If you’ve read the writing entries on this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a terrible procrastinator. I can come up with a zillion reasons a day why I can’t write whatever I happen to be writing at the moment and precious few in favor of getting any work done. It’s a terrible skill and one that any writer worth his or her salt should jettison out the nearest airlock. That’s why I’m knuckling down. Today. Right now.
I have been sitting on an uncompleted manuscript for well over a month and it’s not going to finish itself. Today I am going to read everything I’ve written so far (to familiarize myself with my own writing again), and then I’m going to write 4,000 new words. I am going to do this and I’m going to hate it, but it’s for my own good.
While I don’t always agree with author Chuck Wendig about things concerning writing, there’s one piece of advice that he has for writers that is absolutely, 100%, no kidding true. You can click through to find it — it’s #8 on his list of suggestions for “aspiring writers” — but I will repeat it here in less florid language: finish what you start.
I do not care if you, as a writer, do anything else correctly so long as you follow the maxim “finish what you start.” Everything else about writing can be learned through practice, like speed and strong prose/dialogue, assuming you have even a modicum of talent, but talent means absolutely nothing if you aren’t completing work.
“But wait,” you say, “I just want to go over this passage for the eleventy-first time to make sure it’s absolutely perfect before I continue working.” To you I say: stop noodling around and get your work done. You can craft the perfect first five pages of a novel, but if the novel never gets a middle and, most importantly, an end then it’s worthless. Your efforts are worthless. The time for revision is when you are done and not a moment before.
I don’t suffer from Perfect Pages Syndrome, where everything has to be just so before I can continue. I suffer from Lazy Writer Syndrome, which allows me ample room to blame everything from errands I have to run that day or the temperature of my writing space for why I didn’t write my 4,000 words. Right now I have friends who are producing circles around me. That has to stop.
Even if what I write has to go into a long queue before it can be released into the wild for examination by potential buyers, I have to write. Even if I’m sick of Mexico and pretty much anything to do with the drug war, I have to write. Even if I’d rather spend my day surfing the internet endlessly, I have to write. A writer who doesn’t write is not a writer.
I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to write all day if I want to. Why am I not doing that? Because thinking about writing is way, way easier than actually writing. If you find yourself caught up in the brilliance of your own ideas, but aren’t putting complete works to paper, stop what you’re doing and start hitting the keyboard. It’s the only way you’re ever going to make it.