Not long ago, I was cruising. I had submitted a new round of revisions to Agent Carrie on the RiP; not only was I making substantial headway on the WiP, I was actually liking it, too; and I was reading what felt like a ton of books. And then…
Another round of suggestions has come back on the RiP, and while I’ve read them, I’ve done nothing more than think about them a bit. And the WiP has grown by maybe three paragraphs in the last three weeks for sure, with maybe another page of noodlings in a separate document. As for reading? I’ve got two books finished, and one of them was started in 2016. It’s safe to say my productivity has fallen off a cliff.
I can point to a couple of things: one, the Boston Bruins have played more games than any team in the National Hockey League thus far (actually, some teams caught up to them last night), and I’ve watched far too many of them. Second, my wife got me Grand Theft Auto IV for Christmas–a guilty pleasure if there ever was one–and I have been allowing myself to slip away into the violent world of Liberty City way too often. It’s interesting that, despite watching a fair amount of TV during the fall and early part of the winter–catching up on shows like The Walking Dead, The OA (I heartily recommend that one, by the way), and Shameless, I was still more productive than I am right now. TV is a great time sink, no doubt, but episodes have a definite end point. Hockey games do, too, but it’s two, two-and-a-half hours. And video games? The problem with open worlds like the GTA series is that you can explore endlessly–plus there are all the annoying side characters who want you to go bowling or boating or playing darts with them. The game designers have done a good job at making sure you stay at your computer.
These are excuses, though. Back when I was on Absolute Write all the time, it was not unusual to see (mostly new) writers start threads with titles like “How do you stay motivated?” The answer I always gave there–and have probably written on this blog, and maybe as comments on some of YOUR blogs–was pretty much always the same: “I want my work to be published. And for that to happen, I have to finish what I start.” Looks a little smug, doesn’t it? I hope no one took it that way, because I certainly didn’t mean it that way. Anyway, it was true then, and it’s true now. The only way we will ever get anything published is to finish it. And that means curtailing the distractions and getting back on task. For me, that means cutting back the hockey games (easy enough this week: the Bruins have five days off as part of a new league directive. When all the teams have caught up to them in terms of games played, I suspect the Bs will be out of a playoff spot and will not be able to get back in); it means cutting back on GTA IV; it means re-reading the RiP and putting my brain back to it, and re-dedicating myself to my work, and maybe taking advantage of that time to get a little distance from the WiP.
There’s one other distraction looming here, however: the current state of America. As I mentioned, I was able to balance hockey and TV and other things with my writing back last fall, probably all the way up through Christmas and shortly thereafter. There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that my productivity went off the cliff about three, four weeks ago, in the final run-up to Donald Trump taking the oath of office. Hockey, TV, video games have become a necessary distraction, an escape from the nightmare reality TV show we find ourselves in right now. I’m not hiding from reality, but I am taking much-needed refuge from it. This week, one of the women in my writing group mentioned that she found writing really helped her deal with everything that’s happening. What I need to do now is to start making writing an escape, an outlet, while making sure I’m not hiding and disappearing completely. Easier said than done.
How about you? Does writing help you escape from reality a little bit?