The solitary and isolated process of writing can be a place filled with pitfalls. Some days it's my dearest friend, and on other days my worst enemy. Sometimes I am laser focused, while at other times I get so distracted not even a hit of Adderall would help. There are a chorus of voices in my head vying for my attention during any given writing session. The trick for me is trying to find a way to use those voices to my advantage. Because, as you know, they will not be ignored.
First there are the Characters. Ones that exist in a manuscript, and ones that haven't been written yet. They have names like; Asher and Haley, Nikolai and Tristan, Jaeger and Ariana...to name a few. Now, I may not always be able to tame them, but they entertain me to no end with their endless demands and shenanigans. There is nothing better than when my characters come out to play. I live for them. I need them.
Then, there are the Distractions. And I'm not talking about the latest boy band burning up the pop charts either. I mean the voices that have me obsessively checking my email a thousand times a day to see if one of my beta readers has responded to the last chapter I sent. Or checking Google Analytics to see how much traffic I've had on my website, or managing my social media pages, or stalking published authors who are getting shit done. Or designing book cover's for books I haven't written yet! Yeah....the Distractions. They can be very seductive.
Finally we come to the worst voice. The most insidious one. The one that must remain locked in it's horcrux until I can figure out how to destroy it. That voice is called Doubt. Doubt sometimes goes on tour with the Distractions. Doubt says things like, "Your beta readers have had the chapter for a week and haven't responded because the chapter was crap. Which means YOU SUCK!!!" Doubt says things like, "Stop telling people you're a writer." And of course Doubt is famous for saying things like, "Give up, it's just too hard. You'll never finish."
But what is really at the heart of Doubts vicious little messages? Because let’s be honest, all those other nasty little messages are just code for one big one. And I know what is. It’s saying, “Nia, you aren’t good enough.” Vicious. Undermining. Crap.
So how do I deal with punk ass Doubt and it's homies The Distractions?
1. I establish a routine. I accept that I must have a routine and structure. Because every time I stray from my routine, Doubt and company sets up shop in my head again. My routine helps minimize the space for those voices to plant their poisonous seeds.
2. I recognize that Doubt and it’s Siamese twin Fear, tell lies. Yes. They lie really, really, good. They convince people to give up their dreams. So, when Doubt tries to pop up and start weaving it’s web, I tell it to SHUT THE HELL UP. Literally. Sometimes I even say it out loud. Doubt is the enemy of success and must not be allowed to take root. It can cause permanent damage if one isn't careful.
3. And for my unruly characters, well that’s easy. I let them play and try to gently guide them where I need them to go. And since I'm a "panster", well let's just say it can be difficult trying to wrangle cats sometimes. Maybe I need to finish that outline...
4. The Distractions formally known as the artist Procrastination also have their place. I make it part of the schedule. Social media time is on a schedule, trolling my favorite authors, blogs, etc...part of the schedule. Wasting time trying to become a graphic artist so I don’t have to pay someone for cover designs and other media, yeah….sadly, also part of the schedule.
The bottom line is this. Having a routine and real self awareness as I move through my process is key. Distractions, doubts, fears, and naughty characters all have their place. And since I’m all about full disclosure,...yes, I will set up a time to see how many people read this post, engage when I post it on Twitter and Facebook. And anxiously check my emails as I wait for my beta readers to throw me a bone…But only when it's on the schedule.
Am I alone? Do you hear voices? Should I be seeking treatment? I'd love to hear from you.