I quite like writing, getting all the thoughts and information from my head to the page feels great. As a PDAer though, this isn’t always easy. There’s so much preventing me from writing that I’m actually surprised I get as much done as I do, but it’s not nearly as much as I would prefer. So what exactly is the problem? and what do I personally do to help?
Perfectionism – the bane of my life. Everything has to be perfect. I’m sure this trait adds to my OCD. Thankfully it hasn’t impacted my writing that way, it can for some, but having the need for my writing to be perfect can really impact on what, if anything, I write.
I have always wanted the first draft to be the only draft. I don’t like editing as I feel it should be perfect the first time round. This means I may spend ages going over and over what I want to write and how I will write it, that I end up not writing anything at all. Often, by the time I’ve perfected it in my head, there’s no time or I have no energy left to write it down.
Most of the time I will get stuck at the planning stage and never reach the writing stage because it doesn’t sound good enough to me. If it’s not right in my head then I won’t write it down on paper. If I leave it too long then the original idea starts to sound stupid, so I don’t get round to writing, because the enthusiasm for the idea has gone.
The solution – Someone once said that it doesn’t matter what the first draft is like, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s about getting the overall idea down that’s important. Grammar, spelling, correct details, consistency, etc can all be done in the second, third, and so on drafts. The same person, a published author, showed the difference in their first draft and their seventh (yes) draft. The difference was remarkable. This has helped me loads, I recognise now that my work doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round. It’s still hard not to make everything right as I write it, but I have learnt to relax a lot. It helps that it was framed as advice as opposed to instruction.
I try not to think when I come up with a new idea. If I think I’ll start to doubt my work. I get everything down as quick as possible then publish it as quick as possible, otherwise I’ll second guess the decency and usefulness of the writing. This means posts get published that may have otherwise be binned that are great, but it also means rubbish posts that should have been binned get published too. At least people get to see raw, unsolicited work, kind of like those love me or leave me people who expect others to take them as they are. Sorry guys, you’ll have to accept me as is, crappy posts and all.
Memory – some PDAers have great ,memory, others have a decent memory. Mine is rubbish. I often struggle to remember what I had for breakfast, so when it comes to remembering ideas I may as well not bother. I often get carried away imagining word for word what I’m going to write, then even an hour later, when it comes to writing it down, I’ve already forgotten it all. If I’m lucky I can remember the general idea. The details…no chance. I can forget words literally minutes after thinking them. I’ve had some absolutely brilliant ideas that have been thought up before drifting off to sleep, that have been lost in oblivion by the time I wake. I usually have my best ideas when I am unable to write anything down.
And then there’s the stories, blog posts, ideas which I’ve started and left for a few weeks/months, only to return to with no idea what I was writing. I constantly have to start from the beginning, redoing hours of work, simply because my memory is crap.
The solution – I try my best not to think when I’m not near my laptop. If I get an idea I jot down the basics then hold on to the forming of the details until I am able to write directly from thought to page.
I try to finish what I start there and then. I know if I leave something I’ll probably never go back to it, so I don’t. I’ve learnt how to, sort of, work around my memory problems.
Handwriting – I love, love, love writing by hand. I don’t use cursive or joined up writing, I use block and I love it. It’s taken me ages to find a writing style I’m happy with. Guess what, my writing style satisfies my sensory/autistic needs. It’s all sharp edges, smooth rounds and absolutely no dots above the I’s. I love the feel of a pen in my hand and I love making marks on crisp white paper.
So why is this a problem? I can barely write a full page before my hand really starts to hurt. My wrist aches, my fingers are sore, and I have to shake my hand to loosen it up. I grip the pen far too hard, but I struggle to write otherwise. I’m pretty sure I either have arthritis or my wrists are generally weak. One time recently I wrote six whole pages by hand. It was a struggle but I hyperfocused through the pain. Even then I had to stop ages before I was finished and needed many, many breaks just to get as far as I did. For nearly a whole week afterwards my hand was useless. I vowed never to make that mistake again.
The solution – sadly I have to severely limit how much handwriting I do. It’s easier for me to write a first draft by hand then edit as I transfer it to computer. That option is now out. I write everything on my laptop. I love my laptop but it will never replace the feeling of writing by hand. Although writing by type is miles faster and far less painful. It is a better option, it’s just not my first preference.
Demand avoidance – did you think I’d forgotten this gem? Demand avoidance is what makes me not write even after I’ve scheduled time and gotten rid of distractions. It’s what causes me to surf Facebook even when nothing interesting is happening and I want to be writing instead. It’s what has cost me valuable writing time and many a great idea. My old frenemy demand avoidance. Need I explain this one?
The solution – I don’t schedule time any more, I learnt that lesson the hard way. In fact, I ‘decide’ to write when something really important needs doing, like filling in a form or cleaning the bathroom. Whenever I get a brilliant idea in my head I look around and find something truly distasteful that needs doing right this second. That prompts me to write for hours. What’s that? just thought up a magical idea for a story? you know, the bin hasn’t had a good deep clean in months. Hello motivation!
I have a rolling ‘timetable’. There are three things I spend my time writing on. My blog, fiction stories and Facebook. When I’m doing one thing such as writing a story I will start to become demand avoidant. I start to avoid writing fiction by going on Facebook and writing stuff there. After a while I’ll start to avoid that so then I’ll turn to my blog. Once that becomes too much of a demand I may go back to Facebook or I may start story writing again. It’s a never ending cycle, but I get stuff done. It works for me.
Research – whether it’s a story, a blog post or some other form of writing, research can be needed to complete it. What the research is about will impact how long it takes and how hard/easy it is. Some research can take hours because I get distracted with interest, there’s so much to learn and some of the things I end up researching is so fascinating I easily get sidetracked. Sometimes research takes ages because I’m avoiding looking, especially if it’s something boring or a topic that I’ve exhausted yet still need more information about. Some things are obscure so take longer simply because it’s hard to find. Others mean long run around trying to find the stuff I need that it gets too boring, I end up either distracted or giving up.
The solution – I keep a notebook to write down anything interesting that I find. This way if I start to get distracted by interesting research that isn’t relevant to what I need then I can write down the details and sources to come back to it later, once the writing is finished. If it’s boring I will tell myself I will spend 10 mins looking then have a rewarding break, this sometimes works and often it’s the getting started that’s the real issue, knowing there’s a small time limit helps get started and I may get distracted and overrun anyway. I will accept that sometimes I don’t need all the information to be wholly accurate, I may add in ‘facts’ whilst making it obvious that it may not be true. It saves on having to do a lot of leg work.
I’m not too hard on myself if I get distracted by research, after all, who knows when that information may come in useful in the future. I’ve helped a few people out be relating information I’ve gathered when researching something unrelated. Knowledge is power!
Editing – I’ve already stated that I don’t edit my work. Can you tell? Especially when it comes to blog posts, what you are reading has come straight out of my brain and hasn’t much been changed. I know I should edit, my work would probably read better if I did. But then most of the topics I cover wouldn’t get published. I’d rather send my work out into the world unedited and have it help someone than have it perfect and sitting in the dark, never to see the light of the internet. Fiction stories are another issue, I sort of have to edit them, even if it’s because the only way I will be able to write any more after having some ‘time off’ is to rewrite what I’ve already written.
The solution – I rarely read my own work. Yup, this helps because then I can’t see how bad it is and cringe. If I knew just how bad my unedited work is then it would make it harder for me to write again in the future. I’d become paralysed by perfectionist need to make my writing better. I’ve also mostly stopped asking people to give me feedback on my writing, they usually only told me my spelling and grammar mistakes anyway.
When it comes to fiction, I tend to leave my writing for a few months/years till I forget most of what was written. I then rewrite it all and class that as editing. Apparently this is a really good idea anyway as it gives you a fresh perspective on your own work. Like looking at something with new eyes.
When it comes to writing, as a PDAer I may have it slightly harder than most. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep on writing and one day I’ll be a published author, sharing my work with the world in a different way. For now, I’m happy to keep writing on this blog. One step at a time.