Nothing to Wear to the Grammys

I had lunch with a friend today and we got to talking about how creative types (and probably other types as well) tend to overthink things.

I told her about a personal project I’m working on that took me a year to get started on because I wanted it to be perfect. Eventually I realized that you have to start somewhere—perfection doesn’t just manifest fully formed. If you never start, you’ll never even come close to perfection.

She told me a story her mentor, a songwriter, once told her. This woman sat down one day to write a song.

But before she even played a chord, she started to think, “Wow, this a great start. These lyrics could be really good. What if it turns out to be a great song? And what if it becomes hugely successful? What happens when my album becomes a bestseller? And I get tons of money? And when I get nominated for an award? I don’t even have anything to wear to the Grammys!”

And she got so intimidated by her own thoughts, she couldn’t even start writing the song.

It’s fun to imagine future success, and perhaps terrifying to imagine the responsibilities that come with the success, but most of us probably shoot the opposite direction with our flights of fancy. We think, “Wow, this sentence is bad. What if the whole chapter is bad? And then what if I finish the book, and none of my beta readers like it? What if I send it to agents and they send me back letters that just say, ‘HAHAHA NO.’? And what if I send it to editors and they tell me I suck? What if I actually can’t write and I have to get a job at WalMart because I have no marketable skills? And what if I’m so pathetic that I’m going to die alone after one of my midnight shifts at Walmart and no one notices until I never show up for my next shift?!”

You get the idea.

Trouble is, it doesn’t matter if you have nothing to wear to the Grammys if you never even write a song.

We need to stop getting in our own way. Every great book, every great song, every great work has to start somewhere. So put the pen to the paper and quit worrying about what you’ll wear.

Death by Planning

I’m writing this blog post as a method of procrastination.

I’m still halfheartedly working on my short story about two old ladies running for mayor and using magic to win. When I started, I was excited. In the week I was wrapping up the first draft of Shaken, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story.

But somehow in the middle of figuring out where the second act ends and the third act begins plotting a low point and a climax, I got tired. I killed the fun.

Today has gone something like this:

Kristin: “GAAAHHHH why can’t I make this story work?!” Glances at wordcount and sees she’s written 560 words total, and less than 150 today. “Hmm.” Goes to do laundry. Looks at story again. “Ugh, this sucks! I should just start over!” Goes to make iced tea. Looks at screen. “Yup, still sucks.” Keeps slogging on, at a pace of about one word per minute.

And now I’m writing a blog post.

The remedy? I have several things to try. The first is refilling the well. I’m going to the gym, where I’ll run like a rat on the treadmill and listen to Gaelic Storm until something shakes loose. I may read The Dragon Reborn on my Kindle, too, depending on my mood by the time I get there.

The second thing is give myself a break. I haven’t seriously written fiction in a few weeks, and I have a warm-up period. That’s okay. It’s just the way I work.

Finally, I’m going to write until the story gets fun again. Even if I have to write around and around the plot before I find what made that plot fun again.

Now, to report back to Scrivener with gritted teeth, unless you lovely readers have a suggestion for me. How do I recover from death by over-planning?

On Procrastination

Today’s blog post is brought to you by things Kristin does instead of writing. My top ten distractions are as follows, in no particular order:

1. Kitties! …Don’t judge me! See for yourself: they’re pretty darn cute.

2. Beverages. I simply cannot write without a cup of water. Or a cup of tea. Or a glass of port. There’s always something.

3. The Internet. Forums, Google Reader, Facebook, Amazon holiday deals… anything, really.

4. Other authors’ blogs. I blame you, Patrick Rothfuss!

5. My own blog… I’m writing about my writing, so it’s okay, right?

6. iTunes. If I could only find the perfect song for this scene, maybe the scene will just magically play out in my head like my own personal movie!

7.  My fiancé. He works from home, too, so I can talk to him any time about how cute the kitties are and share with him the things I find on the internet. Like pictures of cute kitties.

8. Chores. Mind you, I have to be pretty frustrated with my writing before I’ll procrastinate by doing housework.

9. Catherine the Great. Connor Grey. Or the lead of whatever book I’m currently reading.

10. Word count. I set myself a goal every day, and if the writing is going poorly, sometimes seeing that I have more than half of my goal to go after two hours have already passed is enough to just ruin the rest of my writing afternoon… Hence this blog post.

What distracts you?