My current excuse for not writing is spring cleaning. True–it was 28 degrees in Reno this morning and snow flurries are dusting the tomato plants that my husband has covered with plastic and green sheets. It hardly feels like spring.
Clearing out “stuff” is a symbolic ritual–a sort of beginning anew to which the season invites us. We’re invited to prune from our lives those things which impede our growth in all dimensions: mental, spiritual, physical and emotional. The unparalleled sense of freedom that comes with detachment opens the way to new growth.
Once I’ve un-cluttered my life in this way, I will turn to un-cluttering my writing–revising my second novel. If I remember correctly, in his book, “On Writing,” Stephen King recommends cutting your manuscript by 10% (it’s been a while since I read it) and I recently read an article with an even more stringent criterion of 30%. The bottom line: cut out extraneous words and scenes that don’t move the plot forward.
This is a theme I have to come back to from time-to-time: the things that keep me from writing. In almost every area of my life I am not a procratinator. When I see something that needs to be done, I am driven until I’ve completed it. I revel in the sense of accomplishment that comes with checking a task off of my to-do list, whether figuratively or in actuality. But when it comes to writing, I sometimes put it off.
Today is May 18th. My intent had been to begin the rewrite of my novel (The Sin of His Father) on the 15th. I haven’t even taken the hard copy out of the file I lugged home from Palm Desert.
Another goal was to compile a book of poetry to submit or self-publish. That hasn’t happened either and, if I remember correctly, my target date was for the end of 2008. The redeeming factor in this one is that I have more poems to choose from and better quality writing.
Why is it easier to meet concrete goals such as cleaning out the closet or weeding the garden when the more satisfying, creative accomplishments often elude me? Are there legitimate reasons to put off writing?
Maybe if we take a look at the reasons we procrastinate and the devices we employ to legitimize not-writing, we’ll get a clue as to what needs to be done to move forward…or to be a bit more lenient with ourselves.
Do you have any insights you would like to share? Any advice?