Friday, October 1, 2010

Mike Myers presents…

PART II: The euphoric first chapter…now what? 

First I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to provide both the positive feedback and constructive criticism on my initial installment of The Procrastinator's Guide. I’ll go under the assumption that my being invited to write a second post is a positive sign, as opposed to the alternative that you're all masochists looking for the literary equivalent of nails raked across a chalkboard.

I’m surprised at how much I’ve struggled in choosing this month’s topic. As I touched on last month, I’ve certainly submarined my fledgling writing career enough over the years to provide a plethora of topics to cover. Distractions, self-defeating behaviors, lack of motivation, popcorn cravings...each begging to be explored, yet still I was stuck. I had to choose the perfect topic or I’d lose any momentum I created and lose anyone interested enough to give my next effort a try.

Hmmm. Something about this scenario stinks of familiarity. You see, several years ago I wrote the first chapter for my first attempt at a romance novel, and it was years before I wrote the first line for Chapter Two. How did this happen? Let’s take a closer look.

Immediately upon finishing the first draft of Chapter One and desperate for some instant gratification, I fired it off to some published friends to get their opinion. For me, this was a bad decision. Maybe you’re a more disciplined writer than I (call me crazy but I’m assuming that is the case) and you would have continued on your merry way regardless of the resulting feedback. For the flighty among us however, sending our golden prose out for comment provides little chance of a happy ending. As I see it now (isn’t hindsight awesome?) there were three possible outcomes.

The first was that their feedback would be negative and my fledgling writing ego (about half the size of a grain of rice) would be crushed, possibly beyond repair, and I’d find myself shunned and friendless. The second possibility was that they would declare me the next great American novelist, bury me beneath oodles of accolades and beg me not to change a single word (wasn’t exactly holding my breath on this possibility). The third and most likely outcome would be receiving guarded to genuine optimism, some encouragement and perhaps a few suggested edits that would be obvious to an accomplished writer.

Like most, I received what was hiding behind door number three, and instead of moving on to Chapter Two I went back and revised Chapter One. I was editing. That’s what real authors do, right? I would get to Chapter Two as soon as I could get Chapter One perfect. Are you shaking your head and judging me? In my defense I realize now that it was a poor decision. If my mistake isn’t obvious to you, ask yourself this: how long do you think it takes to get perfection in your writing, especially when you’re just starting out? If you know I’d love to hear the answer.

So forever I dwelled in a purgatory where my lonely chapter was edited, tweaked, modified [feel free to insert your own variation of making changes without any real progress here] until I began to hate Chapter One with a deep loathing usually only reserved for one's in-laws.

It was time to move on, but by that time I had zero forward momentum to carry me into Chapter Two and beyond. There was also the case that Chapter One was now in pretty decent shape (it had better be after all that time) and since I hadn’t been writing, Chapter Two would be less than stellar as a first draft.  It’s these little things that can shake your confidence and make it that much easier to put off writing for just another day.

My advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation? Write Chapter One. Enjoy the euphoria of starting a new project and creating characters and situations from nothing but your imagination. Embrace the unknown of what lies ahead for both yourself and your characters and get started on writing Chapter Two. Do not pass Go, do not seek external validation, and do not let distractions or fear keep you from taking at least one step each day towards bringing your dream closer to becoming a reality.

Bonus Distraction of the Month
Like most procrastinators, even when I'm at my diligent best, my subconscious remains on the lookout for the latest shiny object to sabotage my efforts. I thought it might be fun to point out the most interesting such distraction each month. Many are legitimate, but if they keep me from hitting my writing goal, I need to make a conscious decision on how to best deal with them. This month’s distraction was brought to me indirectly by Charles Dickens.

Over the past few years my daughter has been trying out for a role at a local theatre group without success. At the latest try-out for this season’s production of A Christmas Carol, my daughter pointed out the many adults also trying out for parts. Giving her dad undeserved credit, she begged me to give it a shot. Since I’m a theatre junkie and there were more than enough people with actual talent (I listed "Singing in the Car" and "Audience Member" under the Previous Theatre Experience section...true story) I thought it would be fun to go through an audition risk free. At the least I’d have a nugget for a future story, at most I’d get a minor bit part. What I didn’t expect was a phone call offering me the part of Bob Cratchet, complete with a commitment to attend rehearsals 6:30-9:00pm three nights a week for the next three months. Prime writing time gone just like that. Poof.

So, if anyone has suggestions on how to write while sleeping, wants to share their past bizarre distractions, or just wants to see a fellow NEC-RWA member give a rendition of Bob Cratchet never envisioned by Charles Dickens, drop me an e-mail. I’d love to hear from you. Until then keep writing, don’t look back, and we’ll both be that much closer to writing The End.

All that and you still found time to keep us up to date on your journey? I'm sure we'll all agree you don't give yourself enough credit, Mike. And as always, everyone be sure to follow and harass Mike on Twitter @MikeMyersWriter. Then when he's the next big thing you can say, "I stalked him way back when…"


  1. Mike, you can look at ACC in one of two ways: A distracting time-suck that takes you away from writing; a chance to live great storytelling every night for weeks on end, so it sinks into your bones; or a way to fill the well, so you have creativity to spare to draw on. Personally, I'd go with options 2 and/or 3...

  2. Thanks for reading the article and the great insight Katy. I'm on board with you on this one. There's no doubt that some distractions are good ones and you just have to take a closer look to make sure they're worth the drain on your time.

    To me this is one of those cases, both for the reasons you stated, and that I get to do something special with my daughter that she'll never forget. That's a big win in my book and well worth the need to find more creative ways to get my writing in.

  3. Personally, I think Mike's excitable harem (a.k.a. NEC-RWA) needs to organize a Christmastime fieldtrip…with glittery homemade posterboard signs a la pro-wrestling fans.

  4. I think you will love being in the play with your daughter! Life experiences like this enrich us and make us better people. My BFF and her daughter are in a local production of Hair Spray this weekend.

    Writing this column was another way to procrastinate! ;P Love you Mike!
    And yes you need a field trip! I would come too but coming from Chicago is a little bit of a trip.