Wednesday, February 1, 2017
It’s February! And I’m bored. At least the month is fun to spell.
To pass the time while looking forth from hovels rank with the atmosphere of cabin fever, out at the cold, grayish world (yes, I am back in college), my thoughts can turn to all the ways that writing can go wrong. This is about problems during your writing, mind; I’m not talking about pre-writing problems (a writer’s block the size of the Death Star) or post-writing either (finding a willing crowd to worship your masterpiece). I think the following list is pretty universal for me and my fellow writers. And if you know the cures, do share. I hope you’re not selfishly hogging the secrets for yourself.
Although, if you did hog those secrets, your book would get done before everyone else’s. Just a brief unrelated reflection.
I know it’s hard to tell from your angle, but you have no idea how much time I’ve wasted on old “Dr. McNinja” comics while trying to get this thing written. People, do yourselves a favor and turn off the wifi switch when you have some world-changing literature to create. But Dr. McNinja is fantastic. Or at least was, because it recently published its final comic. But anyway.
This is slightly related to the whole distracting-internet thing. Let’s face it; unless you’re partially insane and have a luxury cabin on board an orbital intergalactic trade hub (like me), the reflections that stem from your staring will be of the boring variety. So if you have a tendency to drift away while staring out the window, close the blinds. It’s February. Nothing to see out there anyway.
I just realized that I’m giving you the secret cures for these writing problems here. D***—I’m not a good competitive author.
I recently attended a college presentation where one of my professors gave a lecture on some complex mathematical formulae that she used to solve a video game puzzle. Right after the problem was introduced and the math got more mysterious to me, I partially tuned out and began solving the puzzle myself, in my own fashion, all over my note paper. I got it right without the formula (although it still turned out to match the professor’s answer), but if you asked me what happened in the middle of the lecture, I’ll direct you elsewhere.
But the point here is not that I’m a bad student. I just hate leaving a problem unsolved. I’m sure some of you writers know what it’s like: you despise a rough draft. That sentence must be perfect before you can move on. We’re talking exact word choice, perfect placement of clauses, and a good flow from the previous sentence/paragraph/rest-of-the-book. As a result, writing a mere hundred words takes an ETERNITY, and that’s before you go back and edit the whole thing again. You can imagine how painful this block of text was to write; I may have to break for dinner soon.
And I’m not telling you the cure for this one this time.
(Because it should be obvious.)
(And I want my book to get published before you.)
…you know, pressing all the right keys but in the wrong order. Every writer I meet has this problem to some extent, even if they’re those annoying 100,000-words-a-minute word mills out there (admit it, you). In my case, it’s especially bad. I almost exclusively use a laptop, yet I’ve never learned home row. Remember the animated movie Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs? The way Flint Lockwood flails away at the keyboard? The animators were copying my style, paying close attention to my 12-gallons-of-root-beer-in-my-system-and-the-deadline’s-tomorrow routine. Couple that with my perfectionism, AND YOU CAN SEE THE PROBLEM.
(Let’s face it, your book is getting done first no matter WHAT I do.)
I’m an introvert. I don’t like writing when people are around.
But Ben, don’t you lead a writers’ group at college?
Why yes, I do. Seized command of it again this semester, actually. How did you know?
Oh…well, in that case, they’re all a bunch of writers in that group and that eases my paranoia a tad. When I’m trying to write in a public area, I must be in a corner and facing away from the wall so I can keep track where everybody is. Nobody reading over my shoulder. Also, anyone approaching to foolishly try to distract me from my work can clearly see that I’m focused, ill, or nuts. I tend to radiate those impressions when I’m—
I just told you how to fix the writing problem again, didn’t I? Why am I being so helpful?
Again, distracting, even if you’re writing a cookbook. The solution is easy: keep the snacks close, so you can hold them with one hand while writing with the other.
Why am I telling you the solution? Because fat people can’t reach the keyboard. Have fun.
Let’s all come out and admit how annoying this problem is. You’re sitting there, typing your world-changing novel, and then there’s a five-foot spear through your chest. The assailant was probably sent by one of those rival, successful authors who can afford hit men (Stephenie Meyer sends werewolves). Thanks to Zola’s Algorithm from the second Captain America movie, they’ve come to remove the future competition. Now you have to stop working on that scene (no matter which part it is), save and close the document, make sure you haven’t gotten blood all over the computer, and go seek medical attention. So much writing time gets wasted when you’ve been put up in the ICU. As far as writing problems go, this one is the worst, and we’ve all been there. Right?