If procrastination were an art I’d be Picasso. I have a myriad of forms and techniques to delay and fail at achieving my goals.
Each year it seems like I do the same damn thing. I make a New Year’s resolution: Run a marathon, learn a second language, write a novel. And by using my glorious skill of procrastination, before February rolls around, I’ve got my feet on the coffee table, a bowl of potato chips in my lap.
But putting off writing is where I truly shine. When it comes to writing, I do the worst kind of procrastination. I productively procrastinate.
I’ll tell myself I need to do a little more research before I write the next chapter. So I go to the library and dig through the stacks. I look at a passage of dialogue I’ve written and rewritten and re-rewritten, and resolve that I should really brush up on my craft. Back to the library for more books. And when I’m daunted by the cursor flashing on the blank screen, I tell myself I should take out another sheet of paper and plot things out one more time before I start writing anything.
It’s not that I’m not working. It’s just that I’m not actually writing anything.
Perhaps you feel the same. Maybe you’ve got a resolution, like me, to write a book in 2018. And maybe you’ve somehow found a way to miss the mark with your past resolutions.
Well, good news. We can crush writer’s block. With the right plan we can achieve our writing goals. We can keep our resolution.
It ends up resolution is an interesting word. When we make a resolution we’re telling ourselves that we’ve made a firm decision to accomplish something. But it also means the act of examining something complex and simplifying it. John Gardner, author and Batavia native, wrote a wonderful book on craft. The Art of Fiction. In it, Gardner had this advice for writers: First, writing is an exercise. It’s something you practice. You hone your skills, master your techniques. And second, one of the most important lessons for a writer is to learn that “fiction is made of structural units; it is not one great rush.”
Think about writing a story, a novel, or a memoir. It’s overwhelming. Where do I begin? How do I get started? Where the hell am I going?
But when we learn how to take it bit by bit, line after line, the complex becomes clear. The distant goal becomes achievable. Why? Because we have a plan in place. And that’s the difference between those writers eating chips on the sofa and those who get things done. Everybody has goals. But successful people have a plan.
If you’re looking for a little nudge to start off the year, or you feel like your writing is stuck in a rut, I encourage you to join me in my Ready, Fire, Aim class. We’ll learn how to break up writing into those “structural units”. We’ll practice prompts to unlock creativity. And most importantly, we’ll draft a plan to absolutely obliterate the excuses that block us from our goals.
And if you’re still making excuses, believe me I’ve used them all, I’ll even bring some chips to class.
Read Brian Wood’s instructor bio here
Check out Brian’s upcoming winter workshops: