Despite my rants on Facebook a couple of months ago about Snooki’s book contract with a major house, I do not generally harbor jealousy for people who secure book contracts when I don’t. Does it sting? Well, yes, for a brief moment. But otherwise, I am not only happy for them, I am often climbing to the highest point in my geography so that I can shout to the world about their successes.
What makes me jealous as a writer is not industry success– it’s productivity success. I have more than a few friends who can write an entire novel in six months. I know many writers who pledge to write 1,000 words a day and then DO.
This just kills me.
I can sit around and come up with any number of reasons why I can’t do it– why their individual life situations afford them the luxury to write more. But these excuses are hollow and shallow, and do nothing but make me feel smaller. (Moreover, they’re just not true.) Because I could write a draft of a novel in six months.
I just don’t.
I’m not a lazy person. I prioritize like hell. It’s just that I procrastinate when I think something is just too hard.
Case in point: I have an upcoming deadline for a major rewrite of an essay for an anthology. I received the notes on the essay a few weeks ago. I’ve sat down a million times to do it, but I can’t get my mind in that place to focus. I’ve jotted down notes. I’ve played with the structure. I’ve talked to family members to jog my memory of the events more. But it’s not coming together. In the meantime, while I “contemplate” the essay at hand, I’ve stopped working on the novel.
I need an intervention. Or, I need to take comfort in the words of Michael Chabon, in this month’s Poets & Writers:
Even with four kids and an active life, I get my work done. But what I can’t seem to do anymore is utterly, completely lose myself in the work. To do your very best work as an artist, whatever the discipline, takes complete immersion in the work. You need to get caught in the slipstream, to draft along behind it as it carries you forward. You get into a state where, even when you’re not writing, everything you see, read, hear; every place you go; every newspaper you pick up; every conversation you chance to overhear feeds the work, because you are so saturated in it. That state is pretty well impossible for me to get into at home.
Food for writerly thought.
Have a great weekend.