I love advice, don’t you?
Not the unsolicited kind, when people tell you the obvious, like how you should really stop drinking Diet Pepsi and clean up your office. I already know that stuff…I just choose to ignore it.
I’m talking about all the blogs and books that promise to solve your problems for you. I’m guessing I’m not the only writer who reads anything that vows to increase your productivity, get you out of a slump, or inspire, motivate, and encourage.
The problem is, I don’t think I’ve found one scrap of wisdom in anything I’ve read that has actually helped. I’ve had slumps, off days, and periods of inactivity in all aspects of my life that mean anything to me: writing, exercise, even gardening…by late summer or early fall, I’m just plain tired of weeding and my yard becomes an overgrown mess.
Yet, I’ve always broken out of those slumps and managed to get back to work again. I wish there was some great secret I could share with you. I’ve desperately tried to figure out what turns the red light green again, but the only thing I can pinpoint is: I just decided it was time.
A blogger I like recently wrote a series of posts about how to make your day more productive when working from home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been my own boss, and I’m struggling with that myself. So I eagerly read the entire series, hoping for some tips on battling procrastination. But I’m sorry, and with all due respect, keeping a fancy online calendar and lighting some incense will not do it for me. The calendar would just be another way to procrastinate.
A fellow author suggested that if you never feel the urge to write, you shouldn’t be doing it. This is exactly the kind of advice I can’t stand. If you’re a writer and you’ve ever taken a break from writing, you know how hard it is to get back to. You might never exactly “feel” like it when you can hang out with friends, surf the Net, read great books, enjoy the outdoors, be consumed with tasks that pay the bills, etc. When you’re a writer and you’re not writing, the most common feeling–as far as I can tell, from my own experience–is a nagging sensation of guilt, like you’re not living up to your full potential or making the most of your time. Sure, you get moments when you’re really inspired to write, but unless you act on those urges immediately, it’s easy to do a Garfield and lie down until the feeling goes away.
And creating something new and exciting is one thing…what about when you have another boring-ass rewrite to struggle through, which is what I’m facing right now?
I know all the tricks. I’m a journalist who never misses a deadline if I can help it, so yes, I can make my own deadlines. But then I made them–I know they’re fake.
There is no incense, no fancy calendar, no fake deadline that will make me get down to business. All I’ve ever found that works is to literally force myself until, eventually, it starts to get easier again and I start to enjoy what I’m doing. Some days, all you can do is not give up.
But I’m always open to advice. Got any for me?