Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Am I Actually Writing?

Occasionally I drop in and read a blog by a guy called Scott Young. Can't remember how I found him, but he often says things that strike a chord, even if they're nothing to do with writing. Recently, he posted on feel-good tasks - the ones you do that make you feel like you're achieving something, when you're not - you're just finding a happier way to procrastinate. As he says, if you want to get fit, don't buy new running shoes, get out there and do some running! He also gives examples like people who want to lose weight that spend ages comparing calories and fat content and additives for brands of cream cheese instead of just buying salad.

You might think this sounds obvious and boring, and what's wrong with some fun in our daily choices? But when we continually go for the "light" option, we end up doing very little writing. Some of the light options might be:

* doing more research to get those few extra facts
* arranging to meet a writer friend for coffee to re-inspire each other
* reading another how-to writing book
* going for a walk to stretch your body from the computer
* going on the internet to find out some vital information for your story that could actually wait
* writing a blog because you think it gets you in the mood for writing

What all of these things (and I'm sure you can add your own) do is take you away from what you should be doing - writing. That means turning off the TV, sitting down and typing or writing for a good length of time. A good enough length that you end up with 1000 or 2000 words or more. When was the last time you thought about your writing goals for this year? February? Or last week? If you reviewed your goals, would you find that you had produced the amount of words you aimed for? Or have you achieved a lot of little feel-good things that haven't advanced your novel more than a chapter or two - in eight months!

Young says: "The problem with feel-good tasks is that they often appear productive. It’s only when you really examine them that you realize they aren’t either necessary or directly helpful to your goal." Too often, we have big lists of things to do (I'm guilty of this!) that are nothing to do with writing. We think they have to be done, and probably they do, but when they encroach onto or take over your writing time, then maybe you need to honestly evaluate how vital and necessary they really are. I've started making two lists. One is totally about writing, and it comes first. Then when I have time (like those dead gaps in the late afternoon before dinner, perhaps) I get stuck into the other list - the one full of small stuff that isn't really so important.

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