Confession: I Have Bad Habits When I Write

On Saturday, I had one goal in mind: Write! Write, write, write! Nothing was going to stop me. Nothing! Not Twitter, Facebook, blogs. My blog (doh!).

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Well, after eight hours, I’d written exactly two chapters. You heard me. Two! Well, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t write two NEW chapters. I revised two. How horrible is that? Two stinkin’ chapters that I’d already written and wanted to perfect. Lame!

Even worse, I totally had motivation to write. Every time I turned to my manuscript, I was sooo THERE. I’d start typing and be like, “Oh, that’s good!” and, “Wow, where’d that come from?”, and, best of all, “God, I rock. High five, Self!”

And, yet, all I did was revise two chapters.

Two.

In. Eight. Hours!

This lack of productivity got me thinking about all the bad habits I have whenever I sit down to write. And, man oh man, do I have a lot 😦So many, in fact, that I was forced to condense them into three main categories.

Bad Habit #1

“Ready. Set. G–Ooh, look! A shiny penny!”

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I feel like a distracted two-year old when I sit down to write. Even though I’m pumped up and ready to go, my mind and body immediately wander away. No joke, the second I open my manuscript, I get antsy and feel a need to do something–anything–else. Clean the house. Take out the trash. Workout. Get the mail. Or, my personal favorite, pull a James Stewart and study my neighbors through my rear window as they go about their daily business (don’t deny it, you do it too; people are funny to watch). And, of course, I check Facebook, Twitter and, worst of all, Pinterest! Oh Pinterest…

please-stand-by…And I’m back!

Over time, I’ve figured out this ADD-like habit is always worse when I either start a new project or revise an older one for the billionth time. Starting a brand new story is like throwing a pile of clay on a table. It’s all mushy and muddy and shapeless, and you’ve gotta roll up your sleeves and mold it into something pretty and special. Ugh. So much work! And revising an old manuscript is like taking that already finished sculpture and smashing it to pieces, again and again, until you’re so tired of gluing it back together, you just want to leave it shattered and broken.

So, how do I deal with this problem? Leave the house and head down the street to the library or the Tattered Cover Bookstore cafe. Both are quiet (unless Mr. Loves To Talk On His Phone Loudly decides to sit next to me and then proceeds to ignore my I’m-going-to-stab-you-in-the-eyeball-with-my-pen scowl). And both are usually filled with people who are working hard, which encourages me to focus and work hard too.

Bad Habit #2

Feed Me! Feed Me!

Greed,_1924,_06_banchettoI’m proud to say that I lead a healthy lifestyle. I exercise four to five days a week, and I keep a close eye on my diet.

Except for when I write.

When that happens you better WATCH OUT! I may accidentally nibble on your arm because I think it’s a drumstick. I mean it. The minute I open the creative gates of my mind, all I want to do is chow down. Just shovel it in and never stop! And Lord save me if there’s chocolate around, especially Peanut M&M’s. If I kept those sinfully sweet suckers in the house, I’d quickly transform into Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory(after she expands into a giant blueberry, of course).

1971_violet_blueberry_cute_pic_by_tofer17-d2yew2fI’ve learned the best ways to combat this ravenous habit of mine are to: 1) Stock the house with healthy food. NO chocolate allowed! 2) Chew lots and lots of gum and drink plenty of water. And/or 3) Once again, leave the house and drive down the road to the food-less library. Tattered Cover Bookstore is fine too as long as I don’t take my wallet in with me. I can’t resist those chocolate chip cookies or mocha lattes. Ooh…cookies…

please-stand-by

…And onwards we go! (Don’t worry, I’m not getting crumbs all over my computer. I finished my cookie in the car like a good girl.)

Bad Habit #3:

Perfectionist

deviant_id_12_15_11_by_therealjmj-d4j6hthHello, nice to meet you. My name is Hermione Granger.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad, but close. I’ve always had a tough time just writing. No stopping, no criticizing, no over-analyzing every single word or musing idea thought. Just write, write, write!

But. I. Can’t!

Everyone in the business says, “Write now. Revise later.” My perfectionist brain says, “Write now–no, no, no! ‘You’re saying it wrong’. Go back and revise, stupid.”

have to come up with the perfect right exact word now. I have to do a Google search to confirm there is, indeed, a sushi restaurant within a mile of my protagonist’s high school. I have to think of an original analogy (because “she’s as quiet as a mouse,” sucks). It’s awful horrid ridiculous! All those eensy-weensy details mock and taunt me, even during a first draft when they’re basically insignificant. I’ll make it five chapters and then screech to a halt because I realize something that happened in Chapter 4 doesn’t line up with something that now happens in Chapter 25. So I go back and revise. Then I realize the new thing in Chapter 4 now conflicts with an event in Chapter 1. So I go back and revise Chapter 1. And, hey, wouldn’t you know it? With Chapter 1 rewritten the rest of the book makes no sense!

Start over! Start over!

And I do. Every time I stumble and fall into a deep, dark plot hole I grumble under my breath and rush back to the chapter where the fault first occurred–which, inevitably leads me back to an earlier chapter to fix something else–which inevitably leads me back to the first chapter–which inevitably leads me to say, “Oh, eff it!” and I start over. Again!

It’s a vicious domino effect.

Why, brain, why??

annoyed2Honestly, I annoy myself.

The upside to all of this is that–by some miracle–I still manage to get work done (ahem, some days more than others), and I have discovered successful strategies that help me minimize and cope with these bad writing habits (hey, I haven’t turned into a giant blueberry yet have I?). And, more than anything, I know that no amount of tempting chocolate or amusing neighbors or infuriating “Hermione Granger” moments will stop me from doing what I love most: Write.

9 thoughts on “Confession: I Have Bad Habits When I Write

  1. I love your blog Jenna! Thank you for all the great recommendations and for keeping laughing during the day. You are super talented!

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  2. Hahahaha. Actually, I totally relate to Bad Habits #1 and #3. Probably #3 is worse. How hard is it to come up with a good hook? Or even a title? And if I do get started on a chapter I read and reread it, satisfied, but come back an hour later and want to know who changed my words? Somehow my brain recharges with new ideas every few minutes and what was good an hour before is suddenly little better than rotten. Hence, why I’ve never finished a chapter, let alone a book! Or even a first page! And then there’s the shiny object. I’m writing and decide I have to go to the ‘Ladies Room’. On my way I pass something out of place that leads me to something else. When I finally come back to my writing Bad Habit #3 again. Time to rewrite… Ugh! You have my sympathies… And if I don’t just post this comment now I’ll change it in a few minutes…
    Cheers!

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