Posted on 04 March 2013

The other day I sat at my writing desk gazing out the window while feeling pretty proud of myself and all the progress I’ve made so far on my new novel. I haven’t finished the first draft quite yet, but I can see the beginning of the end. So I sat there dreaming up my revision strategy, how many weeks I’d let the book sit before returning to it, how many revision passes I should go through before turning it over to beta readers, and so on.

I thought about all this for a while and then came back to reality.

I was at my writing desk, an empty coffee mug next to me. My computer screen glowed white. On that screen were the following words: Chapter Twenty-Eight. Nothing else. Just a chapter heading and then an expanse of white space. That was what it took to shock me back to reality, back to the fact that despite all my progress, I wasn’t finished with even this first draft. I still had thousands of words to write, and daydreaming about future drafts wasn’t going to help me write the rest.

It’s a lesson I have to relearn over and over: the work itself matters above all else.

How do you slow yourself down?

Photo: Denna Jones

12 responses to Diversion

  • Sarah W says:

    I’d much rather write my Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech than work through those pesky drafts!

    But it’s beginning to dawn on me that you can’t get one without the other, drat it . . .

  • Teri says:

    I hear you. I can’t get ahead of myself or I get totally overwhelmed. Like when people start talking about querying —- I know I’ll need to know this stuff, but I’m still not there. One step at a time. I think I’m officially on my millionth rewrite. Not that I’m counting or anything.

    • I think it’s very, very smart to go through the millionth rewrite and focus on the work rather than getting caught up in the querying game too early. Far too many writers query before they are ready, and it just wastes their time and energy.

      There’s a “lit mag submission tips” post floating around the Internet that encourages writers to just submit already, even if it’s not perfect. I have to say I disagree with this advice. Yes, certain types of writers are more reluctant to submit, and we’ll never get anything accepted if we never send it out…but there’s also too much crap floating around out there that should never have been submitted. I’m fairly careful and conservative with what I submit, and even so I’d submitted far too many things that weren’t ready yet.

      Do I sound grumpy today? Sorry. It is Monday, after all.

      • Teri says:

        That makes me nuts, telling people to submit like that. I had a professor in undergrad who made us submit as part of our homework. To her credit, she was encouraging us to see how it worked. When I ran into hear after graduation, she told me she had never, NEVER ONCE, submitted anything to a lit mag. I could have strangled her.

  • Josey says:

    On another note…

    “I was at my writing desk, an empty coffee mug next to me. My computer screen glowed white. On that screen were the following words: Chapter Twenty-Eight.”

    What if you went back in time before you had started on any of the work you have already published. Back when you dreamed about being a writer. Back when you wanted your very own writing desk and a book with your name on the cover. What if you could go way back then and read that sentence I copied?

    See? It all works out how you want it to in the end.

  • MSB says:

    Is that the front cover of your journal? I love it.

    “It’s a lesson I have to relearn over and over: the work itself matters above all else.” If you don’t mind, I’m going to print that up and keep it next to me while I’m at my desk.

  • Catherine says:

    Ah the work. I think it’s finally hit me too after a year of promo and revisions and more revisions. The work. New work. It was a shock for me too to realise I wasn’t doing it. So I logged off the rest and came back to my cloud. The white screen. The coffee cup. Bliss.

    • Whenever an author has a book come out, it seems to automatically result in a massive scaling back of new productivity. We have to consciously fight for the time/mental space to write new things.

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