Equipping Writers for Success
HOME   |   ABOUT US   |   CONTACT US   |   SITE MAP   |   MASTER ARTICLE INDEX   |   ADVERTISE WITH US!
HELPFUL LINKS   |   EDITOR'S CORNER (Ramblings on the Writing Life)

Getting Around...

Career Essentials
Getting Started
Queries & Manuscripts
Market Research

Classes & Conferences
Critiquing

Crafting Your Work
Grammar Guides

Research/Interviewing
Writing Contests

The Writing Business
Income & Expenses
Selling Reprints
Collaboration
Pseudonyms

Negotiating Contracts Setting Fees/Getting Paid
Rights & Copyright
Tech Tools

The Writing Life
The Writing Life
Rejection/Writer's Block
Health & Safety

Time Management
Column: Ramblings on the Writing Life

Fiction Writing - General
General Techniques
Characters & Viewpoint
Dialogue
Setting & Description
Column: Crafting Fabulous Fiction

Fiction Writing - Genres
Children's Writing
Mystery Writing
Romance Writing
SF, Fantasy & Horror
Flash Fiction & More

Nonfiction Writing
General Freelancing
Columns & Syndication
Newspapers/Journalism

Topical Markets
Travel Writing
Photography

Creative Nonfiction
Memoirs/Biography

International Freelancing
Business/Tech Writing

Other Topics
Poetry & Greeting Cards Screenwriting

Book Publishing
Traditional Publishing
Self-Publishing
Electronic Publishing
POD & Subsidy Publishing

Promotion/Social Media
General Promotion Tips
Book Reviews
Press Releases

Blogging/Social Media
Author Websites

Media/Public Speaking
Booksignings

Articles in Translation

Search Writing-World.com:

Google:
Yahoo: MSN:

This free script provided by
JavaScript Kit


Editor's Corner:
But First...

by Moira Allen

Return to Editor's Corner · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

I'm going to get started on my novel soon. But first...

I'm really going to tackle that short story. But first...

I'm going to start working on my memoir. But first...

If you're anything like me, you probably have a lot of "but firsts" in your life. Part of you wants to get started on that special project -- or keeps thinking that you should get started on that project. But another part of you keeps coming up with other projects that need to be done first.

And now, if you're anything like me, you're expecting to read yet another classic motivational editorial about the importance of avoiding procrastination, of following your dreams, of just doing it, and all the rest. If so, relax. It's not going to be that kind of editorial. You've heard it all before. I've heard it all before. I've written it all before. And I have come to the conclusion that what these "don't procrastinate, just do it" messages accomplish best is... to make us all feel really, really guilty.

The problem is that guilt is not a motivator. In fact, guilt can quite often lead to "writer's paralysis." This is what kicks in when two halves of your brain start arguing over what you should be doing right now. "You should stop focusing on paid projects and write your novel," whispers the one half. "You'd better send out more queries and get more assignments because you need the money," whispers the other. Whatever you choose to do, you feel guilty about not doing the other. And quite often, rather than face the choice, you'll do something completely different, like clean the closets or scrub the kitchen floor.

So let's face reality for a moment: Sometimes, there are good reasons for why that "but first... " project really does come first. For example:

1) You need the money. In today's economy, that's hard to argue with. If your writing income is important, then that's where you'll want to focus most of your efforts. These may not be projects that you enjoy; they may even bore you to tears. But right now, they are the ones that are most important to you and your family.

2) You honestly enjoy it. We often find it difficult to admit that we don't always enjoy the sort of writing we think we ought to be doing. We think we should tackle that novel -- but precisely because we think we should, not because we actually enjoy it. Conversely, there may be other tasks that we enjoy more. For example, I discovered early on that I really love editing -- not the mechanics of correcting punctuation, but the sense of assembling a bunch of discrete parts into a new, interesting, even beautiful whole. You probably have "but first..." project that makes you feel the same way: It gives you pleasure, but makes you feel guilty at the same time, because you're sure you ought to be doing something you enjoy less.

3) You benefit from it. There are many benefits besides money and enjoyment. Perhaps you need to spend time promoting your last book before starting work on the next. Perhaps you need to hone your skills before tackling a major project. Perhaps you want to branch out into a new area of freelancing -- from stories to screenplays, or from writing to photography -- and you need to spend time mastering the basics all over again. Whatever the reason, if your "but first..." project conveys a valid benefit, don't ignore its value.

In short, there will always be periods in your writing life when the things you want to do, or the things you think you ought to do, will go on hold for awhile. Fortunately, "for awhile" doesn't have to translate to "forever." The key is to determine whether that "but first..." project really is conveying a benefit. If it is, then quite often, the best thing that you can do is stop feeling guilty and just get on with things.

If, conversely, you can't come up with any reasonable benefit from your "but first..." project -- it's not earning any money, you're not enjoying it, and it's not doing anything else for you -- then perhaps it really is a procrastination tool, and you need to examine why you're using it to avoid some other writing task.

But then, even the kitchen floor needs to be scrubbed once in awhile!

Find Out More...

The Best-Laid Plans - Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee32.shtml

The Dither Factor - Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee37.shtml

Eliminating Timewasters - Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee26.shtml

Enforcing Boundaries: Making Sure Others Respect Your "Right to Write" - Kristi Holl
http://www.writing-world.com/life/boundaries.shtml

Finding Time to Write - Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/life/time.shtml

I Could Be A Writer, Too - If I Only Had The Time - Roberta Roesch
http://www.writing-world.com/life/roberta.shtml

Writing Time: A Vital Luxury - Moira Allen
http://www.writing-world.com/coffee/coffee82.shtml

Column Index

Copyright © 2009 Moira Allen

This article may be reprinted provided that the author's byline, bio, and copyright notice are retained in their entirety. For complete details on reprinting articles by Moira Allen, please click HERE.


Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts VictorianVoices.net, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat. She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor

Organize your writing
and save time. Click here for a free download