My Process and Progress (Not) - by Donna

The YA Muses strive to make our weekly blog topics as interesting and helpful as possible. See, the best part of the blog is you. Every comment and new follower inspires us. Recently, with that in mind, we opened up the switchboard to ask: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE US COVER ON THE BLOG? Thanks to all of you who responded with questions and topic ideas. This week, we're combining two readers' requests into the blog theme.
PB Rippey said...
I can say that I really learn from the posts concerned with writing the novel, critique and revision, reading about what it takes to pull a novel together, the blood, sweat and tears involved. Very helpful. I would love to read more of the same---process

Anonymous said...
I am curious to know how the Muses are doing with their books. I really like it when you talk about your own experiences

Currently, I'm finishing up a manuscript with the hope of sending it out the first week of April. I'm lucky to have a few requests from people wanting to read the finished product, which should be incredibly motivating (and it is), but is also a bit intimidating. When this manuscript goes out in a few weeks, I'm determined to make the best possible first impression... and that gets me to the process part...

There's a secret, hidden part of my own personal writing process that I don't like to admit or talk about. I'd much rather write about all my successful writing strategies and plot devices, but I've learned from many, many past experiences that it is an integral part of the process and I can't avoid it. I also can't seem to relax and trust the fact it IS part of the process.

Ok, so I here I go... *standing up*

"Hello, my name is Donna and I'm a procrastinator."
It's been four days since my last writing session (wait, I think I'm getting that confused with confession). Anyway, here's what it looks like and maybe someone out there can relate:

Today is Saturday and I have time to write. Ahhhh...sitting down in front of the computer. Open manuscript? Not yet. Open facebook. Read. Post. Open twitter. Read. Open online news. Check email. Check celebrity fashions. Nice shoes. Shop for shoes online. Now, I'm ready to open the manuscript and get down to business. Cat jumps on desk. I tell cat to get down. Cat doesn't (repeat several times). Pet cat. Notice cat hair on shirt. I should really wash that. Do a load of laundry. Ok, back in front of the computer. Open manuscript! Look at word count. I need more words. Plot out wordcount on calendar beside my desk. Look at screen. Time for lunch. Ok, back in front of the computer. Now, I'm really doing it. Write a sentence. Read the sentence. Change the sentence. This is going sooooooo sllllloooooowwwwly. You know what would help? Listening to music. Go on ITunes. Look for song that I can't remember the title for... email fellow muse for title. Get title. Download song. Listen. Perfect. It'd sound even better with some good speakers. Shop for speakers online. They'll come in the mail in a week or so. I should check the mail. Walk to mailbox. Sun feels really good...warm. Sit outside and promise God I'll go inside and write when the sun goes behind that cloud over there. Ok, I'm back.

So is all of this bad for the process or just part of it? Who knows? Maybe, I'm not procrastinating. Maybe, it's something different. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, calls it composting:
Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. But this does not come all at once. It takes time (p. 14).
Whether you consider it procrastinating or composting, this part of the process is uncomfortable for me. In Anne Lamott’s wonderful book, Bird by Bird, she talks about the writer's attitude toward procrastination.
The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you’ve been given—that you are not in a productive creative period—you free yourself to begin filling up again (p. 178).

The truth is, writing (like me) isn't perfect and maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be. I'll leave you with one last thought from Anne Lamott before I get back to working on my manuscript (I really mean it this time):
Now, a person's faults are largely what make him or her likeable. I like narrators to be like the people I chose for friends, which is to say they have a lot of the same flaws as I. Preoccupation with self is good, as is a tendency toward procrastination, self-delusion, darkness, jealousy, groveling, greediness, addictiveness. They shouldn't be too perfect; perfect means shallow and unreal and fatally uninteresting.(pg. 50)


Kathy Whitehead March 14, 2011 at 7:37 AM

Writing can be like packing for a trip. If you can pack the car then walk around the house for a few minutes, the one or two items you forgot will surface in your mind before your tires hit the road.

Great analogy, Kathy! Good to see you here! Say hello to everyone in Texas for me.

Thanks! I love it!

Thank you for this post! I appreciate your honesty--I feel better about my own procrastination. Each time I stop by YA Muses, I believe I am 'filling up' my creativity levels. Also when I pace randomly from room to room. Or stare at the potato vine tree thing in the yard and its many purple blossoms, or listen obsessively to Courtyard Hounds...I must take out my copy of "Bird By Bird" and reread. Thanks again.

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