Stop Scratching!

I finally finished that freaking novelette I’ve been working on, and realized that I’ve done very little writing other than that. Now, this is mostly because I’ve been really busy — the kitchen renovations are on the last lap, we’re doing the preparations now for the last step, countertops. But that’s not the whole answer. I often say that I have no time to write, but that’s not true. There is always time to write, and there is never time to write as much as I want. The only other story I did finish (a 1,500-word piece) I wrote by talking to my iPod voice recorder in traffic, then finding an hour or so to bang it out.

So there’s something else going on, and I’m kind of curious why I’ve been so non-prolific lately. I’m a firm subscriber to the belief that there’s no such thing as writer’s block, any more than there is plumber’s block. It’s possible to get stuck or to paint yourself into a corner, sure, but there are ways of dealing with that; they just involve work and often backtracking. Giving it a lofty name just legitimizes laziness.

No, what I think is going on is that the itch to write is getting scratched elsewhere. In particular, I’ve been watching an episode of LOST every day at lunch, surfing writer forums, and playing the occasional half-hour of Sims Medieval or Minecraft or Portal 2. Or hour. Or two hours. *cough*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this pleasant existence, but I think that the three of them together are satisfying the various itches that compel me to drop everything and write: the urge to tell stories, the urge to immerse myself in another world, the urge to solve problems and generally exercise my creativity. And it is a lot easier to enjoy someone else’s narrative, or to click around instead of think and type, or to give random bad advice in two-paragraph chunks instead of figure out the holes in my own plots.

Anyway, that’s all a long-winded way of saying that I’m finding that if I want to get writing done, I need to particularly avoid those forms of procrastination that scratch the creative itch, so that when I have a half hour to sit and write, I feel the drive to actually do it.

(Since I haven’t posted in a while, a quick Duotrope check is in order: For 2011, I have 17 submissions recorded, five of them to markets I’d never subbed to before, one of which was a sale. For comparison: In all of 2010, I submitted 19 times to 8 new-to-me markets. Not bad for midway through the year, but not as good as I could be doing, seeing as I only have two pieces on submission right now.)

4 thoughts on “Stop Scratching!

  1. I just signed up for a Duotrope account– thanks for the recommendation! Of the publications you’ve submitted to, how many do you regularly read? It seems like it could get prohibitively expensive (and time-consuming) to regularly read the number of publications I’d like to submit to.

    1. I regularly read maybe half the markets I submit to, mostly the free ones. (Fortunately, there are a lot of free markets) And by regularly I mean I look at the TOC for every issue and read/skim a couple stories a month. Of the others I make a point of picking up an issue/quarterly a couple times a year. Sometimes I flip through, sometimes I read cover-to-cover. I read stories written by people I know, though I’m going to have to start applying some triage there.

      It does consume money and time — it’s always nice when I can trade issues and notes with other writers, in order to cut down. But I figure that if I don’t do it, I’ll spend more time spinning my wheels over submissions that won’t go anywhere, and I don’t want a reputation for scattershot submitting.

      I’ve also considered a strategy of trying to crack specific markets: focus on one or two, get a real feel for what they like, then write with that editor in mind. I know people who’ve had some success doing that. I’m not yet writing enough short fiction fast enough for this, but I’m definitely keeping a couple markets in mind when I write.

  2. I think a targeted approach is almost always better than a scattershot one (with job searches and online dating, at least!), but it does seem risky when you could be waiting months to hear back on a submission. I have a lot to learn, that’s for sure.

    1. Well, one would be courting disappointment to target, say, Tor.com (an excellent well-paying market with a very long response time) for just that reason.

      But markets like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed generally get back within a few days, plus a short requested wait between subs. (They’re excellent candidates for Ferrett Steinmetz’s Consolation Challenge, actually) Pursuing fast and tough markets like that would also give a writer a good body of work to shop around elsewhere. The downside, of course, is that those markets are tough to crack, and it can take a long time and be very discouraging. Also, because they’re so high-volume you’re not really going to get any feedback about what it is you’re doing that they don’t like. (Actually, that’s true of most markets, but Duotrope can help you there in finding friendlier ones)

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