Seven Sins of Writers

1. Absenteeism

Almost half the time people are off in la-la land. Killingsworth and Gilbert (2010)* found that 47% of the time the people in their experiment were thinking about something other than what was happening in front of them. I have a feeling this statistic would be much higher for creative people.  Since starting my book, I may be cooking dinner but thinking about how they stoppered wine bottles three hundred years ago (corks), how they opened them again (bottle openers), if cooks in big houses were all male (there were about equal numbers of male and female), how they stored meat (dried and salted) et cetera. Not to mention, it takes a lot of cog-churning to work through plot holes and line up fictional events with the dates of real events.

*A Wandering Mind is an unhappy mind (science.sciencemag.org)

2. Not listening

See Number 1, except children, husbands or other people are talking to me at the same time.

3. Using friends as characters

We have to take inspiration where we can find it. I, personally, don’t base my characters around people I know but I will ‘borrow’ a small habit or facet of their personality and use it to show their character and for continuity. Some people just have interesting personalities and mannerisms.

4. Procrastination

 I could write a whole blog post about the ways I avoid writing. For example, I write blog posts, post on Twitter, check Facebook, do some housework, stare aimlessly out the window, pet the pup. Did I mention I write blog posts? Some of them never see the light of day. They just sit in my Draft menu, mocking me with their blue ‘Publish’ button.

 5. Eavesdropping

 It’s not easy writing dialogue, especially dialogue that flows, sounds natural and drives the plot. So I listen to you in the café discussing your in-laws, I listen to you out on your first date in months trying to reconnect, I listen walking past the bus stop as you talk about how hard this thing called life is with your best friend.

6. Complaining

I think my husband would agree that I mostly complain about not having enough time to write. Or perhaps the state of literature and reading rates in the world today. And have I ever expounded upon the lack of arts funding in New Zealand? Creative New Zealand announced last year the decrease in funding of $11 million for the 2016/17 year than in 2013/14.

Having lived in France for a year, I noticed the very different attitudes towards the arts in Europe than here. At school, my son learnt about famous French writers and their works (In the equivalent of Year Two). I can identify with William Osborne’s article comparing attitudes and access to classical music in Europe with the United States.

7. Self-doubt

For me, writing is a self-taught process. There is no right way to do it and definitely no sure-fire path to success. So there are the days when I think about people seeing my first draft and want to curl up under a blanket and hide. There are days when I stare at the screen and only manage twenty words. There are the days when I think, perhaps I should go get a REAL JOB.

But it is the little things that keep me going; a motivational quote, a friend saying keep it up, a positive review on an author’s forum. Then I have a day where I am completely immersed in the story and five hours’ writing slips away like half an hour.

 

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