The power of procrastination
I'm not super proud of this fact, but I recently spent two days in a minor Twitter fight with Scrivener. I have some pretty strong opinions about their 3rd party sales process and their instructional design, but I wasn't really mad about their $40 software. I was procrastinating.
Yep. I, Kelly Littleton, am a procrastinating son of a biscuit. Or daughter. Whatever. You get the point.
I was fighting with Scrivener because I had not been able to land on a clear theme for my series. I mean, I have the arc scripted out (more on that in a bit), and I have 31,216 words written for the second book already, 31,216 words which include meaningful scenes, dramatic scenes, touching scenes... all first drafted and initially edited.
But I don't have a fucking point.
Or at least I didn't, until I gave myself permission to procrastinate.
What this means is that I haven't written much in the last two-three months. According to conventional wisdom, I should be panicking. If not all-out panicking, I should definitely be labeling this... hibernation... with a phrase that I refuse to name, because I don't care to give that concept any power at all.
I'll be honest, the bigness of the story I'm trying to tell is overwhelming, and there are times when I'm not sure if I'm audacious enough to tell it. And then I tell that part of me to hush. And I wait. And I live. And I move on to other things. And I let that living inform the story.
The way I see it, if my grass can stop growing for six months out of the year and still be called a yard, then I can fucking be a writer, even if I go dormant from time to time.
And you know what happens when I trust myself to be patient? Something - some random thing - loosens story that has always been there, and I'm off to the races. This time, it was Littlefinger that helped me to find the thread I'd been missing.
Just in case you are not a raving Game of Thrones fan, Littlefinger (aka Petyr Baelish) is a conniving, power-grubbing little flea of a character who likes to pit people against each other and take advantage of the chaos that ensues. He explains that, if he wants to understand a person's motives, he asks himself what the worst possible motivation for their actions could be, and sees if that narrative begins to make sense of their actions. Turns out, the same could be said of him.
And that got me thinking about the very real need for motivation in telling the story. Some of you are rolling your eyes because - duh - writing 101. But see, my motivation for writing the first book was to ask a question - What would happen if you dropped a mouthy fatass like me into a black ops site? I had a lot of fun exploring that question, but now I'm looking at a series, and I was convinced that it had to grow beyond that one snarky thought.
So, as I'd mentioned above, I charted the course for the entire series. Four thousand words on where this story and this character were going. I wasn't overly thrilled with everything I'd come up with, but I figured I could clean that up when I got to it. I was feeling like a real adult, and inordinately proud of the fact that I'd mapped out everything. The problem is, when I started writing, I kept obsessively going back to the overview document to make sure that I had it right. The whole process made me feel uncertain, and I was not enjoying the work, and I just knew that I wasn't quite there. So I set it aside to think on it for a bit.
This is where Littlefinger comes in.
He reminded me that I'd started this series with a question. It was a good question, so I came up with a few more:
How does she continue to adjust when her reality continues to shift?
What are the things that she still doesn't know?
What if she started asking the right questions?
Simple, right? It almost looks too simple to write a post about, but asking these questions blew up my thought process, and I've been on the good idea train for several days now. I realized that what kept me motivated, what kept me coming back for more, was the miracle of discovery. Of writing my way into a story line I'd not previously considered. And creating such a rigid architecture stole that from me. So, this week, I trashed it.
And I wrote 3,000 more words than I'd had before.
It reminded me of the lesson that keeps showing up in my life: I loiter when my gut tells me that things are not quite right, but I don't yet know *why* they are not quite right. Procrastination is the tool I use to bridge the gap between feeling and knowing. Invariably, patiently waiting for my brain to process things a bit nets a better result than if I'd blindly gone into the breach.
By viewing procrastination as a tool of patience (rather than a personal failing), I'm able to go through my writing (and life, really) with a lot less guilt, and a lot more personal power. I'm also better able to utilize the other tools - work ethic, decisiveness, imagination - more effectively. In essence, by accepting procrastination, I prevent it from overstaying its welcome.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a story to write.