Give me Liberty!

Photo by Fabian Fauth on Unsplash

I recently attended a writing workshop sponsored in New York City – my annual effort at professional development.  It was a great day.  I met other writers, many of whom are also seeking to land an agent, desperate as I am to find someone else to validate their dreams of authorship.  It felt like group therapy, talking to all these other people who are walking the same path, encountering the same hurdles, worrying the same questions on the finer points of query letter etiquette.  

The seminars were really useful too; I jotted down pages of notes on everything from social media management to revision techniques, and, of course, on finding the elusive agent. Speaking of whom, the workshop had several agents on-hand, spending their Saturday leading the seminars and fielding pitch after pitch from hopeful authors (like yours truly) willing to pay $30 for 10 minutes of the agent’s one-on-one time (instead of just querying them for free – more on this in a future post.) 

Three weeks on, I’ve gotten a kind but entirely unhelpful rejection from one of the agents I spoke with, and I’m still waiting in the usual interminable purgatory for the other agent I met.  But while I’ve been waiting, I’ve struck up a number of new online friendships with some of the authors I chatted with at the workshop.  One of these new writer friends began venting about the fact she hadn’t heard back from the agents she queried after ONE WEEK.  

Now, I’m not a fan of the way this whole find-an-agent system works.  It seems overwhelming to the agents and unnecessarily anxiety- and depression-inducing on the author.  But I get that this is the system that we have, a direct result of supply outstripping demand, and that agents are humans too. Having just surrendered a Saturday away from their friends and family to field the same questions they’ve probably heard 100,000 times before, they may need another couple (dozen) of weekends to get around to actually reading what we were all only too happy to send them within minutes of getting their nods.  I mean, everyone deserves a weekend.  

I tried my best to convey this to my new writer friend, but I could feel her resentment dripping off my screen, impervious to my attempts at humanism.  That’s the problem with resentment, though.  It’s a cumulative condition, built a hair’s width at a time, until you’ve got a wretched, snarling beast on your hands. 

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10 Ways to Make Procrastination Work for You  

Let’s face it – it’s not just the kids who put off doing their homework. My husband is famous (at least within our family) for the phrase, “If you wait ‘til the last minute, it only takes a minute.”

Procrastination’s power pulls all of us off our virtuous course now and again. When you hear its siren song, sometimes it’s okay to give in. Just a little. But don’t just flip on the tube. Make procrastination work FOR you.

How, you ask? Take something from your to-do list that sounds better than whatever it is that you’re desperate to avoid doing and put your energy into that task. Simple, huh?

As a writer, putting words together makes me come alive. But some days, there’s just no way. No matter how much caffeine, sugar, ritual, or will power – it seems the schedule and all the forces of nature and the cosmos are determined to intervene. This is one of those weeks. The family’s got way too much to do, my brain is pulled in twelve directions, and it’s fogged by the germs my little person so kindly shared. Yet there are things that need doing! Progress must be made!

So I strike a deal with my self: I can slack on the writing, so long as I’m doing something that advances my broader writerly ambitions. Luckily, one of the things I love about being a writer is that there’s an almost infinite number of things one can do to keep step with the drumbeat demands of progress while still giving yourself some slack. Here are ten of my favorites, done as a count-down in true ‘90s style:

10. Set the mood for your work. Create an aesthetic with visual reminders of key elements to your WIP. Make a playlist that captures the tone and gets your creative juices flowing. Find a candle that smells like the setting in your Work In Progress (and then light it each time you sit down to write – it will help bring you to your work, and I’ve heard, it can be helpful for getting you back to that mental space if you’ve got to go back to do some revisions on it after you’ve already switched to another project).

9. Journal. It’s writing but without the pressure. Up to you whether to free write for a set time (see if you can make it at least 10 minutes) or if you want to journal about something in your WIP that’s hanging you up. Q&A with yourself, especially written out long-hand, can be a powerful tool – and you’ve got written proof of your genius ideas later.

(source: Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

8. Diagram your plot. Whether with a storyboard and several specific steps (a la Save the Cat by Blake Snyder) or rough sketches that look like something you might have made in geometry class (Venn diagram anyone?), look at your story from another angle.

7. Research. Remember when we had to go to libraries, and God forbid, there was microficheinvolved? Now your internet search engine of choice can bring more than you ever imagined to your desk (or couch or bed – no judgment). Good research can make or break a scene, or your story. Remember that scene in the Little Women movie where Jo March is distracted by trying to determine in which hand one carries a rapier? The details are important and at least some of your readers will know them.

6. Hit the library. Because not everything is online. Or you may need to check out books. Maybe audiobooks so you can listen to a book while you’re doing one of the other things presently distracting you from your writing? (Multi-tasking – yay!) While you’re there, check out the titles in your genre. Talk to the librarians about what’s hot in your field, or simply enjoy being in the presence of other book nerds.

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