Self-Discipline

One of the biggest problems I have, as a writer, is self-discipline.

Part of it is just economy of time/energy. I did not receive an advance for The Demon Within; even if I had, as a first-time, unproven author, it likely wouldn’t have been much. So I maintain a full-time job in order to pay my bills. My ultimate goal, though, is to be able to write full-time.

But between working, wedding planning, cat-wrangling, maintaining some semblance of a social life, trying to get to the gym every so often, and the necessity of food and sleep, sometimes I’m just too exhausted at the end of the day to do much writing.

But that’s just an excuse, really. Here are my main problems.

Inability to focus. I’m ready to sit down and write and then–squirrel!

The internet is evil. I’m a bit of a social media junkie, but it doesn’t matter–I can go down the rabbit hole of the interwebs anytime, anywhere. See above.

First draft vs. revision. I love writing first drafts. They’re new and shiny and exciting. I feel like anything can happen. But I finished the first draft of The Demon Within back in December of 2010. I’ve tinkered with it endlessly since then. There are still moments of excitement and newness and discovery, but they are much fewer and farther between.

I feel like novel revising is like playing Jenga–which I was never very good at! Every time you move one part, you risk the whole rest of the tower falling down around you.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Jenga. Photo source: Wikipedia.

I don’t get those moments of transcendence, that thrill of discovery, the way I do with first drafting because I keep thinking, “But if I change X on page 23, then it’ll screw up Y on page 192. And don’t even talk to me about Z on page 212. There’s no way I’m going to discuss page 212 yet!” Every change means more work, with a deadline that’s beginning to loom scarily close.

Writing is work…and sometimes work sucks. This is something I find very difficult to discuss with my non-writer friends because, for better or worse, they usually just don’t get it. “But you love writing,” they say. Yes, I do. But sometimes I hate it, too. I hate it when I get stuck and I can’t figure out how to get out of it. I hate it when I’ve been working on a particular scene for a long time and I’m bored as hell of it but it has to get done, and I hate not knowing whether my boredom is going to become the readers’ boredom. I hate it when I have a deadline that I’m pushing again, and my fingers are hovering over the keyboard with absolutely nothing coming out of them.

Think of it this way. You have a job. You may like your job. If you’re lucky, you even love your job. But no matter how much you like or love your job, it’s still work, and even work you love is not the same as sipping margaritas on the beach. Sometimes it’s just easier to browse the latest cute cat videos on Facebook, and that, unlike writing, is not work, and the dopamine hit is instant gratification.

Some days, writing can be amazing. Other days, it can be difficult, exhausting, and frustrating as hell. Which actually segues pretty nicely into my next thought.

Performance anxiety. The Demon Within will be my first published novel. Twenty-five years of writing are culminating in this little book. And that is…stressful. I think I’m having the writer’s equivalent of stage fright, and it’s manifesting in an inability to focus as much as I want to and produce as much as I need to.

I’m writing this down in my blog because I know I can’t be the only writer with this problem. Yet it seems like when I read other writers’ social media pages, it’s all “I wrote 9,000 words today,” and “I just finished my 14th book while working a full-time job and raising eight children and also pursuing my other dream of becoming a rock star.” Yikes. I mean…great for them, but I’m crazy envious. I can barely manage to come home, feed my cats, and turn my computer on without passing out on my keyboard.

The book will get done. But man, I’d be thankful to any suggestions on how to get it done faster and with less stress. Any programs to deactivate social media sites. (I had one once upon a time, but it screwed up my computer so badly that my computer geek fiancé took one look at it and said he had no idea why I’d ever downloaded the thing.) Cutting off social media won’t cure the problem, but it might help. Musical cures? Environmental suggestions? Scheduling changes? Getting up earlier is not an option; I’ve tried this, but I work an early shift and I’m just too damn incoherent before 6am to do something as finely tuned as revision. Besides, I’m not getting enough sleep anyway–I’m not kidding about the passing out on my keyboard thing–so methinks this will just exacerbate the problem.

I’d also like to hear from anyone else who has experienced these feelings, whether it’s to offer suggestions or just to commiserate. I know I must not be the only one.

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