Overcoming Hesitation

I came across this quote on Richard Nordquist’s blog, on overcoming the hesitation I have been feeling lately, including last night’s blog.

It’s from Annie Dillard.

Usually you will have to rewrite the beginning–the first quarter or third of whatever it is. Don’t waste time polishing this; you’ll have to take a deep breath and throw it away anyway, once you finish the work and have a clearer sense of what it is about. Tear up the runway; it helped you take off, and you don’t need it now. This is why some writers say it takes “courage” to write. It does.

(“Introduction: Notes for Young Writers,” in In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, edited by Lee Gutkind, W.W. Norton & Company, 2005)

The comments from a previous post got me searching, I think it’s good advice. I just need to get cracking, and fill in the gaps later. And, yes, Dillard’s interesting choice of words, “take a deep breath” took me back a couple of posts!

Is “hesitation” or “procrastination” ever a problem for you? What do you do (or think I should do) to overcome it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “Overcoming Hesitation

  1. Scott — Thanks for your comment. I think you’re referring to the experience of radiation and I really know how you feel. I don’t often reflect on my experiences “on the table” but I suppose I should get used to revisiting my past as I enter this writing challenge. I find myself digging deep, and the process itself has the potential for catharsis on so many levels. I don’t really know what to expect.

  2. Hi Mark, we missed you in Newport. Brian and I read Ayn Rand in college. Brian was particularly enthused by her positive portrayal of capitalism; I think I mostly liked the romantic elements! Are you planning to post your drafts for feedback? I like Turabian’s “A Manual for Writers” 7th edition. It is academic, but really helpful for organizing both research and writing. Some tips that have helped me are: make sure you as you make points you “close the circle” by answering for the reader the question, “So what? Why should I care?” and also, overtly address the best opposing arguments. Good luck!

  3. Amy! Thank you so much. That’s exactly the kind of direction I need. I am in the process of organizing my mental plan for the entire book, and trying to answer exactly those types of questions. Things, like “What does the reader need to know about how the Objectivist views the nature of the universe?” I plan to make lots of comparisons and contrasts, but the reader needs some background on one or both worldviews in order to frame up the context. Regarding “opposing arguments,” I think I will have no shortage of material on both sides of the fence.

    Thanks again. I will certainly jump on your recommendation.

  4. Mainly I think it takes “intestinal fortitude” – if that’s the right term, basically in applying seat to pants and fingers to keyboard.

    > The comments from yesterday’s blog got me searching,
    > I think it’s good advice. Thanks again. Keep the
    > comments coming.

    I have my own comments having written one book and am simultaneously working on two others (the second book got started as a chapter in the first, then the ideas in that book became significant enough that they needed to be separated as they were a whole ‘nother concept altogether.)

    In my first book “The Gate Contracts” in one section, an old man tells about his history as to things that happened in his life. I set it aside for a while – s couple of weeks, I think – and came back to it, and discovered that the way I wrote it the time frame wouldn’t have worked; there were inconsistencies that would have been glaring, e.g. a particular event claimed to have occurred X years later but the description indicates it either was no where near that long or had to have taken much longer (I forget which; It’s been about seven years since I wrote the story) but back when I was writing it, I had to make some minor changes so that the time-line as the narrator is describing it would work.

    Actually, I ended up cutting the *last* chapter in the book, about the lead character’s time working for a plumbing contractor, as I found after I had written the rest of the book that the chapter didn’t work in the story.

    So either I’m tending to leave a lot of crap in the story that is uninteresting, or (possibly more likely) I’m better at keeping on message and making the story tie together. I also sometimes drop things while writing because I realize either they don’t work or they distract from the story at hand (or the chapter at hand).

    In my second book, “Instrument of God,” the first chapter was where the lead character, Supervisor 246, is discussing the concept of religion and salvation to a guy named Akers, and he points out the two main characteristics of the idea of eternal life: if it ain’t there, it’s pretty hard to argue for people to be decent, however, if you have some qualification to get it (as the Christian Bible allegedly requires that one believe that Christ died for one’s sins), then what you end up with is really horrible people like murders, rapists and tax collectors all going to heaven, while ordinary people (including children) who didn’t do much of anything wrong and didn’t accept Christ (because they were a customer of the wrong brand of religion and weren’t allowed to use alternate brands) or didn’t know about the offer, die and get eternal torment for their ignorance or misunderstanding, or because they bought the wrong brand of religion (or were sold it as a
    child) or because they never found out about it.

    Well, as it turned out, this chapter doesn’t work at the start of the book, but later, after we know more about Supervisor 246 and his character, it then can work as an interlude in the story. So it ended up moving to what is now Chapter 83 at about 1/2 way through the book.

    Also, there is an incident where someone is able to signal the police about a crime in progress using a new form of technology. Well, that particular incident originally occurred much sooner in the story. Later, I have Supervisor 246 meet someone (“Wilfred”), and the man he meets ends up inventing the technology. Well, the woman who used the technology can’t do that before I introduce Wilfred, who invents it, so I end up moving several chapters around to later in the story. The story actually works better thanks to the change, as it allows me to improve Wilfred’s character such that he develops several other technologies and is given a special reward for his efforts.

    The third book (“Willis and Friends”) branches off from Instrument to explore other people and the society they live in, which is radically different from ours in many ways. Some pieces actually got written earlier than parts that got put earlier in the story.

    I have found that in many – almost all cases – it seems more like the story writes itself, and basically all I have to do is listen for it to tell me what’s happening. And sometimes I go back later and fill in missing details.

    So while I’ve never actually had to throw away a big chunk of a story, I have often had to either recast or move pieces around in order to make the story work better. Or maybe it’s my inexperience that makes me think I shouldn’t be discarding parts of the story; I’m not “in love” with what I write and am willing to cut as needed to improve the story, I think it does work and works quite well as is.

    But the even bigger Catch 22 is finding an agent to handle these books, as agents won’t handle unpublished authors and publishers won’t touch unagented authors.

  5. The previous editions were mostly about properly formatting a research paper — how many inch margins, where to put your commas in the bibliography, etc. And establishing correct grammar. But the latest edition adds to the former much of the content from a previously out-of-print book, “The craft of research.” This section introduced me to the notion of using a storyboard to keep every section of your paper (book) fluid, changeable, until the very end. It’s a lot different from the pyramid triangle I was exposed to in journalism!

Comments are closed.