Last week, I cleared out the bottom drawer of my desk. It was jammed with file folders containing short story ideas from the days when I primarily wrote short fiction. I’d had trouble opening and closing the drawer for some time, so I just stopped looking at the files. I’d also read that one should keep everything, in case a gem of an idea would be needed some day. Maybe those writers hadn’t been at it long enough, but I have, and there clearly comes a time when one has to take stock and toss what is no longer useful. So, I went through each of the 20+ files and found only one idea worth keeping.
What astonished me about this exercise was the number of ideas I’d had, and the number of stories that were half finished. It’s a small miracle that I managed to not only complete but publish nearly sixty short stories, six novels and a novella. It was a long, hard haul to work on twelve drafts of that first book, Taxed to Death, and to learn to typeset it with Pagemaker, then do the same again with Fatal Encryption. But I did. Truthfully, I thought I’d mastered the art of finishing WIPS to the point of being publication ready, but I’m discovering, the hard way, that it’s still far easier said than done.
Over five years ago, I got the idea for my first urban fantasy, which will be quite different from anything I’ve ever written. Last year, I prepared a lot of notes and I felt ready to start writing, yet something kept stalling me. Based on a blog I read by James Clear, it turns out that this “something” is me.
Clear writes about the Akrasia Effect, which is why we don’t follow through on what we set out to do. (I recommend you read the whole piece) In other words, it’s procrastination combined with the fact that human beings value immediate rewards rather than future ones. In fact, our brains prefer it, so we’ll do more immediate things to reward ourselves.
It sounds right, but for me, I think something else at play here, like the fear of messing up. Of spending huge amounts of time and energy going down a rabbit hole and realizing a) there is no way out, or b) I went down the wrong hole! Either way, facing the fear is a challenge. It doesn’t help that I have three major WIPS, two of which have an April 30th deadlines, on the go.
Clear’s blog outlines three strategies to help with procrastination. I’m definitely setting a date, time, and place to finally begin writing this fantasy. I won’t tell you when that it, but I will tell you once I’ve started.