Navigating the Plight of Procrastination

(Insert Clever Intro Here Later),

For the past odd month I’ve been looking for a better job. When I’m not combing the Internet for job postings and crying myself to sleep (Being dramatic), I’m working on a novel. The basis for this novel is actually a screenplay I’ve already finished, so adapting seemed a logical step. Unfortunately, I made the mental error of believing adaptation would be a cakewalk. I suppose writing a novel from a screenplay is a cakewalk, if the aforementioned cakes were actually cleverly disguised landmines full of grammar blocking explosive particles and procrastination gas, and the walkee were forced to stumble over them blindfolded while the voices in his head shout about how improbable it is to create a cake worthy of publishing. (Fix mediocre metaphor later)

My original intention for this article was to set a schedule for how a writer could lay out their day to get the most productivity possible while still cracking out all of the necessary chores on a “day off.” What actually came to pass was a severe case of writer’s block that I’ve documented below. Said content has been unedited, so please excuse… everything that you notice.

 

Thursday November 15th, 2012

5:35 A.M.

First order of the day is get my workout in. After a protein smoothie and bran muffin (gross on any other day but AMAZING post workout) I will watch an hour of my recorded show to get my mind off of last weeks episode, and then I’m pounding the keys around 9:00 A.M.

7:36 A.M.

Sarah and I finished our morning workout. Sucked. Uber hard and still just as flabby. Regretting every food decision I’ve ever made ever. I have a lot to do today and hoping that today is finally the day I get over this perpetual “start and stop” writing. Need to watch “The Walking Dead” before everyone on Facebook spoils this past week’s episode more.

9:14 A.M.

I feel so guilty. I should have just started writing. Love the show but may have just wasted precious writing time. Here I go.

10:21 A.M.

Okay I should have stopped at the one episode but had to watch “The Daily Show’s” for no other reason than I’m nervous to start writing. Now is the time though. Here I go.

11:46 A.M.

I am supposed to be writing witty prose and artfully quirky dialogue. The words should just flow from my fingers like some kind of visceral…I can’t think of anything. Therein lies the problem. You have to work at writing every day, it’s like exercise. If you get too out of shape it becomes increasingly difficult to start up again. I get stuck in this Mobius strip of poorly informed habitual non-writing where I have to keep encouraging myself to sit down and write, and then when I finally sit down to write anything of consequence I usually am filled with a feeling of pride for just sitting down and I end up “rewarding” myself with “thinking time” to over-analyze and thereby destroy all of my writing progress.

12:02 P.M.

Salad. Leftover soup. Piece of dark chocolate. Blinking cursor.

2:13 P.M.

Finally got some work done. I think it’s good, but I’ll probably hate it by time I re-read. Be more positive. It took J.K. Rowling 6 years so I suppose I should give myself a break as I’ve only been working at this for a few months and I’m half done. Of course, she wrote Harry Potter in six years. Who knows how long it will take to turn my attempt into a “Harry Potter” level novel. How optimistic of me.

2:47 P.M.

Just read what I’ve written so far for this “Odd-Job Chronicle.” Even this is bad. BAD? I used the word BAD? Oh God where have my verbs gone. (Note: Didn’t end that sentence with a “?”. My grammar has never been the best but come on man.) Are you still reading this? Quick, stop reading this article and read a screenplay. Any screenplay. Even “Battlefield Earth” Read that.

3:13 P.M.

Just spent that last 20 + minutes goofing around on my Smart Phone. Nothing productive, not even sure what the point was. I stared at Facebook for several minutes hoping somebody would post something on one of my posts, so that I could respond and possibly spark a conversation. Another piece of dark chocolate.

3:15 P.M.

I might be lonely.

5:32 P.M.

That movie wasn’t even that great. It was an Indie film so I should have expected it. I was hopeful. Come on Tony why watch the whole thing if it isn’t any good? Depressed like the character in the movie. At first I thought “well at least I’m not as bad off as her.” Then I felt worse because she was only 22 and fresh out of college and I’m 30 and I’m only SLIGHTLY better off than her. Well a lot better technically but it doesn’t feel that way right now. I have 6 cats.

5:56 P.M.

Opened a bottle of Cabernet. For myself.  I don’t even have a good excuse, my wife isn’t home and I don’t have company over. It’s the “not-as-good table wine” so I suppose I shouldn’t feel as pathetic, but still I’ll pretty much be having my wife’s share as well and that’s just gluttonous of me. (2 glasses I’m not a lush)

6:09 P.M.

Words. Words. Words. Words. Words. Words. Words. Words. Words.

6:18 P.M.

As Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #1 echoes from my overpriced laptop speakers I’m reminded that this is the same place I was ten years ago when I started college. The only difference was that at that time I was twenty and the idea of toiling away at a screenplay or novel, banging on the table in frustration at a lack of contextual verbiage was noble and admirable. Now being a starving artist means that I can’t afford food. I’m the most overweight starving artist on the planet. That’s probably not true but I’m having a pity party AND STILL AVOIDING WRITING!!!!!! Here I go. New song. Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils.

6:21 P.M.

I hate this song. New song. Here I go.

6:27 P.M.

Thought about going back and editing this piece so I don’t sound like such a procrastinating jackass. Here I go.

6:31 P.M.

It’s unfair how good Mozart was. Now I know how Antonio Salieri felt. Not really because Salieri actually finished a symphony and I’ve written all of about four pages of novel today. Here I go.

7:01 P.M.

Sarah called. Good advice. It’s okay to take a day off. Hard to wrap my mind around because I get so few days off that when I do I want to spend the whole day writing. I’ve just put some Indian food in the microwave, and I’ve turned on the T.V. to shut down for the night. After weeks of election garbage it will be nice to put on a re-run of something stupid and truly relax. All told today I’ve written half a chapter. Disappointing by my own self imposed standards, but it’s half a chapter more than I had when I began this morning.

 

The world is full of half-finished Screenplays, two chapter novels, and piles of little note scraps of would be plays, songs, poems, and stories. Writing as a whole is an agonistic process with often little reward. We “Odd-Jobbers” keep pressing on for many reasons, most of which are probably only logical to ourselves. It’s difficult to work on something that I’m already finished with mentally, but not on the page. Compound that with the barrage of “new ideas” that strike me in the mind numbing minutes of pacing while trying to rediscover the next bit of story and it often results in “Writer’s Block.” (Re-word all of that)

I don’t know what “writer’s block” truly is, but I believe it has something to do with procrastination and boredom. (Re-word that too) The honeymoon phase of writing has ended, and what lays before us is a treacherous road filled with editing, re-shaping, writing through the dull parts, and doing it all over several more times. I wish I had some mighty snake oil cure to offer Odd-Jobbers”, but sadly I only have a few suggestions that sometimes work for me:

1.) Take a walk. No Music, just your thoughts. Keep walking until something excites you. I take my smart phone along and jot down notes as I think of them, but I’ve disciplined myself not to check anything else while walking.

2.) Classical music and A GLASS of red wine. Music with words ends in a sing a-long, so it’s best to throw on something symphonic to let your mind wander. There’s a plethora of free music stations on the Internet for classical.

3.) Indulge and write something else for a while. I open a new document and spew out word vomit for pages at a time. Sometimes after a page or two I’m ready to go back to my real project. (Some of those word vomits have yielded usable bits, sometimes whole story concepts)

4.) Talk out the issue with a friend or loved one. Explain briefly (You don’t want to bore them) where you’re stuck. They may offer a solution you hadn’t thought of, or they may just get your mind working on it again and you can find your own solution. This often works for me with screenplay dialogue. Saying the words out loud with someone often helps find the holes.

5.) Take a shower. I don’t know why. But try it.

6.) Cardio. There’s probably some scientific reason your mind works better after a good sweat, I’m sure I’ve heard it before. You could waste some time looking it up, or you could just exercise.

7.) Clean your house, apartment, room, bungalow, hovel, or tent. Sometimes my mind can’t focus because it’s focused on all the other stuff around me. If I tidy up I often have no more excuses and my mind just sort of kicks into writing mode.

8.) When all else fails, cut yourself a break. It’s SO cliché, but writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Having one or two finished products is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than having fifty “works in progress.” We’ve all met the sad dude who claims he has hundreds of ideas for movies, but he doesn’t have a finished screenplay. Don’t be that dude, keep writing until you can’t any longer. Have a sleep, watch a show, and pick it back up again tomorrow.

(Insert Clever Outro Here)

 

#Tony LaScala@Coloropolis