Monday, March 09, 2009

Idle Hands Are the Devil’s Tools

The concept behind these words was constantly driven into me while I was growing up. As a result, I have a really hard time sitting and doing nothing. Even if I’m watching TV, I still have yarn in my hands as I’m crocheting a baby blanket or something.

I’m also an extremely hard worker. If hard work must be done, I don’t waste time wishing it could be easier. I just roll up my sleeves and get started, making sure things get done right. I even made up a rhyme when I was a kid.
The sooner I get done,
The sooner I have fun.

Those words got me through many piles of dishes, mopped floors, and scrubbed toilets. : ) And, lately, they’ve gotten me through some really rough drafts.

This is all fine and dandy when I’m at the beginning of a story, or even a new draft. But when I’m at the end, I run into trouble. I need to set my manuscript aside so I can get some distance and perspective before I start revisions. This is a concept common to most writers, I’m sure. Distance is the key to attaining objectivity, and objectivity is the key to making good revisions.

After finishing ROYAL ROSE, I took a two week ‘vacation’ from my computer, with the intent to pick up my wip, PUZZLING FAITH, at the end of it. In the past, that’s always been ample time for me to switch from one project to the next. Except, this time, it isn’t. And I’m not sure why. At the end of those two weeks, I sat down at my computer and began to review FAITH, but I couldn’t concentrate. I felt as keyed up as I had right after finishing ROSE, and it made it impossible to concentrate.

Maybe I’m still too excited about ROSE (I’m very excited – we’re taking shout-out-from-the-rooftops excited, and I'm not a shouter) and it's throwing everything else off. Maybe I’m just not ready to get back to FAITH. Or, maybe I’m subconsciously procrastinating. I honestly don’t know. But these idle hands are driving me crazy!!

What do you do to occupy yourself when you’re between projects? Or do you just dive right into the next? For those of you who can do this, I’m green with envy. : )


Meg Wiviott said...

I've been having the same problem - moving on, not being able to focus. I find myself jumping between two projects (which for me, is not an effective method of writing).

Maybe it's because I'm still emotionally tied to the first project. I've return to it several times for editor/agent requested revisions, only to have it rejected again.

I'm going on a cruise in two weeks - just me and my husband! Maybe a full week away (really away) will help.

Mary Witzl said...

When I get to the end of something, I tend to go right on to something else. Which would be wonderful and worthy of the envy of others, if only I could FINISH that other something -- or, indeed, if I could go back to my finished work and refine it until I feel well and truly satisfied with it. Lately I have begun to feel disgusted with myself: as though I'll never achieve the finished work that I yearn for -- that I can send off with a clear conscience that it is absolutely as good as I can make it. Too many other possibilities keep popping into my mind, distracting me and keeping me from crossing that final all-important hurdle.

Traci said...

I am trying to write the ending of my first novel and DYING to start my next project. Well, I sort of have started the research for my next project. I need a lesson on patience. :-/

Carrie Harris said...

I am a dive right in to the next one kind of girl, but I also spend weeks in a kind of overlap stage. I'm editing the old one and thinking (okay, obsessing) over the new one. That way, once I get started on the new one, I've got plenty of material to get me as exciting about it as I was about the last one.

PJ Hoover said...

Are you subbing Rose? If so, that's why you can't concentrate. :)

If I set something aside but know I will come back to it, I don't have a hard time switching. If I think something is done, it's much harder.

Love your rhyme!

C.R. Evers said...

Those inbetween times are when I find that I start jotting down idea's for another story or do some research. I also tend to read more during those times and write down sentences or phrases that I really like. I have a special journal for that.

Good luck!


Barrie said...

I catch up on all the other stuff in life I've let slide. And clean my desk!

Jacqui said...

I go back and forth. Sometimes I think it's good to respect my need for space between projects or chunks of projects. Sometimes, though, I go back and find I've lost the voice or the drive. It's like running: after a break, it always takes a few runs to get back in shape.

Tabitha said...

Meg - I can't jump between two projects either. It scrambles my brain. :) I think getting *really* away just might be the key here. :) Have fun on your cruise, and I hope you post pictures!! :)

Mary - you know, it sounds like you need a really supportive crit partner. Do you have one?

Litgirl01 - yeah, I think most writers go through that. I'm definitely guilty. :) Except I'll get ideas for a new project when I'm still in the beginning of the current one. :)

Carrie - green with envy here. :)

PJ - LOL!!! Good point. :) And you're so right about coming back to it vs. thinking it's done. Maybe that's my real problem here...I've never considered my work to be done, really done, before.

Christy - ah, green with envy again!! :) I wish I could make my brain shift to ideas for another project, but it's still stuck on Rose. :)

Barrie - cleaning your desk sounds like a great activity, like clearing away the old project to make room for the new. Perhaps I will give that a try... :)

Jacqui - again, green with envy!!! All you people who can do this are lucky. :)

Anonymous said...

Yuna here! (couldn't remember my google username...on my laptop its there automatically!)

You aren't the only one who has to keep busy while watching tv! Apart from anime, which I mostly watch without knitting. Otherwise, yup I'm there with yarn and needles!

Me, I now write a draft (first or not), then move onto another...then another....except after this draft of II I'm going back to Termion cos I want to polish and sub by the end of the year.

I've learnt that although I may think I have loads of ideas for the wip I've just finished, it really is best to leave it for a while. Over time I get perspective, get different ideas, so by the time I get back to it - well, it's better :)

Bish Denham said...

I have the same problem as Mary. I have a hard time finihsing a project because so many other ideas are yelling, "Write about me! Write about me!" Then when I get something finished it's like my interest in it disappears and going back to revise is torture so I end up procrastinating terribly.

Anonymous said...

I always have multiple projects in progress, all at different stages. I usually have one "main" project at a time, and when I reach a major milestone (like finishing a draft), I sometimes take a day or three off. But generally I switch very easily, and I'm usually eager to get to the next thing. My revisions are so intense that I'm usually glad to get away from a project when it's time to let go of it!

Unknown said...

My problem tends to be moving on too quickly. I finish a ms., and I'm done with it--to the pointof not wanting to revise it based on my eagerness to move on to the next thing.

Tabitha said...

Yuna - glad there's another yarn-weaver out there! :) And, yep, distance is the key to making your work the best it can be. It lets the brain sort of simmer, ya know? :)

Bish - I had a similar problem not long ago. I'd be in the middle of a project, then an idea would seize me and demand to be written. So I'd work on it, then another idea would come, and another, etc. So I decided that I wouldn't let these ideas take over so much. Instead, I give them a day, and brain dump everything into a special journal. Then, when my current project is finished, I go back to that journal and pick up where my brain dump left off. :) So far, it's working well.

Jenn - oh, I'm insanely green with envy now! I wish I could work on multiple projects at once, but I always end up spinning my wheels. So I've just accepted the fact that I must work with a queue instead of a group. Ah well. :)

Beth - revision's no fun, is it? I can completely understand avoiding it like the plague and finding actual fun things to do, like starting a new project. :)

Write2ignite said...

The sooner I get done...
the sooner I have fun.


Lenore Appelhans said...

I love your little rhyme. I need to remember that next time I'm mopping floors!

Merc said...

The length of time required between novel drafts varies greatly. NaNo usually throws me into a two month loop... *sigh*

I dunno, though, I think since finishing a novel draft in Sep, I haven't consistently worked on a novel since. (NaNo sucked and doesn't count. :P) Oy. *winces at realizing that fact clearly for the first time*

On the bright side, I've done a lot of short stories--I find these are the perfect thing to occupy my writing time. (Or hijack it completely.) Because I always have to be doing something writerly (usually), at least every other day. So shorts are nice bite-sized snacks to keep up with while I recover from noveldoneitis.

Love your rhyme, by the way! :D


Kelly Polark said...

I usually have a few things going at once, but that doesn't mean I'm as productive. Unfortunately, with sickness with the last few weeks with the kids and now me, my hands have been idle and full of kleenex!
I think it is awesome you are so excited about Rose! This positivity can only help get it published!

Brenda said...

It takes me awhile to get from one project to another...especially if the first project was a longer piece (say a MG)...I usually brainstorm a bunch of ideas and sooner or later my ideas bring me back to my second project and then I can get all excited for it...

Tabitha said...

Donna - thanks! :) It has served me well these many years. :)

Lenore - it works! It reminded me that mopping floors will not last forever, and that fun stuff was just waiting for me. :)

Merc - that's great that you can do short stories. I can't write short stories to save my life, but I suppose I could try poetry. That's short, yet really involving. It might get my brain shifted into a different gear. :)

Kelly - oh no!! I hope everyone is feeling better. Winter is the season of sickness in Chicago, isn't it?

Brenda - that great that brainstorming works for you! How many ideas do you wade through before finding the one you want to write?

Nora MacFarlane said...

I just finished a MG in December. I started revisions immediately, and finished the first round in January. I set it aside again until just a few days ago (a good thing, I've found). While it was resting, I started an outline for a new YA and an outline for a sequel to the finished MG. I've also been reading like there's no tomorrow!

Maggie May said...

It's so interesting to read about another writers process. Trying to stay focused is very difficult for me as I bounce from poetry to my novel to essay.

Christina Farley said...

When finish, I do a quick rewrite based on some big issues. Then I go through about a month where I don't write much but I read a TON. Then I go back and rewrite with fresh eyes and ones that have been reading lots of great books.

Angela Ackerman said...

I am really struggling with focus right now, so I don't know what to offer. The break should have helped, but it sounds like to me that you're still wanting to think about Rose and it just isn't time to move on yet.

Why not try a NF read?

Tabitha said...

Nora - that's great you can work on an outline like that! And I find that reading helps a lot too. It gets my mind off my old project and allows me to transition to a new one. :)

Maggie - I'm enjoying all these different processes, too. :) That's cool that you write poetry! I started out writing poetry, though I haven't written any in years. It's such a different beast, isn't it?

Christina - that's a great process. I'll bet you have some amazing insight when you go back for revisions. :)

Angela - you and me both. :) I think writing this post has been something like therapy, though. Getting those "I can't focus" words out there has made it easier to deal with, and I feel like I'm almost ready to let go of Rose and start on something else. Almost, but at least it's progress. :) Hope you're able to regain focus soon!!