• Jane O'Reilly

Sometimes it's just procrastination


I went to a thing this week, a writer's meet up that happens once a month in a town close to me, where a group of us (all published) talk about what we're doing and how things are going. It's a very mixed group, mostly non-fiction writers, so it's very interesting (particularly from the point of view of a fiction writer) to hear about how other people work and how parts of publishing that you wouldn't normally have anything to do with operate.

We all talked about how our work was going, and I openly admitted that I'm having a tough time with my current WIP. At the moment, it feels like I have been working on this book forever and making zero forward progress. The word count goes down more often than it goes up. I have written and deleted over 200K at this point, by my reckoning (sorry newbie writers, I'm not trying to scare you. This is just how it goes sometimes, and the ability to get through it can be the difference between a writer who gets published and a writer who doesn't). I know how I've ended up in this position - I started writing the book last year, not long after my surgery, when I was on a medication that wasn't really working. Before I agreed to the surgery, no-one had warned me that I could experience memory loss, and when it started, it was really scary. My short term memory went completely. In the time it took to move my eyes from my notes to the screen, I would have forgotten what I'd just read. I couldn't remember words for basic, everyday things - all I had was a black hole. And this occurred not just when I tried to write, but when I tried to talk, when I went to the supermarket and tried to follow a list, when I tried to read a book. The further away I got from the surgery, the worse it got, because I'd been longer without oestrogen, and brains like oestrogen.

So I tried to work out the plot for book 3, Blue Planet, and I had nothing. Literally nothing. I decided that my only option was to write it anyway and try to dig the plot out that way. It's not my preferred way to work because it means you end up with many, many rewrites, but sometimes you have to go with what you have. Fast forward to now, and the plot is finally starting to come together. My saved files tell me this is draft 13. I've got some direction now, and a theme. I know where I'm going. But I'm also really tired. I want this book to end so that I can write something else.

When I explained this to the group, they made lots of suggestions. Go for a run. Join the gym. Take a few days off. Work on something else. I never want to be that person who moans and then knocks back every single suggestion that people make, because I hate those people. But I found myself doing it anyway, and the reason for that was because all these suggestions were basically procrastination. None of them involved doing any writing, and I think as a writer, you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of telling yourself that what you're doing is work when it isn't. The only way to solve the problem I have with this book is to get it done, and that means bum in chair and fingers on keyboard, even when it's hard, when you don't feel like it, when you'd rather be doing anything else.

Sometimes you have to pick up your shield and go to work.


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