Monday, August 31, 2015

This IS Procrastination: I’m a Mess* And My Writing is Too**

*There is nothing you can do about this because the only thing to be done is shit I need to do for myself. In full disclosure, I do have a list of emotional issues I eventually need to resolve, or at least journal about, which I’m sure is almost the same thing.

**All of my notes smell like vitamin B because I shove them in the drawer below the bottles of supplements I took for like one week and then gave up on. I will now have to burn the notes and probably the desk too because vitamin smell is forever.

The writing of this post has mostly been an exercise in digging up deep emotional junk I do not want anyone—including me—to see, the kind of junk I normally avoid by reading too many romance novels.

At first I decided to trust the process, be vulnerable, put that junk begrudgingly out there for the world to see. Then I deleted most of it because who wants to read about self-loathing and loneliness when the theme of this event is getting it together?

I suppose the problem here is that I have got nothing together.

When I was invited to join this bloghop I did so because of the strategy of external accountability. Left to my own devices I do little more than collect scraps of inked paper and feel inadequate while typing them up for however long it takes me to shut down the computer and go read a historical romance instead.

Sometimes I think I need to hire a wrangler or enlist under a CO to get anything done.

Instead, I only have me to manage myself.

And me is a fucking mess.

As is me’s writing.

More honestly, I haven’t been writing more than sentences and phrases at a time for
awhile now. The words come to me in thin slices of dialogue or bits of description or pins I hang scenes on, but never in large chunks and never with a sense of the greater whole of the story.

I have an enormous collection of ephemeral odds and ends.

What I think of as working on my novel right now is mostly wishing this chopped salad will magically morph into a smooth, cohesive narrative. But accumulating and wishing is nothing at all like writing and a whole lot like procrastination.

A real problem is that I have collected so many bits I can’t figure out what to do with them. I’m overwhelmed with ideas yet when I sit down to write none of these ideas take shape into much more than what I started with.

I’m not a pantser in that when I sit and just write whatever comes to me whatever comes to me is the same seven boring-ass sentences over and over again. Much like I need a CO, I also need constraints to fight against so total pantsing is out. Yet outlining, though it appeals to me hypothetically, is not quite the thing either. No matter how detailed my outline I am constantly asking “now what?” to it. My process, in all its ineffective glory, doesn’t fit either of those molds but I haven’t found the solution yet.

My most interesting and productive bits come at me in the car, while I’m driving.

I have felt-tip markers, paper, and post-it notes all within reach. I jot enough for me to remember the thread of the thinking on the steering wheel so I hopefully remember the rest when I stop the car to safely finish. I then fold these papers into my wallet to go through later. I sometimes get ideas when I am walking and text myself these to later retype into my notes. (Alas, my phone is too old for voice recognition and I am way too uncoordinated for a treadmill desk.)

The stories do not come to me whole. They come one snapshot, one turn of chin or catch of breath at a time. These bits collect in piles and stacks and stinky desk drawers. The bigger the pile gets, the further away I feel from actual writing.

This is what I have instead of prose and chapters and novels.

I promise there is no point in making the image bigger to try to read my notes (which is totally something I would do if I saw this image in someone else’s post.) My notes barely make sense to me by the time I read them. When I finally attempt to wrangle them into something more they have often lost their shape or energy. I may even have no idea what they mean.

Here are some excerpts from the above images.

Pirate. Armpit. Weird.

Menstrual blood art joke.

30 minute circuit measuring new maps.

I’m not Lydia Bennett.

Jen’s good shoes tantrum.

In everyone’s back porch.

Cheated out of new school supply magic.

Estrangement Kohl’s dressing room.

I have at least 120,000 words worth of bits like from the last year and a half.

I possibly need an intervention wherein someone comes over and scorches all my notes in a purifying bonfire and then runs smoking sage through the house to exorcise the demons.

The moral of the #GetItTogetherHop story is: don’t do it this way. How can I possibly move from this to corporeal story? I’m stuck. I don’t see a way.

I promise I am not trying to be pathetic. I am not begging for sympathy or intervention or even applications for the general-manager-of-my-life position. Though, that last one is a lovely fantasy, as if some kind of writing genie might materialize from the ether every time I rip a sheet of steno notes clean from the wire and transmute them effortlessly into readable and compelling prose.

Ultimately it’s me and only me who can enact the transmutation.

It’s me and only me who can sit at my computer and knead post-its into prose.

It’s me and only me who can do any of the things my pulse wishes for so quietly I can barely hear the hope anymore.

And this is bad news. I’ve spent 41 years with this me who is to do this kneading and writing and she is a world class pain in the ass.

And stubborn.

And very, very scared.


I’ll leave you with two random and practical tips, because although I went well off prompt for this assignment, I’m at least the conscientious brand of bad student very well aware and slightly ashamed of her own rebellion.

Acronyms for Newbies. When I first found romancelandia online I was utterly confused by the acronyms. These posts helped. 1  2

Plotting porn. I find this photo inspiring, yet I am nowhere near this kind of organized thinking. I decided one day I was going to try to manage my notes into this shape. I went to get some poster paper. I took all the frames from the shelves and stored them away. I then noticed that the screws in the shelves were stripped and I could not get them out alone. I asked my husband to help. He did. Two months after the day I bought the poster paper home. It still sits rolled on my desk and the walls are covered in ugly holes where screws used to be. This is an excellent metaphor for my writing life.

Find the #GetItTogetherHop schedule here to read more posts.

The participants of this #GetItTogetherHop have created a large giveaway—books, gift cards, journals, and more! Check it out by clicking the image below.


  1. Oh Wow. I feel like you extracted parts of this post from my head. I have almost manic fits of productivity, which are almost always followed by writing ennui. I've written two post about it myself, hoping for some of that external accountability. Just know you are not alone and keep writing down those bits and phrases. You will come out of this!

    1. It's good to know I'm not an outlier in this!

  2. Cherri, I'm also a disparate-idea, not-plotter-can't-pantser, and I have two very specific suggestions of things that have helped me with that (well, and a third just general encouragement thing), may I email you? (It's nothing grim or personal or anything, just didn't want to leave a long-ass unsolicited-advice comment). Either of them may be things you've tried/abandoned, but I figure it's always worth a shot.

    1. Yes please!

      I'm also happy for unsolicited advice from kind-hearted and smart people!


Kindness matters here. Please no anonymous posts. Leave your name and own your ideas.