I read so many blog posts and Facebook updates from authors who are carrying the huge burden of producing less than the author who lives down the street or even producing less than the goal on their personal writing plan.
That prolific author Laura DiSilverio, for instance, writes 2,000 words a day no matter what. She’s disciplined.
The not so prolific me is a binge writer. I do a whole lot of other stuff until I’m ready, and then I churn out lots of words or pages of revision in a short amount of time. I’m a NaNoWriMo type of person although November isn’t always my binge month.
Laura has over 16 published books to her credit. I have three, going on four. Her writing life started earlier than mine, but that’s not the biggest reason she has so many more books than I’ll probably ever. It’s about choices. Our priorities are different.
The first time Laura told me about her 2,000 word a day commitment, I felt a little wave of guilt, and maybe a tiny, tiny urge to dump my glass of ice water glass in her lap.
The other thing that brought my guilt and animosity under control was the “flashing before my eyes” of all the activities and tasks I choose when I’m not writing. Things like sitting outside in a lawn chair with a glass of iced tea and a book. Or doing my volunteer job as co-editor of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog (where, by the way, you’ll find some of the best writing and writing life posts on the web). Or working on the “de-clutter my house” project before the new carpet gets installed.
Are any of these things less important than working on my manuscript? Not at the moment I decide to do them. I’m finally learning to think about my choices, and once made, accept and enjoy.
So here’s a way to accept and enjoy what you do with your time, even if it’s not writing.
1. Start a “Making Peace with My Choices” notebook. Or just do it on scrap paper or make it a mental exercise—it doesn’t really matter unless you want to keep track of your choices and the excuses/reasons for not writing.
2. When you make a decision to do a task that does not fit in with your writing goals/plans, make a note of the decision, the date, and the time. Examples: Walk the dog, mop the kitchen floor, watch two more episodes of Bloodline on Netflix.
3. List three reasons why you’ve made this choice.
I want to walk the dog because I need the exercise, the dog is too rowdy and needs a walk to calm her down, and my brain is frazzled so I need a break from the computer.
It’s important to mop the kitchen floor today because I’m tired of my feet sticking to the floor when I cross the room, the dog is licking the floor in front of the sink and the stove, the floor is visibly dirty and looks disgusting.
I’m going to watch Netflix tonight because I worked hard all day and I don’t have energy for anything except vegging in front of the TV, Bloodline is an excellent show and I’ve already picked up two story ideas (yes, I jotted the ideas down and stuck them in my “Brilliant ideas” folder), I’m rewarding myself for writing 2,000 words today (or for exhausting my energy pulling weeds and using the weed whacker).
4. Examine the reasons carefully and evaluate if you’ve made the right decision for this moment.
5. If yes, carry on with your task and enjoy the experience without guilt.
6. If no, change your plan and go write.
It’s time we stopped beating ourselves up for our bad time management, procrastination, fear of rejection, or whatever the imaginary excuse is that day for not writing.
We make choices. We need to own them. We need to accept them and acknowledge their worth.
We’re talented, creative grownups who can decide consciously how we spend our time.
We need to stop thinking we’re failures. We must stop calling our choices procrastination and bad time management.
And most of all, we need to stop feeling guilty.
Write, or don’t write. It’s a choice, and you’re in control.