Writing Secrets: When does contemplation become procrastination?
We don’t allow ourselves enough time to be bored. The modern world encourages us to fill every moment – and our phones encourage this.
If you’re standing in a queue, it’s important that you don’t always reach convulsively for the nearest social medium. Being creative requires us to day-dream sometimes – to allow our thoughts to roam aimlessly, to imagine. We need to contemplate, for our thoughts to coalesce.
But this can be dangerous territory. When does “the need to allow my thoughts to coalesce” turn into “I’m procrastinating by gazing at the sea and having deep thoughts”.
Allow yourself to day-dream when you’re driving, commuting, standing in a queue, cutting the salad. If you’re using your writing time to allow your thoughts to coalesce, fine. But keep a notebook in your hand. Scribble them down. It keeps the thoughts deep, rather than allowing them to drift into inconsequential, like whether you bought enough bread for lunch. It focuses the mind.
It is true that you shouldn’t start writing too quickly. We’re always telling writers: don’t rush into that first page. Spend time developing your characters. Talk to them, ask them questions, give them the opportunity to write internal monologues. That’s not procrastination. It’s part of the writing process.
Allow your story to develop out of the work you do on character. Even if you don’t know every nuance of your narrative before you begin, it’s good to know your direction.
Try to be honest about when you’re ready to start, though. If you know your characters backwards, have a good idea of what’s going to happen to them and which direction you’ll take them in, and if you know exactly what will happen in your first couple of scenes, then you’re ready.
When you’re at this stage, and you allow yourself to wonder if you shouldn’t spend a bit more time on yet another internal monologue, or perhaps you could pretend to be a psycho-analyst interviewing your protagonist (just to know her even better), it’s the fear talking.
That’s when you need to sit down and stare at the screen till the first word appears.
Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: Face acting v. dialogue‘