The old people have a saying.
You chase one rabbit you got supper. You chase two rabbit, you’ve got sore feet.
Sometimes a writer just seems to spend their whole entire day – just chasing rabbits.
You know how it goes. You find yourself working on a novel and that gets you to thinking about that novella you wanted to work on and the next thing you know the idea of trying to write that novel and that novella at the very same time gives you an amazing idea for a wonderfully structured sestina composed about the theme of a single man trying to ride the backs of an entire stampede of golden palominos.
Before too long you’re chasing rabbits.
You might kid yourself and say that you are just following the whimsical frolicking call of your innermost moose!
(or is that muse?).
You might even convince yourself that – by god, you must be the single-most creative writer in the universe – filled with a never-ending fount of ideas and inspiration.
Horse-puck and hogwash.
You’re just chasing rabbits.
You see, the nearer that the human spirit comes to accomplishing, the more likely it is to try and come up with some reason not to finish.
Because once you finish something, it’s over. And once it’s over, then you got to do something else.
And you got to do it right.
So rather than finishing something properly and then starting something new, properly – a fledgling writer – and even us old fart veterans – will all too often allow distraction to jump up and lead them into the time-honored pursuit of chasing rabbits.
The distraction is nothing more than a fear of commitment. Of finishing it – because once it is finished somebody else will actually read it.
And they might tell you it stinks.
As long as the project remains in that ephemeral state of incompletion you can kid yourself into believing that you’re brilliant.
Only you’re not.
A writer is a craftsman, first and foremost. Like any carpenter he needs to sink that nail into the board, cut the next board and then nail that up to. He has to finish whatever he is building – so that somebody can sell it so that he can buy more boards to keep on building.
The only real difference between a carpenter and a writer is a carpenter often has a foreman who is more than happy to kick his butt.
Oh, we writers have foremen too.
Only we call them editors, publishers and readers.
Sitting at our desk, in our comfortable chair, puts us a long way away from the foreman’s boot.
So a good writer has got to learn to boot himself in his butt.
Hard, and often.
So, here’s what I want you to do.
Sit down with one work and tell yourself that you are going to add a paragraph to it. Don’t look at any other work. You find yourself thinking about any other work give your head a good hard shake and remind yourself that you set out that day to work on one piece of work.
Let me mix a few more metaphors and see if I can muddle this out for you any clearer than I have.
Writing any story is a little like a first date. You work at that story and you don’t look at any other story while you’re working at it. You try and turn that date with a story into a long term commitment and then you try and turn that long term commitment into a marriage and then when you’ve married the heck out of that manuscript and your finally done with it – divorce the sucker and start hitting the single’s bars.
And stop chasing rabbits.
Yours in storytelling,
PS: I’ve passed the 41000 word mark yesterday at Camp NaNoWriMo.
Only 9000 words to go in the next four days. Wish me luck.