I have almost finished my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Auckland. In other words, deadlines are looming, my thesis is due.
This is generally a time to panic.
My thesis is in the form of a novel. Now, for all intents and purposes, the novel is complete. ‘Complete’ and ‘Finished’ are two entirely different concepts however. I am still in what authors call the rewrite and editing phase.
Some authors like doing this. Some view it as the ‘fun part’. I don’t. I would rather create something new than remould something old. Frankly, I would prefer to be in Hell having my nose hairs plucked. But it’s part of the creative process and has to be done.
Writing a novel is a tiring, exhilarating, soul-destroying, emotional roller coaster ride, especially when you are currently working on version No. 6.
In order to deal with it (and especially rewrites), an author uses a variety of strategies. Foremost amongst them is procrastination. Some would call it work avoidance.
Procrastination takes many forms. The interweb is an enabler. Procrastination and the interweb are very good friends. My lecturer, Paula Morris, tells me that she does not let herself on the interweb until after 3pm. I am not so strong. Before I start a day’s writing, I check a variety of on-line distractions. First, I check my bank balance in the forlorn hope that some mysterious benefactor has deposited a large amount of money. Sometimes I hope that one of my royalty cheques will be large enough to write full-time. I’m still holding out for that day.
Then, I read my emails. In particular, I’m usually looking for something from my agent that is linked to the paragraph above.
Next, I check facebook. This can take some time. I closely examine my author page and see if I have any more likes. Then I check to see if any other authors I know have had any likes. Then I click on links to see if there’s anything interesting. There usually is. This is what I like to call ‘research.’
Then I check twitter. This also takes some time. I often toy with the idea of tweeting, even going so far as to write one. Then I find that it’s not very interesting or funny and delete it. I find it much more enjoyable to read other author’s tweets, authors who all seem to be far more funny and interesting than me.
Then there’s goodreads. I call it the black hole of Calcutta. There’s reviews to read (of my books and those of my peers), other books to find, other authors to check out, links to their webpages. All very interesting.
Actual words written so far: 0
After that, I go onto Amazon’s author central to see how many sales I’ve made the previous night. Often, I think about tweaking my author profile before discarding the idea as blatantly stupid. There’s really nothing I can say about myself that will make me darkly mysterious or even vaguely cool.
Finally, I crack my knuckles, lean forward, fingers poised above the keyboard as though I’m about to play a challenging piece by Mozart, and begin typing, praying that it is not today that my Muse abandons me.
If she does, it’s not the end of the world. That’s a whole different genre.
Phillip W. Simpson’s latest YA novel, Minotaur, is out with Month9books on September 29th.
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Phillip W. Simpson
Phillip W. Simpson is an author of YA and children's books.