I wonder if anyone has taken procrastination to the art I have.
And I don’t understand it. Because writing is something I love to do.
Sometimes it takes me all day long to drive myself into the mode and mood, though I’m always eager to get started on it. I pace around my house saying things like, “I’ve got to get going on my book” or “I’m running out of time”, even as I continue thumbing through a magazine or watching something on TV or baking a loaf of banana bread. If I have time, I even take a nap.
I often try to figure out why I’m like this. Why I don’t spring out of bed and get things done. The fact that I sometimes do spring out of bed and get things done makes figuring it out even harder.
My conclusion is this. For me, writing is a daunting task. The right words to tell a story don’t always immediately manifest themselves to be blithely plucked from the ether. I have sometimes spent an entire afternoon looking for just the right word or phrase to reveal what I want revealed.
Even when you know in your head what you want to say, that perfect three-letter word that will clarify WHY John Doe pushed his grandma in her wheelchair down the basement stairs, then walked outside and set the house on fire, stole her truck, drove to town and robbed the only bank. You just know the one three-letter word that explain all of that is out there if you can just put your finger on it.
And that brings me to the three-letter word “WHY.” An evil monster if there ever was one. He torments relentlessly, evades capture, darts in and out of thought, consumes mental energy. Wrestling the bastard is like trying to cure a toothache.
So why do it? Why torture myself even chasing this “WHY?”
Because without the “WHY” there is no story, especially in character-driven stories. Without the why, what you have is a report, not a plot, not a story. And that’s what causes the procrastination. You don’t quite have the “WHY” settled in your mind and thus, haven’t figured out how to put it on paper in a succinct way so that perfect strangers reading your words will know what you’ve said and that you meant to say it.
Even after you find that word and settle on why John Doe embarked on a life of crime, you have to decide HOW (another three-letter word) to tell the “WHY” so that readers will either sympathize or empathize with John. After all, just like in real life, no story character can be all bad. Should it be done in narrative? In dialogue? Or action?
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
The “WHY” is giving me fits right now and keeping me from moving forward. I’m starting to think I’m on the wrong track. Maybe I need to find a new “WHY.” Thus, I procrastinate.
So what’s the answer? I can tell you from experience that spending three months without writing a word while searching for the “WHY” in your mind is not the answer. What I’m going to try next is to just whip myself to put my butt in that chair in front of the computer and put words on paper…or on the monitor screen. And maybe stream of consciousness writing will bring me the elusive”WHY”