I recently attended a performance of the musical Grease at the Midtown Arts Center. If you don't know the story, it's about two teenagers who had a sweet summer romance at the beach only to find that their lives don't mesh so well once school starts.
It sort of reminds me of my writing career.
Endless Summer . . . Not
It's that time of the year. The Back to School sales are going full swing. I am tempted to buy a box of yellow number two pencils and sharpen them so I can inhale the heady smell of their shavings. I want to buy glue sticks and those pink erasers that look like coffins and new spiral notebooks. I don't need them, but old habits die hard.
The beginning of the summer was like the beginning of a new school year. I had goals.
I missed them all.
There are writers who have been amazingly productive over the summer and who have the accolades to prove it. For those in that camp: I am proud of you, I salute you, I envy you.
This column is for the rest of us.
Procrastination as an Art Form
|The author not writing|
While travelling across Arizona, I read an article in Writer's Digest's online newsletter by Jenna Blum on productive procrastination. Inspired by Jenna, I daydreamed about my protagonist as the miles rolled by. I came up with some new ways to make her life more difficult (my main character, not Jenna). Since I wasn't actually writing, per se, I was free to let my imagination roam. I thought up some crazy stuff that she is going to hate me for. (What do you mean she isn't real?)
|Another photo of the author not writing|
You've Got to Kill Your Darlings
I also came up with what was to me a startling revelation: my second main character has to go. I'm not saying that she is going to die in my book, I'm saying that she does not belong in this book. She needs a story of her own. By pulling her out of this one and saving her for later, I've tightened the narrative. I never would have gotten there if I hadn't used road coma to my advantage.
|The author took this photo while not writing|
Rebooting Writing 101
To get back in the habit of writing after a hiatus, here are some tips I follow, maybe some of them will work for you:
- Read, a lot. I'm currently reading Ms Blum's "The Lost Family: A Novel," delish!
- Write smaller pieces to get those writing muscles in shape again. (Hey, I wrote this column! That counts.)
- Get caught up on reviewing (my critique group has been really productive).
- Get out of the house and try writing in the library or a coffee house.
- Take it slow. The first day back is not the time to set the bar at 5K words. 500 is OK. So is 100. So is 12.
- Revisit the outline, see where the flaws are.
For Jenna's article and some more advice on writing after a long pause, check out these links:
Productive Procrastination: 7 Creative Activities to Distract Yourself from Writing
How do you get back in the writing game after a hiatus? Leave a comment below and share your secrets.
|Guess what the author wasn't doing when she took this picture?|