(This is a blog entry that I posted in 2012, revised and updated.)
Procrastination is defined as putting off, temporizing or dragging one’s feet. I use the term ‘Resistance’ in the manner of fighting, standing or struggling.
Writing is a struggle. I’ve spent a months over the last eighteen years in search of everything to do except write.
(Idiotic, really, as I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was seventeen years old.)
I’ve just finished Alaskan Bride (formerly Yukon Treasure, formerly known as Skagway Bride, WHEW!) and am already woefully short on my annual word count as well as a weeks behind my scheduled goals.
Not due to procrastination (which is what I’m doing), but because of Resistance — that which caused me to procrastinate.
Resistance is caused by a multitude of things, each insidious obstacle personally tailored for every individual. The key is to realize how resistance portrays itself to the individual, and construct a weapon to use against it.
My primary key is fear.
I’m a chicken, what can I say? My wife jokes about the yellow highlighter she uses to color in the yellow streak down my back. (At least I think she’s joking…)
Fear has been the main stumbling block of my entire life; I don’t expect it will ever be different.
What has to change is my response to fear.
I’m afraid of not completing a project, yet I was incapable of finishing anything when I initially began writing.
The first time I attempted to write a novel, I completed one chapter.
It was a great chapter, too! I edited that sucker no end for months. My friends raved about it, but I never got past that first fifteen pages despite having a rough storyline in my head. I didn’t do much more writing for twenty years after that. (Considering it was a “Mary Sue” Star Trek story, it’s probably just as well.)
When I attempted writing again almost twenty years later I had some discipline under my belt as a self-employed artist. Even then, I didn’t trust my ability to write an entire story to completion.
At the time, I was enamored of Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction, and chose to play in that sandbox. Lots of writers put their longer stories online, posting chapter by chapter on a weekly basis. I did the same.
Without realizing it, I’d stumbled upon my first real tool to help me through — the constant barrage of emails from readers begging for the next installment. To appease my readers, I chugged along until the novella was complete and posted online. (Only One is the first lengthy story I ever completed solo.)
That didn’t stop my fear. That didn’t stop Resistance from dogging me. That didn’t stop the sudden irrational desire to clean the toilet rather than write from popping up at the most inopportune times.
Instead, I forced myself to sit down and write every day. I didn’t have a word count goal then. Instead I had a scene goal — half a scene every day. Some days I made it, some days I didn’t. Such is life.
Eventually the time came when I no longer wanted to hear readers begging for the next installment of a tale. To avoid that I had to search within myself for motivation to avoid the dreaded Resistance.
I stumbled through three or four years of writing and developing a half dozen novels that never made it online, then rewrote and redeveloped them. (The Strange Path went through four complete rewrites! The final book looks nothing like the original.)
Over the course of those slow years, I’ve learned new tools to defeat the Resistance from which I suffer.
* The Forward Motion Writing Community gave me a lot of resources to draw from, and I’m still minimally active there.
* A lot of my fresh writing is done at a coffee shop where I don’t have household chores waiting or access to the internet. Not being able to browse the web or check my email does wonders for my productivity!
* These days I stay home to edit my manuscripts because it doesn’t take as much focus, and doesn’t cause too much procrastination.
* Since I joined Bella Books, I’ve found another tool to continue putting words on paper. Contractual obligations! ACK! Must. Make. Contractual. Obligations!
Resistance Never Goes Away
You’ll always have to fight against it to take what’s yours.
Define your Resistance — what exactly is it that stops you? Then find ways around it.
I’m of the opinion that Resistance is a survival mechanism developed from childhood to protect you from whatever hazards you experienced. Pinpoint it, see how it affects your current procrastination as you stare at the blank page in your word processing program and develop personal tools to move around it.
It’s there for a reason, though that reason is no longer viable.
Accept it and thank it for its hard work to help you survive during those lean times.
Then send it on vacation!