I am a lazy bum. Doubt me? I was supposed to write this post six weeks ago. Indeed, dear reader, you would be inundated with fascinating blog posts, if only I would write them. (I’m modest, too!) Until I do something about this character flaw, I will be essentially unable to get on with my life the way I want to. Sure, there are ways and ways to take the easy ride through life, but they don’t go anywhere interesting. Whatever fantasy stories may say, an interesting life has to be worked for. That lesson has been hitting me upside the head for four and a half years, as activity after activity went under the heading of “Used to do that, didn’t put in the effort to get anywhere, eventually stopped.” When academics went on that list, even I could see there was a problem.
I am also a poor writer. I can turn out a good finished product (readers of my aborted attempt at fantasy storytelling may disagree), but it takes me an inordinate amount of time to get there. This is, to an extent, a reflection of the laziness problem: if I spend hours of writing time arguing on Facebook, nothing gets done. But it’s also a problem in itself.
I have trouble writing without first setting everything out in my head. Every word I set down has been mentally examined to the point where it should sue for sexual harassment. Typing and retyping is standard operating procedure for writers, but I try to juggle all the revision before I write. When this becomes difficult—say, the writing being juggled is a 10-page essay on the moral fiber of the United States—I get lost and end up distracting myself with food and fun as an escape from my confusion. Dr. Keith Hjortshoj, director of Cornell's Writing in the Majors program, describes this pattern of behavior in his book Understanding Writing Blocks:
…writing blocks usually (though not always) occur in the composing phase and carry writers back into prewriting activities or diversions. Turning back often feels safer than moving ahead, which might produce bad writing as evidence of our ignorance and confusion, or create messes we can’t untangle. Better do some further reading, make further notes and outlines, or simply take a break to think about the task.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Dr. Hjortshoj once to discuss my own writing difficulties. He told me bluntly, “You have to write crap.” Because when I focus on writing well, the keyboard is silent while I endlessly ponder how to proceed, and when I finally complete a sentence or two, I engage in notwriting to get away from pondering. Let a spiral staircase represent progress achieved through the cycles of writing and revision: I have been trying to pull myself straight up, rather than walking step by step. If I instead allow myself to write poorly, I can produce more with less effort, and then revise to improve the quality.
Writing on this blog will hopefully help me kill two birds with one stone. In setting a regular update schedule, and keeping to it, I discipline myself. In putting together reasonably lengthy posts, I practice the processes of writing.
So, I am committing to a Monday-Wednesday-Saturday update schedule. Drop by, read what I write, berate me for not writing…wait, I forgot, I probably don’t have a readership. Well, I’ll be berating myself, so that’s all right. Stay tuned!