01 September 2011

Preparation Procrastination

I've been doing a lot of background work for the coffee house. Outlines, character biographies, charts, and pages and pages of random background information. It's been necessary, but I've felt I have to do this background stuff before I can actually start writing, since everything is so interrelated in this collection of books.

But I know I have a tendency to use preparation and organization as a procrastination tool. I decide everything has to be organized and laid out before I can start writing, so I get caught up in all the background "stuff" instead of actually writing a story.

Have you ever done that? You spend hours making beautiful outlines (and tweaking them), you organize your pages so every page has the page number and your last name at the top, and after a day of "writing," you haven't actually written anything....

It's an understandable response for writers. Many of us (and I do say us because I include myself in this) believe we're not great writers. Maybe we're not any good at all. So the thought of actually writing the words for these stories we talk about is a little intimidating. So we use background work as an excuse to not write.

Let me tell you something. It's okay to actually write!

You don't have to focus on the background stuff. You don't have to be intimidated. If you write something and don't like it, no one else has to read it. You can stick it away between the pages of a journal or in some password-protected hidden file on your hard drive and chalk it up to a writing exercise. If you decide it's not done, then take time to finish it before others see it.

Because here's the thing: you're not going to improve as a writer unless you (hello!) write. I know. It's shocking, isn't it? But it's true.

Every time you write a story or scribble a character sketch or journal about that weird guy who looks like an android that's always at Walgreen's when you pick up diapers late at night (true story--character sketch coming soon), you learn and grow as a writer. You improve. You change.

And it's true that you may not ever be totally confident in your writing. That's okay. But the more you write, the more you'll be a writer, and the more you'll feel like a writer. And eventually, you'll get an idea, and you'll just....sit down and write it.

Outline if you must. Write character bios if you have to. But remember that outlines and character bios are not stories (unless you're experimenting with a new style, which could be cool.... hmmm......). So for all your outlining and background work, make sure you also take time to write.

Happy scribbling!

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