I thought myself very clever when the word popped into my head this morning, my first day back to work after a two-week beach vacation. My little bloggy light bulb, dim for many weeks now, burst into magnificent brilliance. Bam, I thought, I'll do a blog about writing procrastination ... something I struggle with every year, right about this time when I'm packing my bags for somewhere relaxing.
Alas, when I googled procrastiwriter (while putting off actually writing the blog post) it was already in the urban dictionary. I didn't come up with anything original. I guess there are plenty of us.
Anywhoooo ... back to my beach vacation. Summer is about sun and surf and swimming. During vaca season it can be harder than ever to commit to writing every day. The three weeks leading up to my beach trip were spent scrambling to complete several freelance projects, including a walking tour script for a new tourism business, Walk Erie Tours, in the Marblehead/Port Clinton, Ohio area of Lake Erie. My brain was filled with historical data and lighthouses and interesting characters from our past. Along with my sunglasses, I packed my final edits for the script, which I did turn in within a couple days of my beach arrival. Good for me! I'm proud to say I never procrastinate when my writing includes a paycheck.
On the other hand ...
In addition to an obscene number of swimsuits, I ALSO packed the second draft of my current women's fiction work-in-progress, "Charlotte's Choice." Ambitious, I know. I had the perfect excuse for putting off another edit. I was on vacation. There were sandcastles to sculpt. Tan lines to cultivate. Cocktails to drink. Sunsets to enjoy. My brain, I told myself, needed a break. A chance to re-charge.
I could have left the manuscript at home but didn't want my personal writing to come to a complete standstill. I was in the zone in May, you see, tweaking my plot and trying to get my most recent draft revised so my husband Mike, always my most loyal fiction beta reader, could experience "Charlotte's Choice" for the first time. I envisioned me completing an almost clean draft, printing it (yes, I packed my small inkjet printer and a ream of paper), and presenting it to my hubby in a 3-ring binder (yes, I packed that, too). I pictured him reading it by the pool, so engrossed by his first exposure to my twisty plot and quirky characters that the cool depths of watery goodness would go un-rippled.
Honestly? That would have taken a miracle.
Procrastiwriters, listen up ... this is what happened instead.
I didn't touch my manuscript for more than an hour or two in the first week.
- I read a women's fiction novel with a similar style to my own writing.
- I finally breezed through about half a dozen back issues of Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines I'd received in recent months. Granted, they got a little soggy. I did most of my reading in the hot tub.
- Enjoying some ocean breezes from a deck chair, I critiqued several fiction pieces for members of my monthly critique group. Reading their work always gives me ideas on how I can improve my own writing. Doing this on vacation allowed me to absorb their submissions more fully and provide them with a thoughtful critique. I had nothing else on my usually full calendar to take priority.
- I read back through comments I'd received from those same critique partners, over the course of several months. I'm usually so busy, I don't always grasp the little details or intent of what my partners say during our monthly sessions. SOMETIMES I don't even agree with them in that moment. By stepping away and coming back to those comments, weeks later, their valuable input is clearer to me. Doing this on vacation allowed me to absorb their comments, digest them, analyze them, and better decide what suggestions I wish to implement in my manuscript.
- I pulled out my story board, with a title and description of each chapter, and spent some quality time re-arranging the order of my chapters, so when I was ready to commit to another manuscript edit I'd be better prepared to tell the story in the best possible way.
- While digging my toes into the sand, I watched my "characters" pass by in the form of a tall, young woman looking for seashells, a sun-burned dad playing catch with his son, a young couple on the next towel over, clearly in the early stages of their relationship.
Week two of my beach vacation ...
I was so re-charged and ready to get back to work on my manuscript, I got up early one morning and dived right in. I spent an entire rainy day re-reading the first 100 pages of "Charlotte's Choice." I made changes as I went ... shuffling the order of my chapters, honing my characters' voices, implementing changes my critique partners had suggested (only the ones I truly agreed with, mind you).
I may be a procrastiwriter, but sometimes it's during the procrastination stage that I actually ... subconsciously ... get a heck of a lot done. As a result, my rainy day edits were some of the easiest, clearest edits I've ever done to a manuscript. My ideas had solidified during my brain break. Intentional or not, my summer vaca became my writing friend instead of stalling my writing progress.
I feel invigorated. Excited. Determined. I'm back in my little office, typing away at my bloggy blog about writing procrastination (perhaps avoiding editing the other 200 pages of "Charlotte's Choice" still remaining?)
This morning I also organized a kitchen drawer. I'm pretty sure one of my characters loves to cook.
This is research, my fellow procrastiwriters. Research. ;)
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