Sunday, January 3, 2010

Back to the Basics

My husband made a keen observation during our last discussion about writing. “Haven’t you got a bit off track?” he asked me. I knew immediately what he meant. I had noticed it myself but was hoping I could “get away with it."
I set up Penned but not Published in order to be more serious about writing, in order to devote more time to writing. I wanted to post my progress weekly and thus be held accountable as a writer.
Wonderful things have come about since I started blogging:
1.I have found deep and lasting encouragement from other writers.
2. I have discovered words of great wisdom in many blogs I now follow.
And perhaps most important of all..
3. I have developed as a writer. I have gained confidence and insight. My writing voice has become clearer and stronger. I write far more since starting this blog than I ever did before.
However, amidst all of these positives there lies hidden a negative.
The problem is that I have also used blogging to procrastinate. I have spent untold hours reading other blogs and surfing around the worldwide web. Many weeks, I have posted about writing on my blog but have not really written all week. This feels hypocritical. Too much time passes without any progress on my screenplay, stories or poems.
There is no easy way to remedy this. I cannot pull time or motivation out of thin air. But as I contemplated the problem, I came up with a fairly straightforward solution. I would use the methods I teach my students. I would ask myself questions. The basics: Who, What, When, Where and Why:
Who would be interested in publishing my work?
What am I most eager to complete and have published?
When could I reasonable complete my WIP?
Where do I see myself a year from now?
Why do I want to be published? (because being published doesn’t make you a “real” writer.)
So, I have devoted some time to seriously considering these questions. I have set aside my next 3 or 4 posts to answering these questions.
I would love to hear your answers as well. They might be simple questions but the answers can be quite profound. Please share what you have gained from blogging, distractions you have had to overcome or any questions that have guided your work.


  1. My blogging experience mirrors yours - I've put off my own work despite promising myself that blogging wouldn't take over. It's too gratifying to resist easily, combined as it is with a wonderful sense of community and the varied and interesting posts.
    Your questions are very pertinent, but I had to laugh at the fourth one. Every year I imagine that 'this time next year I'll be finished my novel', but it hasn't happened yet. Like you, I have found my voice through blogging, and the encouragement I've had has helped to chip away at my mountain of self-doubt. But procrastination is the enemy, for sure. And blogging is like candy - it's easy, virtually effortless and I've found it all too easy to justify the time I spend doing it.
    I have thought of posting excerpts from my novel-in-progress, as I have seen several bloggers do, as a way of motivating myself to continue with it. What would you think of posting your work?
    I'll be very interested to see what other comments this post provokes. Wish I had some brilliant suggestions, but I can only say I think many of us are in the same boat.

  2. Thinking back to what kept me moving forward on the screenplay I wrote was the fact that it was a collaborative effort. We (two of us) had a set meeting weekly to share what we had accomplished and to set new goals for the next week. It is the only time I have actually finished a WIP. A real time writer's group/partner may be the key to keeping on task.

  3. My current problem is that I would have written . . . but life got in the way. I am making my peace with it for now. Sometimes, it matters most that we are living the kind of life that we can write from. That's where I am at the moment.

  4. Deborah- I find such solace in the knowledge that I am not the lone victim of blogging procrastination. I love your analogy of blogging to candy-it rings so true! I agree that posting my work would help and I would certainly love to read yours. I have two concerns about my own work:
    #1- that I would lose all my readers because my current WOP is all blather and
    #2 that someone would steal the ideas and write them better than me. That might sound paranoid or cynical but they are the voices that ring in my ears when I want to post my work.

    Please, everyone, let me know more about your thoughts on the topic. I am very curious.

    Brokenglobemessanger- A real time writer’s group would be ideal. The only problem is that it requires time, a resource which I never seem to have enough of:) Still, I think it is worth looking into. Thanks very much for the comment and I am enjoying following your blog.

    Cassandra- I am in full support of your statement about living the kind of life that we can write from. True wisdom.

  5. Kate, I hadn't realized until now that you had replied to these comments. Addressing your two concerns, I would say this: You have to drop the idea that your work is blather. This is every writer's most common issue - the hyper-critical internal critic - and the one we must learn to turn the volume down on. Believe me, you are absolutely not alone in thinking you write 'blather'.
    You are an excellent writer. Period. You know how to put words together in a way that makes sense and flows very well. This is already many jumps ahead of others who like to write but who are not well-versed in the craft of writing.

    As for your second point, I have wondered about theft of intellectual property too. But when you really think about it, is someone going to lurk in the background, copying and pasting your work only to have it accepted by Harper Collins as their own manuscript?? This is a highly unlikely scenario and one you can forestall even if it was likely. Check into copyright protection of your work. I know it's not ironclad, but it would be dissuasive in the extremely unlikely event that someone tried to steal your entire body of work.

    You're holding yourself back. I'll comment further on your latest post.

  6. Deborah- You are quite right. I am holding myself back. Thank you for pointing that out and for revealing how ridiculous the fears of being plagiarized are. It really is an unlikely scenario, well worth the “risk!" Thank you for the insight.