Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ugly Handsome Man

So I was doing my Three Daily Pages (most folks might know them as Morning Pages, but I'm not always up that early) and this strange and crazy thing poured out that I'm transcribing here for future reference.

If you've ever done any kind of serious writing, it's a safe bet you've had to deal with The Thing In Your Head That Keeps Stopping You From Writing.  There are a lot of names for it--Resistance, the Inner Critic, the Shitweasel.  I sometimes call it the NoMonster.  When I was writing this, the thing took on a persona I described as The Ugly Handsome Man.  (I picture him as a blond guy in a suit with a face that's just a little too . . . tight, in some way.)

This is a speech given by said Ugly Handsome Man, laying out the strategies to my various gremlins for stopping me from working on my current novel.  I suspect these strategies may not be unique to my inner battles.
I suggest a three-pronged strategy. Three lines of defense. I'd prefer she not make it past the first, but we should have the extra lines ready in case she does.

The first line of defense is, of course, to keep her from the page at all. Suggest that she should wait until she's in the mood. Tell her she should finish more important things first--things like cleaning the house, doing things she hates, getting the last word in on Facebook arguments. Distract her with a quick glance at her usual Internet time sinks and keep her hooked with the threat that if she stops, she'll have to quit for good. This will trigger her to gorge herself on such things even if, as it turns out, she never does stop for good.

Convince her that the page is a reward that can only be touched after all the vegetables have been eaten. Convince her the page is a burden that can be borne later when she has the strength for it. Remember, the arguments against sitting down and doing the work don't have to be
consistent; they just have to be effective. Have her wait Just A Moment and let those moments stretch out as long as you can.

If, however, she does sit down, all is not lost. If we cannot stop her from working, then we can still minimize the damage done. The moment she gets anything down, assure her that it is sufficient for today and more can be done tomorrow, when she feels more inspired and more ready. If she persists, try slowing her down by telling her how terrible it is and who on earth is she kidding. If you can keep her writing and rewriting the same sentence endlessly, the battle is half-won. If she does plow forward and promise herself to fix it in the rewrite, make sure you make the experience as unpleasant as possible so she'll be less inclined to return to it the next day.

After a successful--or, rather, catastrophic from our perspective--round of writing, you may think the war is lost, but we still have our third line of defense. One is to chide her for enjoying herself too much. Remind her that there are people out there suffering in
real jobs and she shouldn't expect people to hand her money for having fun like that. Tell her that even if you did everything you could to make the process hellish. Remember, the only consistency we're interested in is keeping her away from the work; it matters not that the arguments we use are contradictory. Once she's done, have her read over what she's written and remind her it's not enough. What she's done isn't relevant. We must tell her it's not enough and thus discourage her from doing any more.

After that, we rebuild our defenses for the next round, by telling her that she's already won, she's ahead of the game and that a day off will hardly hinder her progress. Once you've staved her off from working for a few days, the old hardened habits can resume and she is again rendered harmless.

The main thing is to keep her from the page for as long as possible. When she does make it to the page, our job is then to minimize the damage. You all know her well enough to know what triggers and buttons to press. Go to your work.
Yeah.  This guy kinda scares me, too.  But it's also really fun to piss him off.

I've decided to resume the practice of excuse notes for my current work in progress, and I'd best get something done so I won't have to write an excuse note for today.

4 comments:

Adam J Nicolai said...

Wow, your dude is way more wordy than mine. But yeah, he sounds very familiar. Did he best you today?

Sheila said...

The day I wrote that, no. Today, he did, but I'll be writing an excuse note for that.

Adam J Nicolai said...

What's an excuse note?

Sheila said...

http://sheilaoshea.blogspot.com/search/label/excuse%20notes

Each day that I don't work on my current project, I have to post an excuse note here.