Hell.xls

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Or possibly heaven in spreadsheet format.

I think that most people who have the urge (whatever about the actual drive) to complete something like a novel can either veer off track occasionally, or be driven right off the road by their inner critic.  Also known as the duck, though I can't quite remember where that came from (possibly Pete Cohen, the motivational coach).

Basically the duck or the inner editor or your internal critic lets you steam away at something for a while, and then just when you think this is all going swimmingly – this is about the Week 2 stage of Nano, for instance – then the voices get louder and you start to lose control of the word juggernaut. You start to hear things like

  • why are you doing this? I mean, it's great and all – well, the writing's not great, ha ha, but great that you're giving it a shot,  like yay, go you. Yeah But really….
  • aren't you just a little too busy for this kind of thing?  You have a job? One of those things that actually pays the bills. I mean, 
  • other people are doing this. Already. So you don't have to. Do you really need to add to that pile of books published every year, all those trees!… 
  • are there for you to hide behind when people realise what a crock of shit you are writing. Hell, if they don't just hang you from one for crimes against literature…
  • Wait, what the hell am I saying?  Oh my god, I am so awful.  This is so absurd. Like who the hell would publish this pile of crap anyway? 

And on and on. It's amazing how many people talk themselves out of a novel. Plus yes, it's antisocial, takes time and brainpower and should you finish the first draft, editing it and then perhaps letting other people read it and hack it apart and then put it back together in a way you never could have imagined could be so utterly heinous.

Yes, well. Get over yourself. Lawrence Block claims that writing is the only hobby where its practitioners leap ahead in their minds all the way through the cycle to publication (right, people in beginner guitar lessons never ever think "Ooh. The Albert Hall. Headliner…" – aha. Sure)

My current solution is just bloody write. It just has to be done. Without churning out words every day, there will be nothing to edit in December. In order to keep me on track I've put together a devilishly fun spreadsheet – oh dear, did my inner geek pop out there?  It tells me how many of the day's word count I've done and what's left to go, and how I'm doing on the overall total. Yes I am behind on where I wanted to be by now but a weekend of solid work will get me back there. It does involve writing 30 mins in the morning before work, plus whatever else is necessary – generally about the same again – in the evening in order to hit each day's modest total, about 1150. And now that I can see what I am doing in black and white (and pink and green and blue – I made it pretty!  An excellent procrastination technique) it's much much harder to kid myself…
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