Friday, November 18, 2011

Dealing With An Age Old Problem by Temple Hogan, author of The Pirate Booty Series, Enchanted Island, Dark Secrets and coming soon, The Black Pirate.

I have a saying I’ve tried to live by for most of my adult life. If there’s a problem, there’s a solution. The solution may not always be what I want it to be, but it’s an answer to a seemingly unanswerable problem. When hit by something that seems to be overwhelming or even paralyzing, I first try to calm down and look at the problem logically. I consider myself a very logical person, although my husband, my knight in shining armor tells me, that ain’t so. Still, I try to hang on to that self-image.
Back to the problem, I try to see what needs to be done to solve the problem and how to go about resolving it. I consider intellect more powerful than emotions. I know it’s not so, but as an emotional person, I have to feel I have some control in my life, so I tell myself intellect will out.
So to my problem. Procrastination. Throughout my life I have seen how procrastination causes problems and exacerbates them, so I try really hard to overcome that fault in my otherwise sterling character. I am given to a love of clich├ęs, but we’re not dealing with that today. I guess that would be my first approach to a problem is to focus on it and see what it takes to undo it. And never, NEVER be too proud to take advice from others, if it’s relevant.
So, the problem I want to focus on is my procrastination and how it affects my writing. Days can go by and I don’t even turn on the computer. But when you’ve made a commitment and a book is due, you can’t do that. You have to produce a not just acceptable manuscript, but a smashing bestseller with every book. That’s what I aim for anyway.
Well, to overcome this very real problem. I had to face my procrastination and admit that in this case, it was nothing more than mental laziness. So I took advice from a friend and added some other gems of advice gleaned over the years and found a formula that works for me.
First and foremost is to study my plot, my characters and what must happen next in my book. If I haven’t developed my characters thoroughly, it’s hard to know how they’re going to react to given scenarios. If I haven’t thought through my plot so I know exactly what my characters will face and how they’ll get through all the conflicts ahead, I can get bogged down with a whimpy beginning, saggy middle and unsatisfactory ending. I don’t think this is a real problem for me, since a reviewer for my second vampire book commented on sexy love scene and a lot of plot. Sounds like a book I would read!
So, if you have your characters figured out and your plot outlined, you should be able to go, but suddenly, it just seems a little overwhelming. I always give myself over achiever tasks, like today you’re going to write 5,000 words and every word will sparkle. Suddenly, writing becomes a daunting task.
A friend, whose output is truly amazing, revealed her approach to writing. She said she sets an easy daily goal for herself and everyday she writes that goal, even if she has to do major edits or throw the whole thing out later. That gets you writing and once you start writing it gets easier. After all, we are writers: that’s what we do. So I gave myself a goal of 1,000 words a day, every morning when I have the house all to myself and my other duties could be shoved aside. Without my self demands to perform, I began to relax. Every word I’ve written is not set in stone. I can change things if I have to. I tend to self edit as I write which can be anathema to your flow. But then the magic began to happen, I looked eagerly to my morning writing, the words came easier, my characters were absolutely brilliant (which meant that I must be) and the book was progressing. I even found I didn’t want to stop writing when my prescribed number of words had been reached. At first I made myself stop. As the author of more than 30 books, I’m all too familiar with burn out, so I approached this new schedule warily. After a time I did allow myself to continue on, but not until I was depleted on thoughts and ideas and words. I stopped at a place where I knew what was happening next and I was eager to write it. That made coming to my computer the next morning something I looked forward to and that brought back the joy of writing.
I know many non-writing friends who think writing is such a glamorous thing to do, those of us who actually write know the truth of it, yet we’re driven to tell stories and create characters and plots. We are avid readers who exalt in the talent of other writers. We aspire always to improve our skills, to reach for greatness in the written word and always it starts with our daily battles to overcome our procrastination and sit in front of our computer and produce.
I just don’t to be anything else than a writer!

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