In Which Retreats Ruin Everyday Life for Me

photo (8)I’m still recovering from last weekend’s writing retreat.  I sit on my couch, watching the Olympics live (a sabbatical perk) and I am morose that no one is preparing homemade meals for me or that I can’t just pop downstairs to swim in a gigantic pool.

The other issue I’m having is that I’m running away.  I wrote a pretty decent first chapter on retreat.  I have a handle on my main character’s voice, the pacing and the key conflicts (which I set up quite nicely, thank you very much).  For the past few days, however, I’ve been paralyzed whenever I sit down to write.  I stare at the words, “Chapter Two,” and I race to check Twitter and Facebook.  Yesterday I physically ran away, going in search of a cemetery and almost getting stuck in a snowbank.  (Fortunately, both my car and I are too stubborn to get stuck.)

I resonated with Megan McArdle’s piece in the Atlantic: Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators.  She has all kinds of interesting thoughts on studies about how failure shapes – or breaks – people.  What struck me on this read, however, was the observation that writers, who often excelled in English class and were told repeatedly what great writers they were, internalize the idea that writing is a natural talent.  You either have it or you don’t.  Either words flow seamlessly onto the page or you’re a bad writer.  Writers tend to procrastinate because they – we – fear writing bad stuff.

My problem is chapter one.  It’s good, certainly enough for a second draft.  I’m terrified of breaking it by writing a terrible second chapter.  I’m bothered by the deadline I created for myself – I’d better write as fast as possible, no matter how bad it is, so I can meet my (completely arbitrary) deadline.  Although it’s not entirely arbitrary – I want to get a second draft out to beta readers before I head back to work in the fall.  No wonder I’m terrified of both writing and not writing.

So once again, my issue comes down to patience.  Being patient with crafting a second draft after flying through a first last fall, as well as being patient with the slop I’m chucking onto the page right now.  Maybe I’ll keep my eye on the third draft.  Think of how much fun it will be to procrastinate once I’m into the next draft!

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