I’ve started a new project. Before I started writing, I thought I’d do some research first. Read for inspiration. Read for advice. Read agent interviews.
I picked up Susan Page’s, Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, recommended by one of the agents. I don’t read every how-to book that comes along (this one was published in 1997!) but I started to wonder if in fact there was some big step I’d completely overlooked. Maybe I hadn’t put the right secret code word in my query letters.
I usually read non-fiction in the order it’s presented. The author had a reason for the order, certainly. But this time I glanced through the table of contents and Part II: Taming the Monsters, jumped out at me. Monster #2 is procrastination. Until now, I’ve never had a problem with this particular monster. But since finishing my last manuscript, I hadn’t been able to pin down my next project. I couldn’t focus. I began to wonder if I had some form of ADD. I couldn’t even focus on what to read. I’ve been in the middle of six books for a few weeks now and each day I pick up a different one depending on my mood.
I’ve been researching, writing snippets of ideas and scenes, but without a clear mission. Finally I wrote the first 20 pages. I even asked Pamela to read it. “Lots at stake,” she said. “But where’s the plot?” I knew she was right. If only I could read a little more, research a little more, it would come to me. I’m procrastinating, no?
No! I’ve got acedia. (Not a disease!) On page 218 of Page’s book, she notes that a friend told her about acedia. “Acedia, my friend explained, is the slow and arduous forward motion required to start a new project or to return to work after a break.” She goes on to explain that it’s a way to allow the creative juices to flow, to prepare for the next writing journey. Procrastination is putting off something you don’t want to do. Acedia is the process of getting ready to start a creative project that you want to do. Wow! Yes! I love to write! There’s nothing I want more. (Aside from a call from the perfect agent, the one who knows one of my books will sell immediately!)
As soon as I accepted this explanation for my lack of direction, I began to focus. I brainstormed. What would happen if… I jotted notes about my characters. What does he want? What’s in his way? Next thing I knew, a plot was forming. Now I’m so excited about it, I can’t wait to write. And I actually know what I’m going to write.