Monday, July 4, 2011

Laziness and other Virtues

I’m terribly overdue for a few new posts. I’ve been on silent mode. Mute.

Why, you ask?

It’s complicated. Incredibly, densely complicated. Remember theoretical physics? Complicated like that.

I’m lying, of course. I never took theoretical physics. And if I had, well…I suppose it’s probably best for my self-confidence that I didn’t.

I haven’t posted because…wait for it…I’m lazy. This is therapeutic, right? Admission is the first step on the road to recovery.

I’ve got a long streak of laziness that creeps past my blogging (or anti-blogging as it might be called) activities and into my everyday life. I’m working to conquer it. I’m just not working very hard. That’s my only pun, I promise.

This is the bane of my writing life (and also my home- and yard-care regimen, according to mine own dear wife). But, you see, conquering my reluctance to actually sit down and write is the very reason I started this blog. I wanted to cultivate the habit of writing. Every. Single. Day.

Even when it’s hard.

Even when I’m tired, or lacking confidence, or distracted, or when I don’t have a single idea what to write.

That last point was the blog’s intention. Random thoughts. Spew out my ideas on music, or baseball, or family, or a recent book I’ve read. I’ve got plenty of them rolling around up there in my cluttered, disorganized mess of a mind. It’s about initiating a habit to sit down and allow words to flow onto paper (or screen).

Because I’ll be honest. I’m not the world’s greatest self-motivator. I’m not a Type A personality. My attention span is approximately five seconds, give or take four. It’s a miracle anything gets done.

But it does. Work progresses. I’ve completed a couple of stories recently, and began another that has outgrown its initial idea. I think there’s a novel there. A damn good, original novel. If I can get it out. It’s going to be fun to write.

My current novel is stalled, however. Twenty-two chapters in, somewhere around the 2/3 point. This is (to put it mildly) frustrating. Not overwhelmingly frustrating. I am not contemplating a belly flop from a high bridge.


It is damaging to my fragile self-motivation because now – oh now – I have to go back and try to fix it. I wrote this far without a script, without any more than a vague plan for an ending. And now that things are coming to head, I don’t have confidence in the direction it has taken. It seems contrived, and a bit stale.

I have no intention of letting it die, but it’s clear to me now that substantial portions of it are going to need to be reconsidered and rewritten. Frankly put, it’s a mess, and it threatens to undermine my daily resolve.

So, two things.

One, back to the blog. Fingers on the keyboard. Thoughts on the page. Habit.

Two, outline.

I’m afraid that my pre-planning is a disaster. I wrote myself into a corner because I didn’t plan enough in advance. I let the plot flow with minimal forethought for where the story was going. Sometimes these things work themselves out. In short fiction, they usually do. Or, at least, they’re easy to fix. This novel, on the other hand, is like a river that’s come over its banks. And I failed to put up any levees. Time, I suppose, to get out the squeegee and the wet/dry vac and try to put things back in order.

My goal is to spend more time on set-up. It’s a fine line to walk, because outlined scenes are simply not the way I write. I like to allow scenes to proceed naturally from the characters and situation. Outlined scenes so often seem wooden and lifeless, like a scene from a daytime soap. Characters can surprise you. They grow. They change. And, occasionally, they take you places you hadn’t planned or intended to go.

When it happens, and it works, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, you end up with the mess I have now. So it’s become abundantly clear that I need to set a clearer target for my stories, all while staying the hell out of the characters’ way.

Sounds complicated. But considerably less complicated than theoretical physics. That’s something, at least. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

And, I'll leave you with a pretty picture. You're welcome.


  1. I can relate to this. I hate outlining. I love the flow. Sadly the flow doesn't seem to work for me at novel length.

    Must start outlining if anything is going to happen over 10K *sigh*

  2. I feel your pain, Deborah. My organization leaves much to be desired, and it haunts me when working on longer pieces.

    I'm quite attached to my usual method of allowing the character to lead the way, because I think it leads toward the random and unexpected. If I'm surprised where something leads, I can only hope the reader will be surprised too. Except, sometimes things reach a point where you say - okay, how did I get here? And where can I possibly go now?