Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Breaking Free From the Panic Trap

Writing? What writing? That’s what this week feels like. The short story I’m working on, “Scissors Beat Paper,” isn’t coming together very well. I am slowly working on reworking the outline and plans for Blood of the Mist, but right now I’m feeling sluggish and (if I’m being honest) just a little resentful of having to practically start all over from scratch, so this isn’t exactly gliding along, either.
The worst part is that a lot of the difficulties I’m having right now are self-inflicted. I haven’t been sleeping well, so I’m feeling exhausted, and that’s making everything take much longer and require much more effort than it should, and yet I can’t seem to make myself go to bed earlier. I procrastinated a lot over the past two weeks, and now, with tomorrow’s writers’ meeting looming, my brain is frozen in deadline panic. And on top of all of that, I am letting myself succumb to the siren call of new story ideas which are flinging themselves at me fast and furious right now.
Some of the stumbling blocks are external, though. My office manager is on vacation this week, so I am doing two jobs at work all week. I am also getting ready to go to a big camping event this weekend followed immediately by flying to Chicago next Thursday for my cousin’s wedding. So my brain is swirling with plans and lists and “how am I going to get everything done?!”
I’ve found a way around this sort of brain-freezing terror, though. It works when I remember to do it. Actually, this post is part of the cure. I know a lot of artistic/creative types get into these bouts of hysteria—I think it comes with the territory. In the past, I could easily have let this build on itself and go on for months. But now, a bit over a week into it, I have recognized that I’m caught in the panic trap. Time for the antidote. Maybe it will help some of my readers, too, when they get caught up in the same snare.
First, recognize and acknowledge where you are. Out loud or in writing or both. I am procrastinating and panicking because I have a writers’ meeting tomorrow and have nothing written.
Next step—make a plan. Again, out loud or in writing or both. I will write a brief outline of the short story and do a short character sketch of Caylee and then jump back into the rewrite. For BotM, I will keep working with Dramatica Pro on the planning and outline and when I am done with that I will make a schedule for the actual rewrite.
Now, make a schedule for the various parts of your plan. It’s okay to just schedule the first part, as long as you actually schedule the next part when you finish the first and so on. I will do the outline and character sketch when I get home tonight. I will start the rewrite by making notes on the printout of the current draft, also tonight. I will do the actual rewrite tomorrow afternoon.
There. Now I can breathe again. Having a plan with small steps to follow and a schedule of exactly when I’m going to start and what I’m going to start with soothes my mind, lets me focus and move forward. And moving forward is all it takes to escape the fear fiends every time.

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