Kicking my own arse…

Tuesday was painful. Really painful. It was painful because I deliberately cleared my schedule of all possible distractions so that I could work on my novel. I told myself that I only had one thing to achieve that day; to work on my novel. If I didn’t write a blog post, fine. If I didn’t do the washing up – also fine. If I didn’t go to the gym, fine again. But if it got to 5pm and I hadn’t done anything with my novel, then I was going to be in some serious shit. With myself.

That’s right. There’s no arse-kicker tougher than yourself – not if you’re me. No one kicks my arse harder than I do, no one is more guilt inflicting and self-punishing than I am when I’ve skipped out on working.

And so on Tuesday I really had to kick my arse. Because I had told myself to get up early and start work on my novel, and that I had no excuse not to. But when it came to it, the prospect of getting back into my novel after leaving it for so long was not in any way appealing. I sensed the hard work ahead of me and immediately became work-shy.

Then I was in a constant battle with myself for the entirety of the day. Somewhere between the good intentions and getting up at 8am and having my first cup of coffee things went seriously awry and by the time 10am came around, all I had done was flick between a blank MS Word document and my web browser -browsing for… anything on Amazon, and staring at my very empty email inbox.

This was the first wave of guilt, and once it hit, I disconnected myself from the internet. If I couldn’t trust me to have internet access and not use it while I was working, then I wouldn’t be allowed access to it at all.

So I removed my dongle and hid it in a box.

Then I got back to work. And I wrote three words. Then I stared out of the window. And then I deleted those three words. And then I stared out of the window. Then I made myself a coffee.

And by the time I’d drunk my coffee, I still hadn’t written anything. And so I sighed and told an empty room how difficult it is to write a novel.

Smash things

Then I sulked.

And then I swirled around in my Captain’s Chair a few times to cheer myself up. And then I wrote a sentence.

Then I stared out of the window again.

Then I made some lunch and I read my sentence while I ate lunch.

And I decided it wasn’t a very good sentence. So after lunch, I deleted it.

The day went on like this – I had to constantly wrestle myself back into my chair and keep my fingers affixed to the keyboard until typing happened and words started appearing on screen. I was close to tears by the time I had tapped out my first paragraph, but I told myself to keep going – that the hard part was over. Eventually I got back into the swing of it and by mid-afternoon I was working on a new chapter.

It was exhausting. I felt like I’d actually had to beat it out of myself – and not just metaphorically speaking.

I never realised this before, but the reason I procrastinate so much is because I dread this initial stage of writing so much that I’ll do anything to get myself out of it. Even though my intentions are good, (I’ll get up early and start work on my novel) my enthusiasm for writing is at an all time low, and I’ll happily do anything else instead.

pffft

Trying to get into the flow of writing without absolutely loathing every single word written and getting immediately frustrated after tapping out a sentence is teeth-gnashingly annoying. And it only gets worse over time. The longer I leave working on my novel, the worse I am at getting back into it.

After 3000 hours of dragging myself kicking and screaming back to my desk, I got to the end of my new chapter and I realised that I’d given the story a whole new direction to go in.

And after thinking about this little breakthrough, I decided to completely scrap another three chapters. And replace them with new ones. And change the order of the last third of the book.

Nice work, me.

Essentially, I gave me lots more work to do. Which is kind of a bummer, but at least I’ve made some progress and that sticking point I’ve been on for the last… six months, is finally coming unstuck.

Well, maybe not completely unstuck, but significantly less adhesive than it was before.

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Comments: 17

  1. Steven Chapman June 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm Reply

    "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." – Oscar Wilde

    At least Mr. Wilde had an excuse – he was actually trying! What’s your excuse, slacker?

    You did get something done in the end though, let’s just hope it doesn’t make things any harder!!

  2. Tove June 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm Reply

    You write very well about how hard it can be to write!!! Gosh, do I recognize this!!
    After having written a few books and thousands of articles (I am probably a bit older than you…:)) I found the best way to get me started is to lower my expectations and allow myself to write some total crap. After a few pages of bad writing I go back and start editing. Somehow, editing is always more fun than writing. At least that keeps me going.
    But well done, Jo! You are moving forwards.

  3. Sang Hee June 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm Reply

    Wow, you actually wrote that today!
    Hi, I'm Sang Hee. I'm from Sweden and I'll watch your blog. It's a lot of fun. But I can see the hard and real message in it.
    It seems you have no problem writing a massive blog posts but when it comes to novel it's like your mind just flips. Curious.

  4. Suniverse June 10, 2011 at 1:28 am Reply

    YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!

    I commend you for actually taking this step. I keep opening documents and then finding something shiny on the internet or realize that I really, really need to work on some paying stuff and ta da! The day has gone by and I'm left with fuck all for writing.

    So I write "WRITE" on my to do list for the next day and hope for the best.

  5. alonewithcats June 10, 2011 at 3:05 am Reply

    If you made a graphic depicting *my* level of enthusiasm for your writing, it would be off the charts.

  6. Col Bury June 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Hi Jo,

    You crack me up. Been there got the T-shirt.
    Stick at it – going off your blogposts, you have the talent.

    Regards,
    Col

  7. Simone June 11, 2011 at 12:55 am Reply

    yep. i concur. when i'm stuck, i just go back to previous chapters and edit the shit out of them… it helps, but still feels like no progress. i think we should tell the arse-kicker in us that it's "progress, not perfection".

  8. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:46 am Reply

    Of course I was trying. Didn't you read the post? "I dragged myself kicking and screaming" it's all about trying… And eventually achieving something… Sort of.

  9. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:49 am Reply

    Thanks Tove. And I think you're right – lowering expectations certainly does help. You've got to allow yourself to write absolute rubbish first. It's like a warm up for the creative muscles (I did *not* just say that). Besides, you can always go back and amend/delete the rubbish later.

  10. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:50 am Reply

    Curiouser and curiouser – indeed! Although honestly, I think blogging about not writing is possibly another way of getting out of working on my novel. But then again, writing *something* even if it's just a crappy blog post about not being able to write, is better than nothing. Or at least, that's my excuse.

  11. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:53 am Reply

    I write "WRITE" on my to do list every day – the trouble is I see that word and my brain interprets it as a nagging mother telling me to clean my room or whatever. "Yeah, yeah, yeah" I think, but if I know I can get away with it, I totally will.

    If we were neighbours, though, we could totally kick each others arses. How do you feel about moving to England?

  12. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:55 am Reply

    I. Heart. You.

    Although, at first glance that looks a bit like I. Hate. You. which is totally not what I'm saying. But I thought "love" was a bit strong…

  13. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:58 am Reply

    Thanks Col, it comforting to know there's someone out there who can relate to this sort of insanity. And we should totally make actual T-shirts: "I wrote a novel and all I got was this shitty T-Shirt".

  14. Jojiebean June 12, 2011 at 10:59 am Reply

    You're totally right. I don't know why I'm such a perfectionist when it comes to writing – I'm not in ANY OTHER PART of my life. I think editing is key, write shit, worry about perfecting it later.

  15. laurenne June 13, 2011 at 1:33 am Reply

    I think the first rule of being a writer is that you must hate everything you write. Ugh. What are we doing to ourselves!!? I wish you the best of luck. We'll get there! I can't wait to come to your book signing!

  16. laurenne June 13, 2011 at 1:35 am Reply

    Maybe rename "write." Call it "Thurk." or "Gruj"
    Speaking of words, what is a dongle?

  17. Sang Hee June 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm Reply

    Wait, what? Why are you saying that? I love everything I write, it's just that I feel like no one else can love it. If you hate what you write then why write at all? Anger is usually a sign of frustration which I think is a product of you not being able what you want to do. If you love writing and are writing then why hate it?

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