This morning my good friend James sent me this beautiful image that sums up the way a lot of people feel about the direction of their lives. It was posted on reddit in a discussion between university students who were confused about their futures. There are so many decisions to make in life that it leads to indecision and procrastination.
They say the only thing certain about life is death and I’d like to add the only certain thing procrastinating about your life will achieve is an unproductive and unfulfilling life. So you can procrastinate your life away or do something about it.
I’m certainly no life coach and this blog is about books and writing, so I won’t bore you with a list of advice on how to lead your life. What I want to point out is the same list of actions from the image are equally important when it comes to writing.
Here’s some food for thought:
- You can’t steer a parked car just as much as an unwritten book cannot be read.
- If you’re going to write a book, stop talking about it and just do it. The time you spend telling others and yourself is far better spent “doing”. Like they say, actions speak louder than words.
- You don’t have to start at the beginning. Start with the end if it helps you manifest the story in your mind. For my first novel I had the end written and the solution to the mystery all worked out, I just had no idea how it was going to start and twist and turn to the end. That was actually the fun bit. Seeing the story evolve as I wrote.
- If you don’t like the book you’re writing … ditch it and start again. I’ve actually just done this myself. I was four chapters into a new book and decided it was dull and boring. Then I had an epiphany and a totally new story idea! The book I ditched had some great characters I’d already gotten to know, so I just moved them over to the new one.
Another side to procrastination is the putting off of things today that can be done tomorrow. You can be always going to do something, but it’s never going to be done until you make a start. Much like the parked car that can’t be steered. It can’t be driven at all if you don’t start the engine. Here’s a great little fable by Aesop that reinforces this.
The Ants and the Grasshopper – Aesop
In a field one summer’s day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. A group of ants walked by, grunting as they struggled to carry plump kernels of corn.
“Where are you going with those heavy things?” asked the grasshopper.
Without stopping, the first ant replied, “To our ant hill. This is the third kernel I’ve delivered today.”
“Why not come and sing with me,” teased the grasshopper, “instead of working so hard?”
“We are helping to store food for the winter,” said the ant, “and think you should do the same.”
“Winter is far away and it is a glorious day to play,” sang the grasshopper.
But the ants went on their way and continued their hard work.
The weather soon turned cold. All the food lying in the field was covered with a thick white blanket of snow that even the grasshopper could not dig through. Soon the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger.
He staggered to the ants’ hill and saw them handing out corn from the stores they had collected in the summer. He begged them for something to eat.
“What!” cried the ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”
“I didn’t have time to store any food,” complained the grasshopper; “I was so busy playing music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”
The ants shook their heads in disgust, turned their backs on the grasshopper and went on with their work.
To end, I’ll leave you with something to think about. What type of person are you?
There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened. – Mary Kay Ash