- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- How to Write
Pitfall 2: Telling Oneself Lies
This hub is a continuation of the previous one, Pitfall 1: Wasting Precious Time. I think it will probably be quite repetitive, but in this way, it will illustrate its own point!
One of the things that I do when I am supposed to be writing, is procrastinate, as I have said before. I pretend to write, and indeed, to the outside observer, I appear to be writing. But I am not. Often I know that I am procrastinating, and that I am avoiding the task I have set myself. However, there are occasions, frequent ones, when I am not aware of the tricks my mind is playing on me. It lies to me. It pretends that it has my best interests at heart, but actually it has a hidden agenda of its own. Usually it wants to go to sleep.
Here are a few of the lies my mind tells me, in order to make the evening pass more quickly, so that it can go to bed. Sometimes I spot the lies in time, and can take action to crush them. Sometimes I'm too late.
- 'You are already too tired to write anything decent Linda, you might as well go to bed and read now.' Straight to the point. Often I am tired, because that is the nature of being a parent. But what my mind chooses to ignore at times like this, is the fact that writing can actually wake me up again. If I begin to write and I produce a sentence or two that do not repulse me, then I tend to find myself on a roll, or at the very least able to string a sentence together that might be expanded upon or improved a little at a more wide-awake time. It's always worth having a go. And tired writing may possibly be a little like drunk writing - you never know what you might be able to come up with when your mind is in an altered state. I wouldn't advocate drugs at all, but a little sleep deprivation might produce similar results without the come down or the hangover. Probably not though.
- 'Half an hour is not long enough to produce anything worth reading.' Well, this is quite obviously a lie. Stupid mind, for thinking that I would ever fall for this one (although, I do actually fall for it, a lot.) But of course good writing can be produced in the odd half hour here and there. I think it's worthwhile, if at all possible, to carry around a little notebook with a few writing exercises listed in it. Writing exercises are incredibly useful, even if it's only for the purpose of exercising the brain. Often nothing comes out of the paragraphs I produce in these spare minutes. But sometimes I can write something that I'm very pleased with, that shocks me because I didn't know I had some of the words in my lexicon. Now and again you might even spark off a fantastic new idea that could lead to something very great. You won't know if you don't keep writing, and neither will I.
- 'Linda, you need another cup of tea and a biscuit.' This is hardly ever true, but my wicked mind knows of my fondness for a very hot cup of Earl Grey, and a dipping biscuit. It plays on it, relentlessly. It puts an image in my head of the kettle and the teabag and the biscuit barrel, until I give in. It's a little like sleepwalking and I can find myself in the kitchen before I even realise I've left my desk. Very disconcerting. Very annoying actually. Because then half an hour later I'll need another loo break. Very clever of my brain, because it knows that cups of tea are the perfect way to make me waste time, and thus make the day disappear. I do not know how to prevent this lie from taking root however. If you know how to resist tea, please do let me know.
- 'Could you just put the telly on Linda, you need to watch the news.' Crafty old mind. It knows that writers are at an advantage if they keep abreast of current events. But I have usually listened to the radio news several times over the course of the day, so my mind is not usually able to fool me with this one. It's hope is that I will watch the news, then leave the TV on and watch the next programme. Then it will be bedtime. Bless my mind; sometimes it will try anything to get out of writing.
- 'Linda, you've worked very hard this week, why don't you put the telly on and relax for the evening?' Aha! A different tack. A clever one. My mind knows that I respond to flattery. By telling me that I have worked hard, it knows that it will be in my good books. Alas! This ruse usually works on me. It gives me a guilty conscience in the long run, but it's a pleasure that's similar to chocolate, in that I achieve a short-lived rush that is very satisfying, but fleeting. The only way to achieve the rush again is to have more TV. Often I accompany my television watching with the cup of Earl Grey - then I am in real trouble, and my mind has won the battle for the day.
- 'You need to write hubs and blogs first, to get them out of the way.' I think we all know that I give in to this feeble lie almost immediately. It's evil of my mind to use this one, because it knows it will always win. Likewise, my other guilty pleasures can be called upon, by my mind, to distract me from the swift passing of the hours, and to draw me closer to bedtime: I refer to social networking sites, and tweetley virtual message places, and penpal letters, and online bookshops. Oh dear. I do know how to avoid these computer places, of course: I avoid them by not turning on the computer. This is more difficult than it seems, but it is possible. Will power is required, tremendous will power.
- 'You cannot finish your novel until you have done this Creative Writing course, so there is no point in working on it at the moment.' This is just not true. My mind thinks it's being truthful here, it thinks that I can only work on one piece of writing at a time. Well, it's quite wrong. I have nothing more to say about that.
- 'Don't worry, you're not being lazy, you're just waiting for inspiration.' The mind is just being plain stupid with this one. We all know that inspiration particles float around in the atmosphere, waiting to fall into our brains at exactly the right moment, because Terry Pratchett says so. But what we also know is that these inspiration particles are much more likely to find us if we get on and do some stuff to attract them. I believe they can come inside the house and find us when we're writing something else. We probably all have some proof of that; we may be happily scribbling away at a nice little story, when an inspiration particle will drop into our brain through the back door and we'll suddenly have to write something else, something very excellent. I do believe that inspiration particles are more likely to find an active brain than an inactive one.
These, as I say, are just a few of the lies my mind tells me. I am sure that you will have some examples of your own. The best thing is to try to turn off the lie-telling part of the brain if at all possible. But you will need to be careful, because that switch is quite close to the imagination lever. You don't want to accidentally turn down the imagination, because then you will never get your novel written.