I was being a diligent blogger recently, re-categorizing old posts and going through draft posts to see if there was anything interesting I’d written but neglected to publish.
Oh, was there. A mountain of half-baked ideas, neglected buds of stories, and rants that sounded cleverer in my head. Some were hundreds of words of narration that went essentially nowhere (“My chiropractor likes Battlestar Galactica” 433 words), while others were just a semblance of an idea, likely sketched in the midst of other work (“Fashion advice from my mother” 50 words).
I’ve started and abandoned almost more posts on this blog than I’ve written, including three in a row last spring. Brutal. So much potential flushed down the internet tubes. Wanting to turn this into a learning experience, I noticed there are a few different reasons I might abandon a posts.
I had good intentions, then forgot
Sometimes I use WordPress as a place to jot a quick idea for a post. But with no system to return to these posts and turn them into something bigger, they become abandoned. Other times, I write a quick first draft with every intention of getting back to it soon, but again, with no system, it’s forgotten.
Example: “Is it writer’s block or are you lazy?”
“What was once a habit of staring at a blinking cursor has morphed into a distraction of epic proportions!”
Example: “Should I get rid of this stuff I’ve had since university?”
“Sometimes, you just have to throw it out. The advice makes sense when it comes to that expensive loaf of whole grain bread you left to rot on top of the fridge. (Guilty.) It also works with that threadbare t-shirt that doesn’t fit properly anymore unless if by “fit properly” you mean the white one that “stretches way too tight across The Girls and shows a sizeable sliver the no-man’s-land between navel and the start of too-low-waisted pants”.”
Vignettes that didn’t go anywhere
It’s not that these vignettes have no potential, only that I dove into writing them without deciding what that potential might be. Sometimes I can write myself into making sense, but more often I’ll get further with an outline from the outset.
Example: “Don’t use my towel”
“Now, there are a lot of towels at the Disneyland/California Adventure gift shop. It’s Disneyland. They have a bit of marketing power under their giant foam heads. But somehow, my brother and I ended up choosing the same towel to bring home.”
Example: “The Classic Vomit Story”
“The time I threw up in the theatre on a date to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2.”
Ego got in the way
These posts started off good, but my writerly ego convinced me not to finish post them. I let my ego stop me from creating a finished product because an unfinished product can’t be sub-par—it’s unfinished. It’s a safety net. Something that represents itself as complete has to face a whole new set of standards.
Example: “Do I have the intestinal fortitude to write a novel?”
“Writers often fail to prepare for the physical and psychological toll of their craft. There’s a reason, after all, why so many writers throughout history and in your English 201 class were called tortured artists. I won’t get over dramatic here, because that’s not my style. No realistic description of me anywhere would conjure images of a tortured mind in a dark corner of my own psyche.”
Shy about fiction
Fiction is a scary place where anything can happen and there are no rules except the ones you make. If I’m responsible for every part of the world being interesting to the reader, where’s my scapegoat? I need a scapegoat! Or maybe I should just suck it up and write more fiction, because it’s fun?
Example: “No-Pants Twitter”
“Ugh,” I huff. “I’m sorry. It’s just, I’m worried we’re falling into a routine. The kind that ends with high blood pressure, piles of crushed Coke zero cans and rice cracker crumbs in my cleavage.”
Kyle stared at my chest a moment before his eyes flickered to the remote in his hand, then the ambitious pile of unread Walrus Magazines stacked at the edge of our futon-shaped couch, the half-folded laundry next to the sink, three pizza boxes beside the garbage, then back to me.
If there’s a conclusion to be gleaned from all this, it’s that a) I need a system for my writing if I want to put more of it out into the world in a finished form and b) I need to ditch excuse-making and capitulating to my ego if I intend to be more productive.