Good morning from the Alley! Today we have a special treat for you, a guest post from author Shannon Wendtland! Her new novel, Heliodor, released March 22. Details to follow the post!
by Shannon Wendtland
Are you a procrastinator? I’m a procrastinator. I can put something off with the best of them. I can find all kinds of ways of distracting myself from the task at hand – to put it off until later. The problem with that is, if you have aspirations of becoming a published author in a particular timeframe (like I did – swearing I would have a mass-market paperback under my belt by the time I was 40) it’s just not going to happen.
At first I would say I had writer’s block, but there were two little lies I was covering up with that one big one: first, I had plenty of ideas… so many ideas I had partially used notebooks scattered all over the house. I definitely wasn’t blocked! Second, the real reason I wasn’t writing is because it was work. And I’m kind of lazy. Not the smelly, unwashed kind of lazy, but the sedentary-working-at-a-desk-job-all-day-sucks-the-life-out-of-me kind of lazy.
Then once I stopped using the writer’s block excuse I switched to: I don’t have time. This is nonsense … I had time to watch television, I had time to drink coffee on my patio for an hour or two every weekend morning, I had time for bubble baths and craft projects, I had time for baking and cat-vacuuming, regular vacuuming and daydreaming. Basically it was a lie. When my kids were really small, sure, time was spare. When my kids were older, I could have made time while they were out riding their bikes around the neighborhood, but I was too busy lamenting that I had the life sucked out of by my day job and I just wanted to ‘relax’ during the weekend. But all the while, those niggling ideas scattered in notebooks all over my house would sort of taunt me with their existence. I knew they were there, waiting to be turned into full-fledged ideas, and some of them even into vignettes that might grow up to be stories. But I avoided them – cast my glance away so that I could put them off for another day.
Then I admitted to myself, I had the time to write, I really did. But I still didn’t do it. Why? WHY? Because I already sat at a desk all day – I didn’t want to do that in my ‘spare’ time, too. Oh, the lamentations of woe. Except…
Except I WAS spending my spare time in front of the computer. I was surfing the internet or playing a game with my husband or researching random topics of interest, looking up recipes, reading forums of fantastical content… contributing HOURS of time and thousands of POSTS to said forums. I was writing. I was writing ALL THE TIME. And yet, I didn’t consider it ‘really’ writing, because it wasn’t fiction.
Then I turned forty and realized I was never going to be a (now) forty-something author with a mass market paperback under my belt if I didn’t put my seat in my desk chair and draft a god-forsaken story. And that’s when I realized… what I was really suffering from was GUILT.
Writing is hard, if you’ve ever tried it, if you’ve ever done it, you know what I am talking about. Sometimes the stories flow like rivers between your brain and your fingers, magically transferred through the keyboard onto the great white space of the open document in front of you. It’s a joy when that happens. And for me, it’s mostly that way – I don’t have much of a problem turning on the tap. The words flow. And yet… and yet, why did I wait so long to get serious about it?
I felt guilty that I hadn’t written more. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to force myself into what felt like another commitment – even if it was a commitment to myself. I had all of those snippets of ideas laying around the house, and by procrastinating for so long, I was hiding from them, as if the ideas themselves had little tiny angry voices, shouting at me to give them the life I had promised them by the very act of writing them down in the first place.
It’s like when you had your first apartment. Overjoyed with the idea that you can now do whatever the heck you want, you make some dinner, give the dirty dishes a flippant wave and vow to do them ‘later’ because your parents aren’t standing over you, shaming you into doing them right away. Then it gets to be bed time and you think – they can wait until morning because who’s going to notice if you don’t do them? But you forgot it was Sunday, and so in the morning you get up and rush into work, and you have to work late, and when you get home you barely have time for leftovers before bed. So you dump your dirty plate into the sink with the plastic container from the fridge, and promise “Tomorrow! I will do the dishes tomorrow.” But tomorrow turns into Wednesday and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday… and you wish you could just throw a match into the sink and burn down your apartment because now there’s too many.
This is how writer’s guilt accumulates – just like that stack of dirty dishes. We procrastinate, and we do it too long. Then once too long has turned into avoidance (because the stack of ideas, or have-to’s is too big) it flat-out becomes denial. After all, we aren’t published authors yet, so no one is actually counting on us to turn in words. No one will go hungry if we don’t sell that story until next… winter. No one will give us that disappointed stare when we don’t meet our self-imposed deadlines.
Except the mirror. When it gets to the point that you can’t admit your avoidance to the mirror, then you’ve really got a problem on your hands. So you have to get a handle on your guilt.
Make a list! Write down the various ideas that are most interesting to you … the top five will do since there’s no point in overwhelming yourself with an inexhaustible list that will make it even harder for you to put pen to paper or seat in chair.
Once you have that list, pick the item on the top, and even if you haven’t researched it fully, write a friggin’ paragraph as if it were a writer’s prompt and writing exercise. Just do it. No one cares if it sucks, remember? No one but you is watching. You might end up throwing it away, heck I bet most ‘first paragraphs’ end up getting thrown away after the first draft is done. I bet someone at SFWA has statistics on that, too. But do it anyways. Write that paragraph and give that baby idea a chance to bloom into a vignette.
Take the second item on the list – do the same for it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Do one item a day for five days in a row.
What’s that you say? The weight on your shoulders is getting lighter? The act of writing has become… fun again? Instead of a dreaded activity that will only weigh you down with its self-imposed commitment? I know, I know. Because I have been exactly there. But I’m not anymore, and you don’t have to be either. Writer’s block? Writer’s guilt? Why wear that heavy mantle when all you have to do is write a paragraph a few days in a row to call yourself a writer. Your pace is your own. Your word limit is self-imposed. Two hundred-fifty words a day, for three hundred-sixty five days in a row is a novel. That’s one book a year. Anyone can do that. YOU can do that.
Release Date: March 22, 2016
About the Book
Malfric sees through the eyes of the dead – literally reliving their last moments as if they were his own. This ability is highly sought and highly priced, which is why the unscrupulous Captain Finch hires him to find the murderer of a nobleman and the whereabouts of a valuable artifact.
Quantex, the able-bodied first mate of Captain Finch, quickly becomes Malfric’s foil as he demonstrates uncommon intelligence during the investigation. Together the two uncover several clues that lead them to the killer, the artifact, and the frayed end of a mysterious plot that begins to unravel the moment Malfric takes it in hand and gives it a good yank.
About the Author
Shannon is a wife, mother, writer, database administrator and general pot-stirrer-turned-mystic.
Social Media Contacts
Website/ Blog: http://shannonwendtlandau.wix.com/a-quarrel-called
Facebook: Shannon Wendtland
Tumblr: Shannon Wendtland
Author: Shannon Wedntland
Publisher: Mocha Memoirs Press
Price: $2.99 Kindle
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Amazon Link: Buy it HERE