Wasting time instead of writing

I’ve discovered something that I’m really, really good at: Avoiding my writing. I can find almost anything to do other than write. Laundry! Dishes! Grocery shopping! Cleaning out the cat’s litter box!

Lately I’ve been cooking. Granted, I’m not a very precise cook. It’s impossible for me to follow a recipe, my adolescent self kicks in and questions each line of each recipe. Two tablespoons of pepper flakes? Who do they think they are, trying to tell me how to prepare my food? I’ll put in four tablespoons instead, thank you very much.

As a result, my creations are uniquely spicy and not always so nice to look at, either. But we eat them, or at least I eat them; I think my partner throws his in the trash when I’m not looking.

But bad cooking isn’t the point. It’s that I’m stumbling around the kitchen in order to avoid writing. And that’s not a good thing. Because I have a deadline. A dead. Line. (Deadline: Noun. A line that is dead, such as a line of writing in a novel that hasn’t been rewritten yet.)

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I spoke with my agent Monday morning (while the Boston Marathon played in the background, two Americans leading for both the men and women’s races, so exciting, though they both eventually faded) and learned that I need to rewrite my second novel, which I knew, and that I need to take out a chunk of the middle, which I suspected, and rewrite the ending, which I knew, and rewrite or at least revamp the beginning, which I suspected.

None of this was news, since I had received a letter from my editor over at Hachette Book Group two weeks ago suggesting these very changes. I was prepared. I was on it. I even wrote down notations in a college-lined notebook, detailing each chapter, along with a timeline of possible changes (additions in blue ink and deletions in black ink).

I was so proud of myself!

“This is going to be a breeze,” I thought. And then I put down the notebook and stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, trying to decide which shape of glasses I should buy so that I look properly studious when the New York people call and invite me on the Today show.

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Hoda and Kathie Lee, gleefully toasting me and my as-yet-unfinished book.

Reality hit when I sat down to write. Nothing came. Not one word. I ate a piece of toast with peanut butter. I ate a handful of croutons. I chugged chocolate almond milk straight from the carton. Then, properly nourished, I sat down again: Nothing.

I stomped back up to the kitchen, gobbled down two more pieces of toast and a huge chunk of cheese, even though I’m supposed to be vegan. I felt defeated and weepy. I thought of all my characters from Waiting For My Daughter’s Ghost waiting for me to rewrite them, to fluff them back into shape. I imagined them huddled under a doorstop in the rain, their poor hands chapped and cold. I collapsed on the couch. It was simply too much.

I’d like to say that it got better after that, but it didn’t. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasted an entire day on drama perpetuated inside of my head. None of it was true.Worse still, there was no reason for any of it.

I’m sure that this has to do with fear: I’m afraid to rewrite my second novel because what if I can’t get it the way I want it/know it should be? What if after pouring my heart and soul into the rewrite, I have to face the fact that I simply don’t have what it takes, that I’m a one-book wonder, like those 80s singers with the tight pants and bad hair?

I think this is a fear we all must confront when writing because, face it, no matter how brilliant our words, they will never, ever be as brilliant as the words running inside of our heads, those lyrical and beautiful and perfect words that prompt us to write in the first place. And perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps if our inner words and dialogues weren’t so perfect we’d have little reason to sit down and write to begin with.

Today, I woke to sunshine and maybe that’s why I finally sat down and worked on my novel rewrite. It wasn’t easy and much of what I wrote is awkward and self-conscious, but I wrote, damn it. And that’s all that really matters.

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View from today’s run, where I wrote beautiful and perfect scenes inside of my head for 8 miles and then promptly forgot them the minute I got home.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hopapril-2015/

 

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11 thoughts on “Wasting time instead of writing

  1. Good for you that you finally got the rewrite done. I often worry that I’ll never make out of the draft stage because I’m afraid of rewriting … and I don’t even have a deadline. But you’re a journalist. At least, you were, and I remember you once wrote about how being a journalist taught you to write under deadlines. Maybe you just needed to have that pressure again, cut close to the wire, even if you create the pressure yourself. Whatever works 🙂

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    1. Rewriting totally sucks, Marie, I wonder why that is so? The first draft is the most fun. I wish I could just write first drafts and then have someone else clean them up and do all of the promoting and stuff. Wait, I think that’s called a personal assistant, lol. Maybe someday, eh? Take care, and have fun writing.

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  2. I’m so glad someone else struggles with fear and procrastination – my family can’t understand why I’m still muddling around with my finished mms – caught in a perpetual loop of editing and playing with sentences. My gosh, this writing thing we’re all trying to do is HARD ASS WORK. No wonder we walk in circles wondering why we’re walking in circles.

    But enough about all that. There’s a more pressing issue to discuss. What COLOR glasses are you considering for your gab session with Hoda and Kathie Lee? Because I think you need to consider not just the shape, but the color statement you’re going to make. This is television, baby. The colors gotta pop. I’m thinking red with flecks of brown in them or lime green around the lenses but with arms that are a different color – like maybe dark gray. Or maybe try a blue pair. Blue’s a nice color. Aqua blue. Cinthia. Listen to me: This glasses thing is a HUGE decision. You gotta figure this out.

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    1. Oh, Julie, I love you! I’m also muddling around with a finished manuscript–just can’t let go. And my glasses, well, that’s a totally other story. I sadly ended up buying a pair of very sensible black frames, though I do also have a pair of pink ones and even red ones too, but none gives me the snazzy vibe I envisioned, lol. Cheers and I’m loving meeting new writers on your blog hop.

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  3. We need to start a ‘fear and procrastination’ support group. Though I suspect it would grow very quickly once we let others know about it! Hang in there. Those perfect words will flow (says an unpubbed to a pubbed, but hey, a cheer group is a cheer group!)

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    1. Ha, ha, Sandie, we totally need to start a fear and procrastination support group. I’ve been avoiding my writing all night and reading blogs instead (but hey, I’m reading!). Cheers and thanks for stopping by.

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  4. You are so funny, Cinthia! And I think it’s safe to say that many of us worry we’ll never have another book in us. I worry that each time I’ve finished one, and probably always will. And I can totally relate to the procrastination thing. At least you admit to distracting yourself with something productive from time to time, like laundry or dishes. Unlike myself, who pokes around aimlessly on the Internet to avoid writing. Thanks for the honest and funny confession. 🙂

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