To get off the topic of my own writing for the moment, let’s take a look at this article by Cory Delistraty: “The Neurological Similarities Between Successful Writers And The Mentally Ill.” Delistraty says that authors, by dint of their constant thinking, are prone to depression. A common enough claim, though I’d like to put forward the suggestion that depression is far more common than you’d think, and authors are simply more prone to write about it. In addition, writers with personality disorders are seen as romantic figures wracked with anguished genius, where a lawyer or construction worker with the same isn’t seen as nearly so admirable.
The article continues:
Writers can be rather awful people, and their blend of depression, isolation, and desire to control not only their own characters but the “characters” of their real lives has been a relationship-killer for centuries.
…Trying to balance vice, borderline mental illness, and a disregard for the real world in favor of fictitious ones is perhaps a noble but Sisyphusian [sic] act for many writers. Try as they might, the greatest creatives in history have too much neuroscience working against them, too many ideas fluttering around their minds.
Delistraty adds that authors are “awful lovers.” Sounds like someone got dumped by a writer.
I’m not saying that writers aren’t depressed (I mean, I’ve got it too) or even that some authors aren’t terrible people/lovers. I just don’t think they’re more prone to it than anyone else.
(Above picture from my instagram account)
I’ve been in the process of writing the end of my novel for… well, months now. My wordcount goal for the book is 90,000-100,000 words, and at the moment I’m just around 91k. I’m so close to the end here, but writing it is like that paradox where each step you take halves the distance left to go—you’ll never reach the end, because the distance left can always be divided in half.
That’s an overdramatic way of saying that endings are hard. Beginnings have an infinite amount of potential, but by the time you’ve reached the end, every thread of the story has to be tied up neatly. That’s why this is the point in the process where you start having all sorts of ideas for new stories: your brain is making a frantic effort to avoid the hard thinking. Whenever I try thinking of the ending of this story, my brain starts whispering but wouldn’t it be so much easier to just play Minecraft? Yes, brain, yes it would. That’s a fantastic idea.
I took the above picture on a drive down to Newport with Rob and William for a write-in at Empire Tea last week. Rob has a highly admirable work ethic, and has been powering through a rewrite of his sci fi epic over the last few months while I’ve been tootling around with my novel. It’s very inspiring, and in fact whenever I meet up with him for a few hours of writing, I do get a lot done. If only I could hire him to sit full time in my office, typing away industriously, to guilt me into getting more done. He’d look at me disapprovingly whenever I fired up Minecraft.
My current goal is to get the draft done by April 1. That’s 8 days, not counting today, to write the last 8,000 or so words. Doable? We’ll see.
One of the ways I love to procrastinate is by making spreadsheets. I know it’s weird, but I love making graphs of my progress and using formulas to track what I’m doing. I started back in November 2009, and have recorded the number of words I’ve written every day since then.
Here’s the graph:
The last two months of 2009 was clearly a very productive time, and I was able to more or less keep that up through 2010. In 2011 and 2012 I reduced my goals but kept more or less on track. Then 2013 sucked, relatively speaking. I wrote 80,000 words more in the last two months of 2009 than I did in the entirety of 2013.
What’s the point of this all? Not much, really. Honestly the main thing I see here is the effect depression has on my writing. There are some who think writers need to suffer for their art, and that antidepressants stifle creativity, but based on my own anecdotal evidence, I’d have to disagree. Guess which year I was suffering from depression? Yep, that would be that dismal yellow line on the chart. And when did I start antidepressants that worked for me? That’s around day 301 on the chart, at the end of September/start of November 2013. See the way that line ticks up? I’m hoping that progress continues.
I could go on for hours about my spreadsheets, but I don’t want to bore you. I think they’re a useful way of quantifying my writing process. They tell me when I’m doing better than I thought, and they tell me when I’m slacking off without realizing it. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes playing around with formulas. Don’t get TOO into it, though, because it’s as much a procrastination tool as YouTube, even if it makes you feel a little more productive.