Friday, June 22, 2007

300 words

Procrastination is the bane of all would-be writers. My procrastination takes many forms. One of my favourite ways of avoiding work of any kind is by sitting in front of my computer screen and deciding that I simply must check on a favourite message board for new posts. This is followed by checking for new email; and by-golly, the Inbox is getting mighty full and needs some deleting; and surely someone has posted something new on Forum xyz.

Eventually, I open up a game of Spider Solitaire. Spider Solitaire must be the spawn of some evil-minded hater of writers and workers everywhere. Anyone who works in front of a computer screen and has Spider Solitaire installed on their desktop is a victim waiting to happen.

It's just too easy to open up -- for just one or two quick games. Two hours later, bleary-eyed and half-asleep, you vow to yourself, just one more game. Come to think of it, I think I'm addicted. Having an addictive personality certainly doesn't help, but having an addictive, procrastinating personality is even worse.

I'm procrastinating as I type this. Although having just finished re-reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, I'm not really procrastinating, I'm just doing my 300 words a day. Never mind that it may end up nothing but tripe. She says it's perfectly okay, so long as I write something. So why not procrastinate by writing about procrastination, which really isn't procrastinating because I'm actually doing something. How about that for circular logic? The other thing I can get away with is that this is what Lamott calls a "shitty first draft" and can include almost anything as long as it's coming out and onto the page. Kind of like stream of consciousness, but maybe more like diarrhoea of the typing fingers.

One of these days what I write or let flow, if you will, is actually going to make sense and have some coherence. She (Lamott) claims that writers don't really know how they do it so much as they produce something by just doing it. I think it's true. Sometimes, as now, I just type whatever comes into my head and let the thoughts flow and the words somehow come too.

Now, it may be that after I'm done today's writing, and I re-read this, I'm going to think I need a brain transplant. On the other hand, (where is the first hand – but I digress) I think it's the feeling that thoughts do lead to words that can be set down on paper. It doesn't have to make sense right away, but when you write, at least it allows your mind to free-flow somewhere it wouldn't have gone had you been more intentional.

I used to have a little game I played when I was younger. I'd think of something interesting or for me, what I thought was profound, then wonder how I got there. Silly, but I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but one'll come to me. Anyways, I'd start tracing backwards, each thought, emotion or idea that led to where I was at the present. I was usually shocked at how my mind traveled in such circuitous routes to end up wherever it was I ended up. I think writing is kind of like that. You have to let your mind just carry you along and let your fingers follow on the keyboard. It might be tripe, but occasionally you come up with something worthwhile. And the journey to get there is sometimes just as interesting as the end result.

So here I've done more than my 300 words of a shitty first draft. Who knows if something else will come out of this. Thank you, Anne Lamott for inspiring me to at least put words on paper.


Cate said...

Oh, Ell, I loved your 300 words!

As a fellow addictive/procrastinating personality, I kept nodding vigorously to myself. My in-box is too often in need of organizing and decluttering :)

"Bird by Bird" is such a good book--you've inspired me to pull it out and reread it this weekend. I've been working my way through "The Midnight Disease" by Alice Flaherty; it doesn't say much for my current state of mind when I'd rather read about blocked writers than write!

P.S. I'll have to look into that Spider Solitaire game.
P.P.S. Your comment on my recent family post meant so much to me. I took great comfort from your experiences with your two lovely boys! Thank you. xo

Joy said...

You described me right down to Spider Solitaire. I've also discovered Super Text Twist which you'd also like. Oh yes, I can procrastinate with the best of them! (I'm doing it now instead of packing for a trip.)