My absolute favorite thing to do is try and start a new writing project.
No, wait, hear me out because this is, after all, my monthly column and you are hopefully the sort of rapt fan of my incessant rambling, borderline whining, and lukewarm advice that you understand how this works.
Random ideas for new books come at me at warp speed.
Like many of you I have a day job that keeps me hopping but nothing will stop a writer’s imagination. No-thing whatsoever. I sometimes realize that I’m exhausted at the end of a day not just because I took orders, sold in new products, set up displays, and got my fair share of to-my-face rejection, but because my mind, having dug its claws onto a new plot bunny, wouldn’t stop rocking and rolling its way through all the various permutations of it, plus all the reasons why I shouldn’t bother because no one will read/buy/give me a publishing contract for it.
Hans, the Muse
But once I get past the self-doubt and reality gut-checks, if that idea still won’t dislodge, I turn it over to The Muse (Hans. He’s the hot guy in the lederhosen, holding a perfectly crafted pilsner for me to quaff). Once he has his hot hands on it, I know I’m locked in and at least committed as far as writing the first chapter. Remember, fair Liz fans, I am no outliner. I jump into a story with both feet and start stamping around in its guts like an old-timey wine maker, organization be damned.
Somewhere in between those steps—imagination plopping a fresh, juicy idea in my head; my mind playing havoc with me for a few days or even weeks; the hand-off to Hans for his careful consideration—comes the Big P. No, not that, you sicko. The Procrastination. All of a sudden, the windows in my house require my direct, multi-hour attention. As do the litter boxes. And the ironing that’s been stacking up for weeks. Not to mention those damn junk drawers that really need reorganization. Oh, oh, and the baseboards! They really should be scrubbed because you never know when you’ll get a white-glove inspection after all. And what about that garage, hmm? Wow could it some quality time, or what?
You get the idea, I think. While dear old Hans is starting to shove actual scenes into my head, I’m busy matching socks or clipping cat claws or grooming the backyard with a toothbrush. And I’m guessing I’m not the only writer amongst us who does this.
I’ve been at it long enough to accept my reasons. They include but are not limited to the aforementioned self-doubt, imposter syndrome, tree-falling-in-forest-not-making-a-sound anxiety. But mostly, I think it’s because I’m afraid to commit. Yep. That’s me, the commitment-phobic author. Full confession.
And when I say that I’m afraid to commit, it’s not so much to the process of writing, but to the characters that I have the gall to think I can do full justice to in the written word. These people won’t exist unless I sculpt, craft, and backstory-without-too-much-exposition-them into life. Talk about having creator anxiety—that’s me. I sometimes will quite literally walk circles around the laptop of doom that’s sitting, open, on my desk or kitchen table, practically begging for me to come, sit, type. As if it were some sort of a dangerous, rabid animal, best avoided, really. And so I do. I walk away to find some carpets to clean or cars to wash. And trust me when I tell you I am the polar opposite of a neat freak when it comes to my house or my car.
I know once I sit, and curl my fingers over the QWERTY, I’m a goner.
We’ve discussed this before. I am a big-time marathon writer. I write and I write and I find stupid times to write until that sucker is done. Of course, it is subjected to many more hours of re-reads, re-writes, massive revisions, and post-beta-reader changes. But lately, as I’ve hit a wall with authorial success (see: getting fired by an agent) I’m beginning to wonder if I’m doing things the correct way. Am I over-committing to the process? To the story? To the characters? Should I allow myself more time, perhaps even (gasp and horrors!) an outline?
More and more these days I’m thinking I am due a full overhaul of my process. It worked for a while, but based on the metric ton of rejections I’ve been privy to this past twelve to eighteen months, I gotta wonder—is it time to make a change? Would my stories benefit from the full Monty of outlines, dream casts, full wall whiteboard storyboarding, or even playlists? Forgive me if you do things this way because More Power To Ya. But all of that feels like more Procrastination to me. Or at least, it used to.
The bottom line here is, of course, as it always is: no matter how many rejections, or twitter lectures from experts I might receive, I’m not giving up. Nor should you, regardless of your process. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy a whiteboard, markers, erasers, sticky notes, and then research perfect real faces for my imaginary characters so I can cut them out and tape them to the wall next to the fully realized outline for my next book.
I’m thrilled to say that the origin story trilogy for my nine-book Stewart Realty series is now available again. It’s been revised and is better than ever. I hope you will pick up your copies of FLOOR TIME, SWEAT EQUITY, and CLOSING COSTS, exclusively available on Amazon and dive right into this particular world I created, full of heat, humor, real estate, real life, zero insta-love, and not a small amount of angst.
Buy these books!