I’m not blocked, I know exactly where my story should be going, and when I do sit down to write, the words that show up, however grudgingly, are good ones.
And yet, I logged a grand total of 192 words over the weekend, 5 (yes, five, and that only to fulfill the Maximum Geek Ultimate Writing Challenge demand to write something every day) Saturday and 188 Sunday. My manuscript currently sits at 22,616 words, short not only of my 2k per day pace (30,000 as of yesterday) but even the easier NaNoWriMo pace (25,000 as of yesterday). I now need over 2,200 words a day to come in on schedule for this book.
Before I go into the following, I want to let my readers know I already know the solution to my problem. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, write. It’s just like eating less and exercise for weight loss; there really is no other way.
But in the interest of showing what not to do—as ever, it seems my primary purpose in life is to serve as a cautionary tale for others—and to take certain excuses off the table for myself and other writers, let’s take a look at why I didn’t get much done over the weekend.
Reason: Too tired.
Explanation: I have sleep apnea, a breathing disorder common in heavyset people, that causes my airway to close off while I sleep and stop my breathing temporarily. This is usually treated with a CPAP, or Constant Positive Air Pressure, device, basically an air pump feeding a hose attached to an airtight facemask that forces my airway open by sheer air pressure, like a balloon. Friday night I experienced a technical problem with my mask and rather than get up to fix it, I just decided to do without it for one night. As a result of the subsequent oxygen deprivation, I was groggy and sluggish all day.
Why This Doesn’t Count: I gorram well know better, and should have fixed my CPAP. I could argue that I’ve been pushing myself too hard for the last two weeks and my body was just insisting on getting some rest, but I’m not sure I buy that.
Reason: So much interesting stuff on the Hulu, Twitter, Google News, Instapaper, etc.
Explanation: While I didn’t get much writing done, I did spend a big chunk of the weekend, when I wasn’t catching up on TV shows I’d missed during the week, reading Twitter, RSS feeds and saved articles.
Why This Doesn’t Count: Do I really need to explain this one? Writing is supposed to come first. Yes, the Patriots/Colts game last night was amazing. No, I had no business watching it until I had my 2,000 words. Same for Twitter, Google Reader and all my other time sinks. I get a lot of useful stuff out of those. But writing needs to come first.
Reason: Fear of success.
Explanation: One of the shows I was watching Saturday instead of writing brought up an interesting point. The character kept stalling in opening his own business because as long as he didn’t actually try and fail, it was still a dream rather than yet another thing he screwed up. I’ve often felt the same about my writing. Despite concrete evidence to the contrary (see previous articles about characters coming up with better ideas than what I had in mind for them), I tend to think that the stories are better in my head and that I damage them, somehow, by writing them down.
Why This Doesn’t Count: This is, of course, complete wooly-headed bullshit. I know damn well that the stories improve during the writing, and then improve more during editing. Getting them out of my head is only the first step in the process. And besides, even if they were perfect in my head, if I don’t write them down, so what? Who else will ever know?
Reason: Expectation that I can catch up.
Explanation: I know I’m capable of 3k days. I know I’m capable of 6k days every so often. So what difference does it make if I take a few days off? I can make it up later.
Why This Doesn’t Count: I’m sure this one sounds damn familiar to anyone who ever had to write a term paper. And it’s largely the same reasoning. I know I’m a fast writer, so I can trust that speed to save me later. Although just like in The Grasshopper And The Ant, this never actually works. Things come up, and Murphy’s Law dictates that the closer you get to your deadline, the more distractions you will have. Yes, mathematically, if I do 3k per day for six days, I’ll catch up on the 21st at 42000 words. Is that really going to happen? Maybe. Maybe not. But I shouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
Ultimately, none of these excuses matter. Either I make writing my number one priority, or I don’t. If I don’t, I’m not going to make it very far as a professional writer. So do I want it, or not?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, this article is 883 words, and while I’m fully committed to keeping this blog going, I really should be writing fiction.