Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Apathy: The Deadly Disease

I still have my Christmas tree up.

The lights are still strung, the ornaments still on, the stockings are still hung on the mantel. I don’t want to take it down. Why? Because then it will be over. It also means, I will have to clean.

I am really apathetic about it. Perhaps if I ignore it will go away?
Sure, I know it won’t. If I don’t do anything about it, there the tree will stay, cobwebs forming (Oh, did I mention I don’t like dusting?), the cat will slowly chew through every little ornament on the bottom part of the tree. The lights will dim. The beautiful decorations will become tarnished. All that I celebrated will turn to nothing.

I have been treating my writing like that. I have this manuscript which has been rejected, but still needs LOTS of polishing. I’ve been slowly working on it. Ok, lets put that in perspective, slowly as in, not doing much at all. Because I have told myself once it is done, I will send it in and apply for pro.

Just like my Christmas tree, if I keep ignoring this manuscript of mine, using the excuse that I am still polishing it, thinking it will be better the longer I keep it, than I am foolish, it will tarnish. I have used my apathy to mask something deeper, something I really don’t want to nudge with my foot. Because if I have to actually DO something--like clean up the decorations and put them away, or send in my manuscript as is--it will reveal itself.


Fear is not always the recognized monster, that nail-biting, heart-pounding, wild- eyed emotion. Sometimes it sneaks in through a back door and takes position in your life and you never even know it’s there. The symptoms are apathy, procrastination, neglect, boredom, negativity, and inertia (I specialize in the last one).

How do you find it? How do you attack it? Ask yourself this: Why? Why am I not moving forward? Why is this particular scene, life, moment hard for me? Meet it head on and examine it. Where do I want to be? Why? What’s stopping me? (if you start blaming others, that’s fear, my friend).

I don’t want to be the “wannabe” writer. You know the one, the writer that always TALKS about writing, but never actually does anything. (I’m not talking about those that keep writing, submitting, and struggling forward, they’ve overcome this already). How am I going to move on this writer’s journey if I remain apathetic? I won’t. All my hopes and dreams will be ashes.

So, today my Christmas tree comes down. All the ornaments will carefully be packed away, the lights studiously placed, untangled into the boxes, and all evidence of celebration will be replaced by space.

This week, I will get my less than perfect manuscript together, make it readable, even if it is still cringe worthy, and place it on disc.

This week, I apply for Pro.

What are you apathetic about? What are you denying that needs to be done to make you move forward in your writer’s journey?


Jeanie said...

I have sent queries and received rejections. Yet, I still haven't applied for PRO status, mostly because I can't remember to put my manuscript on a disk!

I fight procrastination every day. The hardest part for me is starting something, a new WIP, or a new chapter. Looking at that blank page is hard and terrifying, whether it's the beginning of a new book or the start of the next chapter.

What if the words won't come? What if I get stuck, or veer off onto the wrong path?

Prayer helps me push through this quicksand of my own making. And I set myself a reachable goal: 500 words a day. Just 500 words a day, with a larger goal of one chapter a week.

Get that manuscript out and tweak it until it screams for mercy. Send it to someone you trust and ask for constructive criticism and then tweak that bad boy some more.

Above all, don't let your current apathy become a permanent state. No regrets means persevering. You can do it!

Callie James said...

Good for you! Get that PRO status. It's a wonderful milestone.

I'm never finished editing. I could edit forever. So I guess sometimes I sit on that a little too long.

Jeanie said...

Oh, me too, Callie! I am a compulsive tweaker! Never know when to stop.

Christine said...

Jeanie: GET YOUR PRO!! Just do it! You'll accelerate your writing career. Trust me. I vacillated due to my allergy to FORMS. Finally, I got it in 2009. I have grown more as a writer in the last year since I attained PRO than the years prior. I also commend my writing chapters in the south for this incredible journey's speed. GET IT. It's a few minutes of time to get a HUGE door opened. Trust me. It's worth the effort.

Mary: you know I am backing you 200% as you go for this goal. I know you are a serious writer who has a lot of outside world pressures. Even I am guilty of procrastinating (on my current WIP due to plot problems) and using my DH's surgery to be "slow." But I have no more excuses. I'm getting back to work.


Jeanie said...

Thanks for the push, Christine. Will do!

Cari Hislop said...

My tree is still up too with all the attendant Christmas decortions. Last night I moved one of the Christmas boxes next to the tree. That was my great move toward taking it down. I had a man come check my natural gas meter (he had to come past the living room) this afternoon and after he'd gone I looked at the tree and thought...that's really pathetic Cari...you need to do something about that...and then went upstairs avoiding said doing!

Fears can be so insidious...one can spend years without even knowing that you're feeling fear, but the best way to deal with the monster once you can label it is to face it and stab it through the heart.

One of my favorite sayings that I use to keep myself upbeat is
"To start is to finish..." It may take years to finish, but starting or restarting is still starting. I put the ornament box next to the tree. It's a start! In a day or two I'll take down the tree.

Writing can be like that too. Some days I tell myself...all I want to do is start this next chapter and if it's three good sentences long I'll be happy. Invariably I end up with a paragraph and sometimes several pages. Sometimes only asking yourself to do small steps forward is an easy way to trick yourself into getting larger things done. At least it works for me. Good luck with going PRO!!!!

Nannette Conway said...

I packed up and put away Christmas decorations last Saturday. Really thought I was the only person on the planet still dealing with that.

Many, many years ago I saw a movie (can't remember the name, the actors, ANYTHING to identify it)and one scene at the end stabbed me in the heart because it identified why I procrastinate about my dreams. The hero and heroine were on a beach looking out to the ocean talking about going after their dreams. He said (paraphrasing here) "So many people don't go after their dream because they don't know what they would do if the dream didn't work out. As long as they have the dream 'out there somewhere' they have something to hold on to. What do you hold on to if the dream doesn't work?"

You're right - it all comes down to fear. Congratulations on looking it in the face and not backing away!

M.V.Freeman said...

I agree with Christine, go for pro!!!
It is amazing how certain things stop us, that blank page..that can be scary as well.
You know what really trips me up..finishing something. Weird, I know.
Onward and upward! Thanks for the encouragement and advice..love it!

M.V.Freeman said...

Oh, I can always find something to fix. Ok, granted there is a LOT to fix on my story.

Speaking of editing, you may be the person I need to speak to as I start wrestling with my deep edits..LOL

M.V.Freeman said...

You are one of the reasons why I am pursuing pro, or I'd still be sitting on my MS, thinking its not good enough..yet. The way I was moving I'd never be pro.

Its funny how that one goal threw me off so completely.

M.V.Freeman said...

Thank you! I like my Christmas tree up...but I need to let it go...LOL

You are right, fears are insiduous. Some of them just don't show up..they sneak in. I never realized that was what was going on, but it was.

I am a firm believer of facing your fears (when ready), and I am ready!

Good luck on taking down the tree.:-P

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks Nannette,
What wise words, and its true.
Its amazing how we hold on to the dream, because pursuing it may mean that the dream changes or is not what we thought.
I am going to encourage you (and everyone) to follow that dream, because it may not be what you expect, but I'd like to think you'll never be dissapointed. :-)

Speaking of...I have to go finish my application...LOL :-)

Debra Glass said...

Congrats on applying for Pro status. Perseverance is what will finish manuscripts and keep you submitting and eventually getting offers.

Sherry Werth said...

Mary, you are where I long to be. Well, maybe not the Christmas decoration part. (Hubby did all that for me.) :D
You've wrestled the beast to the ground... wrote your MS, sent it out and now appyling for your PRO status. I think that is a wonderful accomplishment. You Rock!

M.V.Freeman said...

Thank you Debra!

Those are words I take to heart. It seems that in this business there are so many things to lay one low.

M.V.Freeman said...

YOU will get there. You are gifted, motivated, and you taking one step at a time. I fully expect you to be applying one of these days soon!

Angel said...

Ah, Nannette! Those words so spoke to me. It can be so scary when the dream doesn't turn out the way you wanted it.

I'm slowly learning to ask myself "Why?" Honestly, this is becoming the most useful tool in my life. I live with a lot of fears and insecurities, but I try to keep them well hidden. Pulling back the covers is scary, but one of the only ways to move forward.

Thanks for the reminder, M.V.!!! I'll leave with one of your favorite sayings, "Go Forth and Conquer!" :)


M.V.Freeman said...

You make me smile! I'm with you, revealing those fears is not easy, and there are plenty I am going to keep hidden (You know, like my hidden addiction to the show "My Name is Earl")

and yes...Go forth and conquer!!! :-)

Naima Simone said...

Oh Mary! What a beautiful post!
You said everything that's in my heart and mind. Fear isn't always that JAWS music! LOL! It can be so much more insidious and debilitating. I USED TO BE--see how I'm speaking that into existence??--a classic procrastinator! Not anymore...nope...hee-hee-hee!

Go for the PRO! It will motivate you and you'll be able to see for yourself that step you're taking toward publication!

And...ummm...I'm with Nannette...I just took my tree down last week too!

M.V.Freeman said...

Thank you Naima!
So true, there is no indication of some fear, wouldn't it be helpful though if there was theme music that played to show our moods?

I can imagine it already...the Barney song would be playing. (just kidding)

And as for trees...just think you had a far more festive home for just a smidge longer...

Gwen Hernandez said...

I'm too apathetic to think of anything I'm apathetic about. ;-) Loved the post, and am glad to see you're moving forward again.

Fear is definitely a sneaky thing. It's not logical, but it can undermine us at every turn.

Email anytime you need some cheerleading, Mary.

M.V.Freeman said...

Gwen, I am going to take you up on that!!! Thank you!