“As a writer one of your jobs is to bring news of the world to the world.”
Grace Paley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

revisiting destuckification and legitimizing the avoidance
Tue 2015-01-06 23:14:36 (in context)
  • 5,300 words (if poetry, lines) long

I said "solid work week," and I meant it, gosh darn it. And today has been a solid, if oddly scheduled, work day. I haven't reached my five hours yet, but I will, even if it takes me right up to 1:00 AM. Even if it means I have to ... *gulp* start working on the short story rewrite.

Remember that bit about how procrastinated tasks get heavier and heavier the longer I put them off? Well, right now that rewrite feels like it weighs some four or five tons of weaponized plutonium. The avoidance tendency is strong with this one. How strong? Strong enough that I tried really, really hard to meet my five-hour quota today by writing resumes. And the volunteer WFTDA Editor position doesn't even require a resume. I lingered lovingly over that application, though. Ditto the new DMS resume. Oh, did I linger.

It is possible that I am lingering inappropriately over this blog post, too...

Avoidance! It's what's for dinner. And also for elevensies. Which means it's time to review some avoidaince-avoidance strategies. That is, strategies for avoiding avoidance.

I come back to Havi's post about avoidance (and how to get out of it) time and time again, hoping it'll magic-bullet me into World Fantasy Award level productivity. Or any sort of productivity. Magic bullets! Why can't there be magic bullets? I was so comforted by Bruce Holland Rogers's book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer, where he repeatedly and unashamedly says he doesn't want to do "self-help," he has no patience for "self-help," what he wants are tricks that work. I want a trick that works. But Havi's post (from which all blockquoted bits today are drawn) is really more about ongoing self-help than it is about magic bullets, and I suspect it's because there really aren't any magic bullets.

But it does have a magic bullet for shooting a different problem: My tendency to start getting impatient with myself over the avoidance. Worse than impatient. Angry. Frustrated. Depressed, and wondering whether I've been a fraud all along. When I get like that, I need to reread the following words and hold them close to my heart:

Youíre avoiding the thing thatís holding all your dreams? Good grief! Of course you are! That symbolic weight? Itís that much potential for hurt and disappointment.

If you werenít avoiding it on some level, Iíd be worried about you. If you could do the thing easily and painlessly, without having to spend years and years working on your stuff to get thereÖ Iíd probably assume that it didnít mean everything to you.

"Doc, I have these symptoms that are really worrying me. I want to do the thing, I want to do it so bad... and then I don't do it at all, for weeks at a time. What's wrong with me?"

"Nothing's wrong with you, honey. What you're describing is a symptom of how much you want the thing."

"But that doesn't make any sense!"

"It makes perfect sense, sweetie. The more important a thing is, the scarier it is. The scarier it is, the more you want to run away. Perfectly logical when you look at it that way."

So I reread that post, and I go away with my permission-to-experience-avoidance renewed. Not that I want to experience avoidance, mind you. But I am experiencing it, and I can't exactly work through it while I'm busy denying it. So I need to stop denying it. So I need reassurance that experiencing avoidance doesn't invalidate my I Am A Writer claim. So that's the magic bullet I get out of rereading Havi's lovely post.

And then there's the ongoing self-help work part of the post: sitting with the avoidance and recognizing its legitimacy.

And every time I recognize that itís legitimate for me to feel whatever it is Iím feeling about the way things happened to be, I get room to breathe.

But that sort of self-work takes time. And I don't want to take time about it. I want to get that rewrite done this week!

Which is where the whining and moaning and the "It's not fair!" complaining comes in. Which I guess is OK, as long as--like the famous writer said about writing itself--I indulge in it in private and wash my hands afterwards. So. This is where I run away and have my "It's not fair!" temper tantrum off-stage.

[ muzak interlude ]

OK, I'm back. With thoughts. Here's my thought: I'm going to take a little time to do the self-work. Just a little, every day, telling myself things like, "I see you there, avoidance. I recognize you as a valid expression of fear. What am I afraid of, and what do I need to feel safe enough to do the work?" And I'm going to allow myself to count it toward my total count of time spent working on the short story, just like I would time spent staring into space, mulling over plot problems, or typing up verbose character backgrounds and worldbuilding notes.

Basically, I'm legitimizing the time spent working on the avoidance. Which will go a long way toward legitimizing the avoidance itself.

I wonít say that itís easy or anything. But it beats the hell out of drawing the conclusion that stuckification and avoidance mean that my dreams arenít important to me.

Because they are. They must be. Because they still scare me.

I'd rather not be scared. But if I've got to be scared, I rather be scared and productive, rather than simply scared stiff.