It’s not often the doctor thanks you for bringing something unusual into his room, but that was my experience this week. But I’m jumping ahead, this story starts nearly six weeks ago, in Adelaide, at Christmas…
After our 8 hour drive, I arrived at my Mum and Dad’s house and instantly got struck down with a headache so severe I had to vomit or sleep. I chose the latter. On waking I discovered I had brought along an unexpected companion (who would be with me for the entire duration of my holiday) in the form of a cold. I also discovered, to some disgust, that I had incubated a ringworm on my left buttock cheek during the journey over. What a way to start my holiday.
Now, if ringworm had been named ‘Angel kisses’ maybe I would have been more inclined to seek out some assistance. But I kept my dark secret to myself until it turned into something more akin to ring-snake. I gave up on the home cures and started using some actual medicated cream (albeit a few months out of date). Then things got… strange.
I woke up, some four weeks after the appearance of my ‘ringworm’ to discover I had spawned another seven ringworms over my chest and back. The next day it was ten, the day after that about 15. I stopped using the out of date cream and purchased a fresh tube which I diligently applied morning and night (as directed). The next day there were over 20. I stopped counting
I had images of becoming one big scaly patch and was preparing to bathe in tea tree oil to try and zap the ones I hadn’t yet spotted (of which I am sure there were many), when my partner insisted I go to the doctor. Perhaps this was something I should have done four weeks ago?
I don’t actually have ringworm. I have Pityriasis Rosea, an (apparently) rare virus which affects the skin. They don’t know how people get it, there is no treatment for it and all I can do is wait for it to go away. Just for the record, as soon as I found out my anti-fungal cream was doing nothing I started using Lucas Papaw cream and half the lesions cleared up overnight.
So how does all this relate to writing? Of course it doesn’t, but it was very interesting. Also you can bet at some stage one of my characters is going to also come down with Pityriasis Rosea, but I won’t be so mean as to give it to them over their holidays.
Better go, WriMoFoFo started yesterday and I haven’t written a thing!
Well, I opened my computer as promised, but the words did not flow. I need to turn off my internet connection, deactivate Freecell and stop going to the library! I wrote two novel synopses and then I read a book that explained how to write a synopsis. So this week I will be re-writing two novel synopses, well re-writing might be a bit kind, let’s be honest, I’ll be starting from scratch. At least I was reading about writing, so that’s nearly like doing it… Right?
I do have hope on the horizon in the form of WriMoFoFo (Write More For Four). My writers group, SuperNova, begins WriMoFoFo in a week. It is our answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) held in November. November never really works for any of us, and we don’t want to limit ourselves to just one novel, so Elizabeth (in our group) hatched a plan for a really lax version which she dubbed WriMoFoFo. It lets us either write new words or edit old ones, and we each get to set our own target. The big thing that it does offer is accountability. Each week Liz posts our word count on a ‘leader board’ under our pseudonyms (accountability can go just so far after all).
Last year it worked a treat for me. I was working on my 2012 novel and it was flowing well, I managed nearly 25,000 words in the four weeks. This year I’ll be editing said novel, and trying to somehow make it less dependent on 2012 – given the nature of the business and how long it could take to get anyone to look at it, let alone print it. But I’m hopeful of another 25,000 word month.
So, I’ll waste the rest of this evening’s writing time on working out how to give the appearance of having Freecell deleted from my computer, without actually deleting it. I wouldn’t want to do anything to rash after all.
I might just play a few goodbye Freecell games first…
Procrastination takes many forms for a writer; cleaning, planning, graphing, colour-coding POV scenes (yes, I’ve really done that), net-surfing, even staring into space. I guess in some way all these things end up contributing to the final production, but do we let them get in the way?
I learned (long enough ago that I shouldn’t disregard it as often as I do) that writing does not require inspiration. Writing just needs time. If you have time you can write. If you eat up that time with forty games of Freecell, then you don’t write. The formula is pretty simple really.
So why do I have graphs NASA would be proud of instead of a finished chapter this week? Because I let myself procrastinate. It’s like chocolate in a diet, you may want it, crave it, but you know that you have to say no. Staring at a blank screen may be the equivalent of celery and split-pea soup, but if you stare at it long enough the words will come. The diet will pay off and you will have another chapter in your computer.
This week I’m going to reacquaint myself with my willpower. This week I’m going to make myself sit down at my computer, with the internet turned off, Freecell disabled and my ever-supportive partner ready to make a cup of tea the moment I get tempted to get up and do it myself and I’m going to write. Every single night!
Let’s see how I go.
Natalie J E Potts is a Speculative Fiction writer who dabbles in everything from chick lit to horror. She has several short stories published but is currently focussed on her novels. This is her journey…
Every writer, even the newest to the game, knows that rejection is part of the job. But knowing doesn’t make it is easier to take. You remind yourself that it is the story, and not you, that is getting rejected. But when you birthed that story, crafted it, re-wrote, re-modelled and loved it, then you can certainly find no reason to break out the un-used poppers from New Year’s Eve when you get that ‘sorry but’ email. It always cuts.
The pain, the dejection and the ‘I’m not going to do this to myself anymore’ I’ve managed to get down to about 12 minutes. It used to be as many days, but I’ve been working on it –something for which my partner is eternally grateful. At least I know I am not alone in this.
One of my favourite spec fic writers, Robert J Sawyer, talks about one of his short stories and the tale of its rejection. Lauded as being a standout story, nominated for and coming runner up for the coveted Aurora Award “Lost in the Mail” got rejected 17 times before it was accepted. 17! On my little spreadsheet (and all writers know about these spreadsheets; adding graphs and macros can eat up hours of procrastination time), when my stories hit 10 subs, I usually figure they are dead. I don’t actively kill them off, but they fall off the other spreadsheet which tracks those stories I’m actively re-working and following up.
And there is the lesson.
If you set your cut off at 10, you might miss the success at 17. If you set it at 20 you might miss the success of 42. The thing is, maybe the story does need more work, maybe a little tightening here, a bit more explanation there, and there is nothing wrong with considering and acting on that. But maybe, just maybe you simply haven’t yet found the editor who gets it, but it doesn’t mean you won’t.
So, I’ve just reviewed my short story, I’m still happy with it, so I’ve packaged it up and sent it off into the world again. It might come back, in which case I will pack another lunch for it and send it out again. Or maybe this will be the time it will find a new home. It was only attempt 3 after all, so I shouldn’t put too many expectations on it.
Cross your fingers!