazy. But I'm getting better.

I procrastinate with my writing, too. So far this year, though, I've made it my goal to stop doing that. And so far, it's working--for the most part. I've been scheduling my writing, just like I'd schedule a doctor's appointment, or lunch with a friend. There have been a few days (ok, more than a few) when I blew off the schedule, and it made me very cranky. Nothing went right on those days.

Tinkering is another deadly sin of writing, especially for me. I've been known to play around with the same chapter (hell, the same sentence!) and as a result, it takes me forever to finish a book. As hard as I try, I can't just sit down and pound out a rough draft. I have to edit as I go along. I finally quit fighting it and I'm much happier and much more productive. The trick was to not obsess. Every day I go back and read over what I wrote the day before and rewrite whatever is necessary. When I'm reasonably happy with it, I move on. It doesn't have to be perfect--just good enough.

I've set a goal to finish my first draft (which is really a second or third draft because of the way I work) by the end of March. I can do it. That's only 4 pages, 5 days a week, with a couple weeks leeway in case I backslide into procrastination and tinkering.

They don't have a 12 step program for that, do they?

So, what are your Deadly Sins of Writing? How do keep yourself on the straight and narrow?


Annette said...

Of course, I already wrote about my deadly sin yesterday: taking on too much stuff AKA not saying NO. But I enjoy the stuff I take on, so I don't know where I'd draw the line. But I do know I HAVE to make writing a top priority or I get very cranky, too.

I agree about scheduling. I've been including "writing" as a block of time in my appointment book for years. For a while, I got away from that, but I'm starting to do it again and it seems to work.

Except when I have to cancel my writing time to take the cat to the vet, like this morning.

Jennie Bentley said...

Don't know about deadly sins, but I'm one of the 'bright, shiny idea' people. I have so many ideas for so many projects that focus is a big thing for me. Or rather, lack of it. At the moment, I'm writing two different series, developing a third, playing with a fourth, with a fifth on the back burner, and amorphous ideas for another somewhere in the back brain. All these characters live in my head. I love them all. I want to listen to all of them. They're all so bright and shiny with so much to say! And it's just horribly difficult to focus on just one idea at a time and actually bring it to completion while all the others are clamoring for attention inside my head.

Yes, I know I sound crazy.

Joyce said...

No, Jennie, you just sound like a writer.

Jennie Bentley said...

Thank you, Joyce! Tell a non-writer that you have five or six different voices talking in your head, though, and they'll go for the straight jacket. And you must admit, it does get sort of schizophrenic at times, having them all in there, wanting your attention at the same time. No, I know I'm not crazy, but sometimes I do want to tear my hair out.

Joyce said...

You just have to treat them like your kids. Send them to their rooms. Quiet them with "the look."

Promise them a special outing if they behave. Military school if they don't.

Jeez. We are nuts, aren't we?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

From somebody who puts in 10 to 12 hour days at his day job, I can say that writing can easily take a back seat to almost everything else.

But as somebody who has tried telecommuting (working a day job from the house) it can be just as daunting because it is so easy to find other things to do.

WHICH is why I try to get out of the house to write. Yes, my wifey challenges me everytime I say I'm headed to Starbucks, etc to write. However, I know my weaknesses and I have to remove the external distractions and for me all those distractions are at the house and most reside on the Honeydo list.

The other big SIN that I've been staying away from is the social networking scene. Joyce, I think pulling the plug on the internet in the house would free up a lot of hours for many writers.

ramona said...

I'm with Wilfred--I have to get out of the house to do good work. It's either a coffee house (I should buy stock in Panera's) or the public library. The library is extra-good because there's no Internet unless you schedule a session in advance, which I never do. If I have a project due, I reserve a private study room. A lot of public libraries have these, with no fee.

I agree with the being nuts thing. Better than boring, though.

Anonymous said...

Jennie, I think I suffer from the same problem. Lots of characters, lots of stories. Worse, I kind of fall in love with my stories, taking them out to admire, turning them this way and that in order to admire the sunlight glinting from their facets. [And I thought Bella was weird for falling for Edward Cullen . . .]

Gina said...

Hi. That last "anonymous" was me. It seems to have lost my name somewhere in the posting.

Joyce said...

I'm usually too lazy to leave the house to write. That would require showering, dressing, fixing my hair, and putting make-up on. I can have my four pages written in the time it takes me to do that!

Annette said...

Me, too, Joyce. Plus I live out in cow country and it takes me a half hour to drive anywhere worth going. Our library has odd hours, so that's no help.

Jemi Fraser said...

Procrastination is sometimes mine too. By the time I get time to write, it's pretty late. When I'm tired, it's not hard to put it off :)