Endless Curiosity

May 9, 2010

More about Writing

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 7:05 am

Following on from yesterday’s post, Out of Sheer Rage, the second thing I remember from the panel, Writing-The Process, was Michael Stoff talking about how he liked to have two books or articles to work on because then he could procrastinate on the “most important” one by working on the other one. A lovely trick to help him avoid total procrastination. Writing is hard, and it helps to have tricks.

That reminds me, there was a third thing that I remember from the panel. One of the panelists quoted Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Ha!

But back to the point about using tricks to overcome procrastination. Stanford professor John Perry has a wonderfully witty article about Structured Procrastination on his web site.  (As I write this, his web site is pending renewal. If it remains that way I may post his article here. In the meantime I sent him an email asking him to renew his site. Update: the site is now renewed.)

Of course, the other reason for this post is to quote more from Out of Sheer Rage. On page 2, where Dyer is explaining his difficulty in getting down to actually writing the study of D.H. Lawrence that he wanted to write, he says:

I even build up an impressive stack of notes with Lawrence vaguely in mind but these notes, it is obvious to me now, actually served not to prepare for and facilitate the writing of a book about Lawrence but to defer and postpone doing so. There is nothing unusual about this. All over the world people are taking notes as a way of postponing, putting off and standing in for. My case was more extreme for not only was taking notes about Lawrence a way of putting off writing a study of – and homage to – the writer who had made me want to be a writer, but this study I was putting off writing was itself a way of putting off and postponing another book.

Although I had made up my mind to write a book about Lawrence I had also made up my mind to write a novel, and while the decision to write the book about Lawrence was made later it had not entirely superseded that earlier decision. At first I’d had an overwhelming urge to write both books but these two desires had worn each other down to the point where I had no urge to write either.  Writing them both at the same time was inconceivable and so these two equally overwhelming ambitions first wore each other down then wiped each other out.

I relate to this because I have two books that I’m occasionally working on, but really I want to be working on another book, but I can’t start on that because then I’ll never finish the two books I’m currently not really working on. At least I have a title for the third book so that’s progress of a sort. I even have a title for a fourth book, but no idea of what its content should be. Onward, ever onward.

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