Whenever there are dirty dishes in the sink, I get that itch. You know the one. It’s that unsettling desire to clean and disperse the dishware. This itch translates to empty cups or bottles in the living room, to my own clothes strewn anywhere outside of the laundry basket. It applies to all manner of house, car and life chores. It feels good, too, satisfying that itch. It’s akin to being productive, to accomplishing something worthwhile.
But it’s not worthwhile. I just washed the damn dishes. Who cares? There will be another batch tomorrow and even more the day after. Completing a chore is not productivity. It’s just participating in another battle in a never-ending war on grease spots. Those good vibes that come with securing the sink perimeter are just an illusion to take me away from my real task: writing.
That’s the real battle. You want to be successful at this? You want this to someday be your bread and butter? You need to write every single day, and I haven’t been. I find chores to overcome. I socialize, watch TV, play video games even. When I sit down at the writing desk, I excuse myself to make sure the next issue of Literary Orphans is coming together smoothly.
Rest assured, we’ve got a great team over LO, so the magazine is fine. It just needs a little bit of maintenance every now and then, like sorting through Submittable, e-mailing authors and making sure the hackers haven’t plowed through LO’s defenses.
Hell, I infrequently update the home site, as you can probably tell. It’s been more like a dumping ground these past few months and less like a beacon of activity. I’d tell myself I’m working on it, but there’s also that realization that said comment is pacifying in nature.
A few weeks back, we had a problem with our freezer at casa de Waldyn. We had someone who knew appliances head over to fix our problem. It took him, Mike, a few hours, but he managed to solve our internal drainage issue. Afterward, Mike and I talked for a little bit — about society, people, politics. He was a pretty smart, thoughtful guy, but before he left, he brought the conversation back around to the reason he was over in the first place. That damn freezer. It was a difficult one, one of the trickier jobs he’s had, and he suspected we were delayed in getting it fixed.
Mike offered some life advice that seemed like a no-brainer statement at first. He said, “If you see a problem, it’s better to take care of it right away. Don’t sit on it. It’s only going to get worse.”
Those words stuck with me. They seemed so simple, but there was a broad application for them. As I thought about them more and more, I began to apply them to other areas of my life. Then it hit me. My writing was the problem. Every chance I got, I found a way to walk away from my writing. Dishes. Literary Orphans. A burnt-out lightbulb. Anything. And then I thought about how I’m not just writing for myself anymore, how I have a wife now and how we’re talking about building a family. It isn’t just me anymore; it isn’t just Batman in his Batcave. It’s us; it’s a greater Bat family.
I’ve done some analyzing of my writing in the past week or so, and I’ve realized one important key: I’m way too easily distracted by the Internet. This is a common problem many writers struggle with, and to curb this penchant for prowling the web, I’ve gone back to writing everything out by hand, first. So far, I’ve already written out a draft of a short story and begun a new novel. In one week, I’ve conceptualized an interesting, fresh concept for a sci-fi book and written two chapters. These aren’t skeletal frameworks. These are honest-to-goodness, real, genuine chapters (they could probably use some major editing though).
The change seems to be working, but it’s on me, on us, on you, the readers, to understand the real problems we’re all succumbing to. The more we find loopholes of productivity to avoid writing, the greater our struggles will become and the less likely we’ll ever be able to Chuck Yeager that writing barrier. This is our exit window, and it’s closing ever-so-slowly as the days go by.
Let’s help each other stay committed. Tweet me, and I’ll tweet you. We can do this.
(Admittedly, that may be too damn peppy, but you get the gist.)