Procrastination

You know what procrastination is. The “I’ll get around to it” feeling. Everyone slides into it on occasion. Writers seem to be especially prone. Let’s face it, writing is hard. You have to come up with something new and original, and present it in such a way that other people read it, and with no cues such as body language or intonation and know exactly what you mean.

Writing is scary. You can (and will) be misunderstood, misquoted, and underpaid. You will be criticized, sometimes by people who can’t do half as good a job as you can. You will have times when you seem to have so many ideas that they will fly out your ears or burst through your skull if you don’t hurry up and write them down, then stare at a blank page with an equally blank brain.

Writing is imperfect. You are an imperfect person. You are not capable of perfection. You will mistype, misuse words, mean one thing but accidentally imply another, and then not notice until it’s too late.

What does any of this have to do with procrastination? Everything!

Procrastination is putting off something that’s hard in favor of something easier, or less challenging. Procrastination is putting off something scary and challenging in favor of the comfortable and predictable. Procrastination says if I can’t do something perfect, why should I bother doing it at all?

So how do you combat procrastination? Mostly, it’s a mental thing. Realizing the reasons you procrastinate can be a big help. Instead of saying ‘It’s too hard’, try embracing the challenge. Writing is scary? Tell yourself that no one has to read it but you. Embrace your imperfection. Realizing you don’t have to be (in fact can’t) be perfect, can be very freeing.

Making a deadline helps. Real or artificial, just telling yourself something must be done by a certain time can help you focus. Though, it helps to add a few teeth to the artificial deadlines, or you end up not caring too much if you slip up. I participate in National Novel Writing Month. I’ve tried writing a novel in a month six times. I succeed three, semi-succeeded once, failed once, and am in the process of working on one now (I’m cheating. A lot.)

Having someone to talk to, compare notes, nag you, and hold it over your head if you don’t write also helps. Just choose carefully. This should be annoying enough that you write so you don’t have to hear it, but not so annoying that you ruin a friendship or estrange a family member.

I’ve heard stories of people putting aside large portions of money and giving it to a friend to mail to some organization the writer despises if they don’t finish a certain goal by a certain date. I’ve never tried this because I am usually perpetually broke, but I’ll bet it works.

Maybe you can make a friendship with another writer and the two of you can encourage each other and spur each other on to your goals. Maybe you can ask your family for help.

Do the above answers always help? Heavens, no! I’ve not heard any method that is sure-fire one hundred percent accurate. If you know one, let me know. But it can help. A lot.

P. S. The reason I didn’t post last week was simply to demonstrate procrastination. That’s all. Has nothing to do with writer’s block and/or procrastination on my part.

Inspiration in research

First of all, I would like to apologize for being so late to post this. I might have been able to post last week, but the internet service was not the most reliable, and I was busy visiting with family I hadn’t seen in years. I don’t have nearly as good an excuse for not posting yesterday, but I was a little under the weather. Hope everyone else had a good Easter.

I’m taking at least a small break on the World building articles, though I’m sure I’ll be back to them later. Today, I wanted to talk about research and how finding out new information can inspire your creativity to think in other directions.

You probably don’t need me to tell you to do research. After all, everyone says that. But what should you be researching? If I want to put vampires in my stories, where do I start? I could start with famous vampire stories, say Bram Stoker’s Dracula¬†or more modern stories like Twilight. I could do that. But that’s not a good place to start. For one, while Dracula is in the public domain, Twilight is not. Also, while Twilight has a huge fan base, it is very controversial on certain points (particularly the ‘sparkling vampire) and has a huge hate base too. I am not getting involved in that, so we’ll stick to the neutral facts. It has sold a lot of copies, and if your story is too close to Stephanie Meyer’s, she can sue you. I’m not saying you can’t read them, but you may find it more worthwhile to read up on the original vampire legends.

It’s common knowledge that in some vampire legends, the vampire can be repelled by garlic. That was an old home remedy. But so were branches of wild rose or hawthorn. Also common was spilling containers of rice, or a small seed like millet or poppy with the belief that a vampire that came across them would be compelled to not move on until it had counted each grain. I don’t recall ever coming across obsessive compulsive vampires in fiction before, unless you want to include the Count from Sesame Street.

There are also claims that when a werewolf died, he became a vampire. One could become a werewolf by a frightening number of ways. Drinking rain water that rested in a wolf’s paw print; wearing the skin of a wolf (though it was usually at least a little more complicated than that), using a magic salve, or even sleeping outside at the wrong time. Most of the original legends did not include contagion through bite or scratch.

So, I can almost hear some of you thinking. “What does it matter what the original legends were? My readers are more familiar with the modern tales.” And you are probably right. However, if you can’t come up with something fresh and original, then you probably won’t have much in the way of readers. I am certainly not saying to take one of the more obscure legends and claim it’s your own, but there’s no reason you can’t use them, or come up with something inspired by them. For example, why not have a vampire obsessed with counting things, and struggling to hide his vampire-ness when he has to avoid his love’s rose garden? You start with legend (counting, repelled by wild rose) and adapt it (unable to get past a rose garden).

Okay, you science fiction types have been waiting patiently. How do you find inspiration in research. Probably not by going back to old legends. Well, probably not. You may enjoy reading them anyway. But you can find all sorts of inspiration when you do research. Technology is moving faster and faster all the time. Odds are, that is what inspires you. Three dimensional printing, which never fails to remind me of Star Trek’s replicators, will likely change the world within a few decades. I’m sure you have your favorite technologies and ideas for them.

Inspiration comes from everywhere. Just keep your mind open.

 

On another note, Indian SF has accepted one of my stories, Bethany’s Bliss, for their April/May issue. I am told the new issue will be posted on May 1st. Hope you all check them out.