It's no secret that when it comes to sitting down to actually doing the writing, we writers excel at procrastination. If, anywhere within a five mile radius of the computer, we happen to notice an unsharpened pencil, a ladybug making its way up the wall, or even a stray thought -- that's more than enough reason to stop writing (assuming we've even started yet) and focus on that distracting alternative, at least until it suddenly occurs to us why we happen to have been sitting in front of that blank computer screen for the past forty-five minutes.
Sometimes, we take advantage of even longer periods of procrastination -- and for each of these, in order to deal with the guilt, we have invented a specific rationalization. It's not "meeting a friend for lunch" -- it's Networking. It's not "vacationing in Hawaii" -- it's Gathering Important Life Experience. It's not "having sex all afternoon" -- it's Getting In Touch With Your Emotions and Learning About the Opposite Sex. It's not "going to see a movie" -- it's "Research -- Hey, Come On, If I'm Going To Be Writing Movies, I Have To Know What's Out There." My mother used to tell me, "You have an answer for everything, a solution for nothing," and I'm starting to appreciate her wisdom.
Lately, however, I've become aware of yet another form of procrastination to which we writers fall victim. Okay, to which I fall victim; I won't drag the rest of you down with me. Because if you identify with me, you're doing a good enough job dragging yourself down. For this form of procrastination is perhaps the most disturbing and insidious of them all. It speaks to the very heart of who we are, what we do, what we want. And I'm really not sure I'll ever be able to overcome it. Ladies and gentlemen, fellow writers, I hope you appreciate the amount of courage it's taking me to come clean about this, but here goes: I have become addicted to the trappings of being a writer.
Yes, sadly, it's true -- I am passionately interested in and devoted to every possible aspect of being a writer, with just one exception -- doing the actual writing. Ironic, isn't it? How dare I presume to even call myself a writer? Would someone who watched the Food Channel all day refer to himself as a chef? And yet I call myself a writer. Hah! I disgust myself.
Check out all the writing-related activities with which I fill my time--time that could be spent actually writing:
Books. I must have a hundred books on writing. Have I read even half of them? No. Would I be approximately 115 years old by the time I finish reading them all? Yes.
Writing Conferences and Seminars. The best thing about these conferences and seminars: while you're there, you have a legitimate excuse not to be writing!
Screenwriting Software. The box my screenwriting software came in proclaims, "Write polished professional scripts within minutes of opening the box!" Well, I've had the box opened for years and apparently, in addition to the software's impressive features, you also need an idea, talent, and discipline. But do they tell you that on the box? Noooooo!
Writers Guild of America. I'm a member, so I can attend readings of works by fellow members, tributes to fellow members, and a variety of "An Evening With..." fellow members, during which, though I'm not actually writing, I'm supposedly gaining insight by finding out how someone else writes. I must have over 4,000 years of insights from other writers. I should open a Writers Insights store and make some money off all this wisdom.
Writing Paraphernalia. I have so many writer-themed mousepads, t-shirts and refrigerator magnets that any half-decent detective might deduce that the owner of all this stuff is a writer. That same detective would have a far more difficult task acquiring evidence of actual writing on the premises.
Okay, you get the idea. I'm circling the writing area. I'm in the writing air space. I'm holding for writing landing clearance. But I'm not writing. And I'm telling you this so that the next time you see me reading a book on writing, attending a writers conference, power shmoozing with someone at a film society screening, or about to pick up a complimentary writer book mark -- you stop me, snatch the book mark out of my hand, shake me hard, slap me if you have to, and remind me that I should be at home, writing. I have been warned.
Cartoon used with permission from The Writer at Work, by Richard Krzemien.