I used to swear that I could never work at home. I’m good at finding things to do other than work, even when at a day job, this despite a reputation for strong work ethic at said day jobs. So, I surprised myself when I started up a direct marketing business in my home. (I ultimately failed at this business, but only partly because of procrastination. The main reason for my failure was the fact that the job required skills ill-suited to an introvert–making phone calls, talking to random strangers, handing a product out to random strangers, etc. But this is beside the point.)
The lessons learned from this experience are invaluable, and the most teachable moment for me came during a conference call with some of the big-shots. During this call, the guy responsible for my training discussed his early experiences in the business. He had a hard time getting things going, finding customers, and talking to people about the product. This, by the way, was the first time I saw him as a human, instead of a hyper-active frothing-at-the-mouth businessman bent on world domination.
The metaphor he used to describe his struggles stuck with me, and I like using this metaphor when talking about writing with fellow writers. Running a business is like riding a bike uphill–very difficult, but as you gain momentum it gets a little easier. When you stop pedaling you lose momentum. The trick is to keep going, despite how much your legs hurt and how nice it would be to take a break at the park bench. So you do something to grow your business everyday, even if what you’re doing seems little and inconsequential.
This applies to the writing business too. Something every day to keep the momentum going, even if only a hundred words in your journal or blog. Easier said than done, as I know from first-hand experience.
I’ve wasted more time than I care to think about–not that I regret my time wasting, since some of my best ideas come to me randomly when I not thinking about story-telling. But I have a compulsive, addictive personality. I rarely do something and not put enormous amount of time into it, whether computer games, music, reading, or writing. This is part of who I am, and I can’t really change that.
So, I limit the games I play. I no longer play mass multi-player games, and I avoid Diablo 2 unless I have a week I want to burn. And I’ve avoided Morrowind for close to a year now (God–Morrowind!). I limit my time playing music to an hour in the evening. I’m getting into the habit of turning off my internet connection, though with a wireless connection that’s more of a symbolic gesture.
More important, I’ve recently set aside time in the mornings for writing. This is quiet time, before I have coffee, before anyone else is awake. My butt is in the chair, and I type something. I don’t outline, I don’t do research, I don’t check blogs. I might go online to a random idea generator, and spend a little time thinking about what I want the story to be like. But, I try hard to at least get five-hundred words or so. Do I always get that? No. Does this always carry through to the afternoon and evening? Sometimes.
Procrastination is a constant struggle for me. Even this post was only half written today, but I had started it on Monday and only now finished. So my goal this year is to keep the momentum, finish everything I start, and put out as much material as I can. Already I’m falling behind on my goals, but I’m stubborn enough to keep going. I’m old enough now to know that everybody falls off the horse. I’ve fallen off too many times to count. The important thing is to get back on and keep going.