The end of the year is drawing nigh, but there is still time to redeem yourself and finish that writing project you started at the beginning of the year (or even several years ago!). It all seems so easy when we set our New Year’s resolutions in January to be positive and hopeful. We set our goals, make a planner and off we go. We make a great start but somewhere along the line it all goes astray. Other commitments — work, family responsibilities, illness, travel, personal crisis all have an impact, and soon we are pushing the writing project to the side. After a while even when we do have more time we begin to invent excuses why we can’t get back to it and soon it is shoved to dark corners at the back of the drawer where it lies forgotten, except for a niggly feeling of guilt and failure that you can’t quite put your finger on but which colours all the other things you do in its place.
So what stops us from finishing what we start? Is it simply fear of failure, fear of exposure or lack of belief in your capability to carry it off? Joseph Ferrari, a procrastination expert, has some ideas here. But it was his final piece of advice that I recently found most useful: “Just do something now. Start something and get going.”
I’ve been dragging the chain on finishing my long running project, a travel memoir set in Vietnam and Cambodia following the footsteps of the French writer Marguerite Duras, called My Mother, Duras. I am nearly finished, I just have to go through and add in all the extra bits left as: FIX THIS, CHANGE, CHECK, MORE DETAIL NEEDED HERE! But the fact that I have let it drag on and on just added to the pile of judgement I was heaping on myself for not getting back to it. Sure, all the nonspecific fears were there as well, but the act of ‘not doing’ was compounding everything. Plus there was another project I wanted to start which I told myself I couldn’t until I finished this one. Total roadblock! It felt like I would never write again.
My way out was to break my own rules and follow Ferrari’s suggestion: just do something now. I started my new project, a series of flash fiction episodes on the blogging platform Medium, based around the life of an older woman character called Louisa Greene. I don’t know where it will go, whether eventually I will publish it or not. I didn’t want that kind of pressure. All I wanted was to get writing again, something easy, something do-able. I have loved the flash fiction form long before it was ever called that, since I read a book in the 70s called Scars Make Your Body More Interesting (1975) by Sherril Jaffe, published by the wonderful Black Sparrow Press.
The queen of flash fiction I discovered recently is Lydia Davis, whose book The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, I came across while browsing at my favorite cafe bookshop Parliament on King. And Annie Proulx, another Man Booker Prize winner, loves to write FF too.
A week after my first FF post see here, I opened up my memoir draft again and started going through it. Day one, I was so bored by it that I closed it again. Day two, I opened up and got stuck in. It didn’t seem so hard after all and I think it’s funny that the fact that I was writing helped me get writing again.
I’ve set a deadline to be finished my memoir draft by Christmas (I’ll let you know how it goes), meanwhile I have committed to weekly posts (of around 500 words) of my flash fiction blog.
The moral of the story— a little writing on the side never hurt anyone. Good luck with your forgotten or neglected project!
As Gail Sher says in her Four Noble Truths Of Writing:
4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.
Our next Draft Swap will take place on Sunday Feb 25
We have two Draft Buster meetings before then — Dec 10, Jan 21 to help you get your draft in shape.
If you want to bust your draft in the next three months let’s do it!
Heading out in 2018
Moroccan Caravan March 4-17, Marrakech, Tissardmine, Erg Chebbi camel trek, Fez. Booking now!
Haiku Walking in Japan March 27 -April 3, Following Basho and Hiroshige along the Nakasendo Way. FULLY BOOKED!