Today’s guest post covers something we’ve probably all dealt with! I procrastinate a great many things in my life and it’s at least comforting to know many authors are in the same boat. Here’s author Michael P. Michaud’s take on this ever-present challenge and his methods of overcoming it (as well as details about his latest book)!
The Introvert by Michael P. Michaud
Genre: Black Humour Crime Novella
A vacuum salesman by day, the introvert lives a quiet life alone with his dog until a work relationship and a dark secret from his past team up to create an uncomfortable imbalance in his otherwise ordered life, one that soon finds him squarely at the center of a murder investigation. With his thoughts continually urging him to make people “red and open” and to “achieve it” with his girlfriend Donna, what follows is a sometimes brutal, oftentimes hilarious, and absurdist account of the life of one very anti-social and unexpected anti-hero.
On a recent trip to Montreal, amidst visiting a lonely Capybara at Biodome and imbibing on carbs from St-Viateur Bagel, I came upon a sculpture* that epitomized most writers – which is to say, it epitomized most people.
At first blush it defied me. Here was a young writer hard at work, so ensconced in his craft that he failed to perceive – or was consciously apathetic to – the squirrel shimmying up his side, or the haphazard state of affairs of his value meal. Focused. Steadfast in his commitment, it was both infuriating and inspiring.
Then I peeked at his screen: just a lazy comment on the death of Steve Jobs. No creative masterpiece underway. No opus. Not one sentence.
And in that moment, I knew he was a writer, after all.
The sculpture was a perfect microcosm of all of us. Indeed, nearly everyone I meet tells me they want to write a book. This is not hyperbole, and the chances are that you’re even nodding yourself as you read this. But when I ask these same people why they don’t or haven’t, the explanations are universally:
- Not having the time, or
- Being overwhelmed by the enormity of the project
The first is a universal cop-out. I know it is, because I’ve used it myself, and will use it again, whenever projects pile up or deadlines pass unheeded. Instead, it’s far easier to jump on Netflix and stream sickly sweet episodes of Highway to Heaven. Unfortunately, no matter how many hours you spend idolizing Michael Landon’s mane, it won’t bring you any closer to finishing your project. Trust me on this. I’m speaking from personal experience.
You can always find something else to do. You can always find some other activity to prioritize over writing. Something else to occupy your time. Eating, showering, and taking Timmy to soccer practice are all sound reasons to put down the laptop, but at some point you will have time to write, even if it’s only a handful of minutes per day. When that time comes, do you fire up the word processor and start typing, or do you log onto Facebook to watch cats fighting cucumbers? The choice is yours. Choose wisely!
That leaves us with the second explanation: the enormity of the project.
If there is a bane to a writer’s existence beyond procrastination, it is this: writing is hard. It can be tremendously cathartic and rewarding, but it is also a tremendous challenge. It can be physically and mentally exhausting. There are so many other, easier options available to us, so we gravitate to those things, later to lament the projects we never finished.
Remember: never let the thought of the entire project deter you. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Writing – aside from being slightly less caloric – is no different. It’s simply a numbers game.
Let’s use 100,000 words as our barometer – which translates into a fairly weighty tome. The mere thought of undertaking such an endeavor causes many of us to retreat, panic-stricken, to the comfort of our preferred modes of postponement. Where will we possibly find the time? Most writers work regular jobs to pay the bills. We are understandably tired when we get home. Then why bother starting?
Do not focus on the 100,000. Instead focus on 100.
If you wrote a miserly 100 words per day, you would have your novel completed in less than three years. Take your age at this very moment. Now add three to it. Would you like to have a 100,000-word novel written by that age? Then write 100 words per day, and it will become reality (to give you a better idea of how short that is, this paragraph is 71 words).
It is simply a numbers game.
And the best part? It wouldn’t actually take you three years. That’s because 100 words very quickly becomes 200 or 300 or 500. You will find that once the words start to flow, you will find a rhythm. A flow. That’s simply how it works.
Stephen King writes about this in his wonderful half-memoir, half-writing manual “On Writing” – an absolute must-read for any aspiring author. He urges the importance of writing every day, and even if his personal daily word goal is higher than yours – he aims for 2,000/per day – the principles remain the same. Write every day. Finish the draft. It can and probably will be crummy, but it will be done, and you can take out the pruning shears later. Just get it done.
As of the writing of this blog post, I’ve completed three books. Billy Tabbs took two years. The Introvert took two weeks. Relics (yet published) took nearly half a decade. Guess which of these I committed to writing every day, and which sat untouched for days, weeks, and even months.
There is a direct correlation between the depth of your procrastination and not achieving your goals, but take heart, because the reverse is also true. I’m also a firm believer that if you work hard enough at anything, you’ll probably end up being pretty good at it. Writing is no different.
Maybe your iTunes remote will get rusty. Maybe the squirrel will steal your lunch.
And maybe it will be worth it.
*“La Leçon” by Cédric Loth.
About the Author: An American-Canadian citizen, Michael holds a B.A. in English, Honors B.A. in Political Science (summa cum laude), and a J.D. in Law. He is employed as a Crown Prosecutor in the Greater Toronto Area.
Michael is the author of BILLY TABBS (& THE GLORIOUS DARROW) – (2014 – Bitingduckpress) and THE INTROVERT – (2016 – Black Opal Books). He is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, and International Thriller Writers Inc.
He has also made regular appearances on SiriusXM Radio’s “Canada Talks.”