Still fishing

WritingThe manuscript is toddling along.  It’s at 15,000 words, which if you assumed I started on August 6, is about 1000 words a day. 

This is way too slow.  And occasionally it looks as if what I’m really working on is a procrastination laboratory.  My favorite new device is noodling over paragraphs I finished days ago.  I find myself staring at one of them, wondering fitfully if I shouldn’t change this word or rearrange these sentences.

The good thing about blogging is that we are forced to work at pace.  The bad thing about writing is that dithering goes unpunished…at least in the short term. 

Today, I actually started a spreadsheet which I hope will force me to stay at it.  Plus, it proved to be a good way to blow 15 minutes that I would otherwise have spent writing.  Well, the spreadsheet only actually took a minute to create.  I spend the other 14 wondering what it says about me as a writer that I am using a spreadsheet.  I decided Dickens would definitely have had a spreadsheet.  Proust, maybe not so much. 

It’s be a while before I am back to blogging but in the meantime I have a problem.  I need an agent.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.  Please let me know: grant27[@]gmail[dot]com.

Thanks, Grant

3 thoughts on “Still fishing”

  1. Spending time in the procrastination lab sounds all too painful and familiar. While you’re there, pick up a copy of “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield (subtitled: Break through the blocks and win your creative battles). He’s got the goods on facing down Resistance. Time spent perusing his pages will be time wisely and well spent.

    Thanks for all your good work, and I look forward to seeing your current project in print — press on!

  2. Dickens WOULD have used a spreadsheet. I once saw a newspaper column by someone whose name has escaped me for the last day-and-a-half (she’s a humorist-essayist, lesbian, preppy, and semi-famous in New York in the early eighties-help anyone?). Anyway, the column described being shown some about-to-be-auctioned literary memorabilia at Sotheby’s. She and the curator came to a manuscript of Dickens, and the curator pointed out a feature of the manuscript that mystified them: scattered through the manuscript were little marginal numbers: 78, 220, 586 … The humorist-essayist said “I bet those are word counts.” They counted words themselves to check, and sure enough, that was what they were. “I don’t understand,” said the curator, “was he being paid by the word?” “No,” said the writer, “or at least I don’t think that’s it. I imagine he set himself some sort of goal every day–I can get up after 1000 words, or something like that.”

    And I once heard (on an audiobook) an essay by John McPhee in which he described his writing process. It involved sitting at his desk all day procrastinating until by dint of will he managed to gather himself together to produce a burst of writing before dinner so he could respect himself in the evening. John McPhee.

    (Btw, the place I saw the column I about Dickens I described above was taped to a bookcase in one of the offices used by grad students at the University of Chicago. So for all I know you may have seen that and been thinking of it when you made your comment about Dickens. Or even put it there.)

  3. Daniel — Was the essayist you were thinking of Susan Sontag, perhaps? It’s the sort of fact she would have known.

    On the topic of self-motivation techniques, I have always thought highly of the method used by the writer H. Rider Haggard. As a boy, he wanted to improve his self-control. So he would sit down in front of a piece of chocolate and, using only his naked will-power, would not eat it. When he was convinced that his mental self was in full control of his bodily appetites, he would then reward himself for having suffered so mightily — yes, by eating the chocolate!

    Seriously, I think there’s a lot to be said for mentally reframing a task one is procastinating. For example, think of the time you have available each day for writing as a “daily allotment of grace”, in the words of the poet Trumbull Stickney, describing his violin practice.

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