Today I’m answering a question from a concerned writer. Am I being lazy?…
Frank, from my mailing list and Meetup group, got in touch to tell me about his current writing goal. He’s finished his novella but wants to expand it into a full-length novel. Here’s what he says:
“My problem is that I’m lazy. I could expand my novella without it being padding but oh dear that’s a lot of energy! Could you suggest some ways to get over that resistance and energy gap?”
Thanks, Frank, this is a really interesting question. Here are 4 different ways of thinking about it.
Are You Really Lazy?
I know Frank from my monthly London Writers’ Meetup and as well as writing, Frank performs his poems and short stories at live gigs and has a wide range of additional interests covering mathematics and baking.
So my theory is, it’s not that Frank is being lazy, but simply that he doesn’t write as much as he’d like to, which is very common.
Bringing a story to life often takes an excruciating amount of time and oh how we wish we could do it more quickly. Furthermore, many of us, including full-time professional writers, struggle to sit and write for more than an hour or two at a time.
Perhaps, rather than being lazy, Frank, simply wishes he were more focused on his writing. But actually, his personality is more drawn to a variety of interests, which all take time and energy.
It’s tempting to daydream about a fantasy version of ourselves. We might wish we were more focused, more studious, braver, more adventurous, funnier, more playful – whatever it happens to be… But when we lean into our natural inclinations, without judgment or embarrassment, we usually end up a lot happier and more productive.
I love this quote from Gretchen Rubin:
“I want to accept myself and expect more from myself.”
Using myself as an example I don’t always accept myself exactly as I am. I have little fantasy versions of me playing in my head. Sometimes, I wish I was a highly sociable extrovert with infinite energy, who hosted entertaining parties, sailed yachts and climbed mountains in my spare time, while whipping up screenplays as I travel the world.
But actually, I’m a book-loving introvert, who rather likes being indoors, who goes to bed early, believes in the power of the morning, eats 3 meals a day, loves routine, and hates anything that could be classed as adventurous.
That’s who I am. And some of the time I’m OK with that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t push myself within the natural boundaries of my personality.
So, I may not like adventurous sports, but can I be brave in other ways? I think so. But I have to make a conscious effort.
Returning to Frank. He may not have the temperament to focus solely on his writing. However, pursuing several different things at once means that expanding his novella is taking longer than he’d like.
He could speed up the process, though. I don’t mean cutting out his other interests, but perhaps he could focus on this novella and put other pieces of writing to one side for the time being.
However, there might be something else at play here.
In his question, Frank talks about resistance. Is there anything else stopping him from expanding his novella into a full-blown novel?
Are you sick of the idea?
Frank has already completed the novella. When a piece of work feels finished, it can be hard to go back to it and start another draft. We might be bored with it. We’ve written it to death. We’re desperate to move on to something new. So we resist doing yet another rewrite. I had a feature film script under option for 10 years, so I hear you! It was tough going over and over the same idea for years on end.
My advice is to find a way to fall in love with it again. One way to do that is to just jump back in. Because once you’re fully immersed, new ideas will come to mind, and it becomes fun again. But when we’re on the outside, thinking about it but not doing anything about it, it feels like a hard slog. So we keep putting it off; we feel guilty about never finishing it. And this eats away at us.
But how do we jump back in? I’m a big believer in the power of taking small, easy steps to get started – especially if we’ve been procrastinating for a while.
So, ask yourself, what’s the smallest thing I could do that would move the needle forward?
Here are a few examples:
- If you haven’t looked at it for a while, find the document or documents on your computer and open it/them.
- Print it out (if you’re someone who prefers to read a hard copy)
- Find a dedicated notebook and pen and put them on your desk.
- Write in your notebook the question: How can I add 25,000 words to this novella?
- Brainstorm the above question
- Highlight the top 3 answers from your brainstorming session
- Brainstorm answer 1, in more detail etc.
You get the picture – take really tiny steps, day after day, that keep pushing things forward step by step.
Do this work and see if anything interesting or original comes up. Does it give you some fresh ideas? Does it inspire you to continue writing?
If so, great! However, if, at the end of this exploratory period of work, you are still resisting a rewrite there are a couple of other things you could consider.
Does it have the potential to become a full-length novel?
Perhaps you don’t truly believe it makes sense to turn this novella into a novel. Do you secretly believe it’s the perfect length as it is? And if that’s the case, fine.
It may have fewer marketing possibilities than a novel, but that doesn’t mean you should force yourself to make it longer. Seek out publishers and platforms looking for works of this length, send it out and move on to your next piece of writing.
Not every idea will fit every length or format. Some ideas are meant to be just what they are: sketches, short films, short stories, some ideas work well as one-off novels or feature films, others will work as long-running series. They are what they are. Yes, we might be able to brainstorm them and explore different versions of the same idea, but we can’t always force it. If you really don’t think it will work as a novel, don’t stress about it, just lean into it.
Are you scared of completing it?
Have you considered the possibility that maybe you’re scared of reaching The End? That would mean you have to share it with the world, and that can be daunting.
Writers often spend weeks, months, or years working on a story, only to leave it on their hard drive, once it’s complete. Sending it out means facing rejection. Also, it’s hard to know where to start. Selling your writing is a whole new job in itself. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the prospect, and don’t know where to start.
Othertimes, writers will send out their script or manuscript just a handful of times, but when they don’t hear back, they give up, assuming it simply wasn’t good enough. They have a new idea by this point, and are convinced that this one is a whole lot better than the last idea. No wonder it got rejected, they convince themselves.
However, I would point out, if you invested months or years into writing a story, isn’t it worth doing everything in your power to try to sell it? Yes, it’s hard, and yes it can be demoralising, but it’s part of the job of the writer, after all. And yes, maybe you are bored with your last idea and ready for the next one, but give it a chance to have a life beyond your laptop.
One way to make it easier is to do both writing and marketing at the same time. Split your day or week between writing something new (which is fun) and marketing your previous work (which is hard).
I hope these ideas have given you some food for thought, if, like Frank, you too have stalled with an idea.
Just remember, writing a big piece of work, like a novel, play or screenplay, is hard. So some self-compassion can help too. Talk to yourself kindly, and remind yourself that what you’re trying to do is a challenge. You’re creating something out of nothing. You’re not lazy, you’re climbing a mountain. Celebrate the bravery of embarking on this difficult task in the first place. Keep on going and do a little bit each day!
If you too have a writing-related question, get in touch as I might be able to offer a useful suggestion in a future post.
By the way – I offer 1:1 coaching
My focus is helping ambitious writers who are struggling to sit down and write (or sit down and sell their writing) – maybe because of self-doubt, or a block – or simply good old-fashioned procrastination. Whatever it is, I get writers writing (and selling).
If you’ve read all the books and taken all the classes, but still aren’t making the progress you want, take a look at my 3 one-to-one coaching packages. Or book a short free call with me to ask any questions.
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