I struggle to be self-motivated. Unless there’s an external force pushing me or an outside entity expecting an end result I flounder in the waters of procrastination. All humans experience this to some degree, but some have mastered their mind enough to be able to push through this resistance. For more information on the topic of resistance and how to overcome it, read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. The book is at the top of my reading list.
An example of procrastination in action is writing my first novel, or more appropriately putting off finishing my first novel. I am at the stage where I need to lift the manuscript to the standard required for publishing. Here’s a bit of background on the book:
The story is set in the fictional world of Kosetsu, a world inspired by Japanese culture and mythology, a place where my friends and I played through a Dungeons & Dragons adventure. The plot is based on the actions our characters took to guide the events of our adventure, and the repercussions that occurred because of the actions. While we were playing the campaign I wrote a recap of each session which turned into the draft of a chapter. After each session I uploaded the draft to Google Drive and fleshed it out as needed. Though no one was pushing me to get this done, the impending arrival of the next game session gave me a deadline to complete each write up by. These session recaps also reminded us where we got up to last time so we could fall into character quickly. I started to push these chapters together and when I did I realised my friends and I had created an a wonderful story.
Then, as is the case with all good adventures, our time in Kosetsu came to an end. No more deadlines of the next session for my mind to hurry up and finishing writing the previous chapter. I became lazy and let writing the book fall to the wayside for a year. I did write sporadically, but each time I found I had to get to know the characters again, remind myself where in the world they were, and what they were getting up to. It was more difficult than if I kept up with doing a little bit each day.
To help me get back into the habit of writing I left my job at the time. I started a routine of writing every day before I went to bed. My bedtime fluctuated so this schedule was haphazard, but it worked. By the end of October 2020 I had the first draft manuscript in my hot little hands! Well, I write in electronic form, so maybe ‘in the cloud’s hot little hands’ is more correct.
Exciting! However I am still working to appreciate the fact I’ve written an entire book. The locations need development, the characters are loose in places and sometimes there are be too many introduced all at once, and the plot often meanders off on its own; but all the details are there. They are there and ready for ruthless editing.
Now, if you’ve read my previous post, No need to rush, it may sound like I’m ignoring my own advice and trying to hurry to the finish line, in effect putting the cart before the horse. It may even sound like I’m complaining because I haven’t finished the book yet. You’re half right. I’m still trying to find a good balance of working hard as often as I can, while still taking time to rest effectively. In between the laziness and overwork resides consistency. Right now I feel ready to dive in and make this book the best it can be. I feel ready to make time every day to sit down, shut out distractions and work. I’ve booked two weeks off work to commit the time to do it, and a friend has offered their valuable time and expertise to push through my overly dense writing and carve out all the excess fluff.
As an added bonus I’ve found an external deadline. There is a new prize for unpublished manuscripts written by New Zealand authors. Applications close at the end of this month. It will be a lot of work to mould my book into a finished form by this date, but for the first time in a long time I can visualise myself succeeding at it. There is no need to rush. Instead I will work consistently and efficiently to edit the best I can before the due date. If I don’t get the book to the level it needs to be in time to enter for this prize, I will look for another similar prize and keep on editing.
I’ve set myself a tough deadline so this quote seems apt.
I’ve spent three years writing this story which contains beautiful moments, tragedy, humour, and feats of kindness. If I take a short cut this close to the end I’ll do a disservice to the work past me has put in, and I will be the thing that prevented the book being the best it can be. Future Hamish will thank me for making the right choice.
Are there projects you have chugging along in the background? How can you pull them further up your to do list and make finishing them reality?
You’ve got unique stories to tell and unique gifts to tell them with. So shine your light into the world and get sharing them.
Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.