Have you ever wondered why you aren’t able to make it to appointments on time? Are deadlines your worst enemy? Do you feel guilty when you don’t accomplish your goals?
Well, friends, I have an answer to the staged rhetorical questions that you aren’t actually asking: it’s not your fault. Oh, no. You’ve walked right into a cultural conspiracy and didn’t even know it.
In the past, society has put forth things like discipline and responsibility as character traits that all people should strive for. This, of course, is highly unreasonable. Some people’s personalities just are not suited for these in-the-box traits. Parents, teachers, and employers want certain results from those underneath them, and since those traits are most likely to get good results, they encourage those outdated values. This sociological survival-of-the-fittest is more like mind control than character formation and must be opposed.
Follow along as I explain what a writer can do to bypass the traditional structures of discipline and still achieve success.
Some writers keep files of ideas, outline their novels, create a document with important information for longer projects, record where they send different manuscripts, or use some other method of organization. There’s nothing wrong with any of these methods…but why bother if it doesn’t come naturally to you?
For example, one issue in the past for the organization-challenged was that characters would occasionally change ages, hair, and eye color throughout a draft of a novel. Instead of taking time to record this information, why not give each character a Transappearance Imager, a device I just invented that will randomly change key details about a person’s physical appearance. This would explain those changes in a creative way. If this isn’t feasible, you can throw in an alternate universe every few chapters. That should confuse the reader enough that they won’t notice tiny inconsistencies.
As far as keeping track of manuscripts and income made from freelancing, I have two words for you: Post-it notes. Nothing screams fake organization like Post-it notes, even if they don’t actually have anything on them. Wallpaper your house with them if you need to. It’s all about creating an illusion. You can even take a picture of your wall of fake financial sticky notes and mail it to the IRS. I’m sure, being a progressive organization, they’ll find it refreshingly original.
Again, I am all in favor of keeping your word. As writers, we have great respect for words. It’s just that fulfilling commitments has a much more complicated psycho-interpersonal-dynamic than most people are willing to admit.
When you tell another writer that you’ll edit something for him, don’t worry if you never get to it. Use the power of the implied “maybe.” No need to say out loud that you “might” get to it…all of that can be implied by a certain lift of the eyebrows combined with a busy schedule. All writers are aware of this general rule, and will gladly excuse you from doing what you said you would do. Best of all, they won’t ask you again next time!
This also applies to meetings or critique group sessions when you’re supposed to prepare something or read others’ works ahead of time. This clearly undervalues the joy of spontaneity, and if we lose that, we lose the basis of our creativity.
There’s also no need to arrive on time, despite what our culture says. Are they really counting on you to be there at the exact second of the start time? Is your presence going to make or break the group? Will fifteen minutes, or even an hour, without you crush their souls? Insisting on punctuality is really nothing more than arrogance.
It’s great that some people advocate writing every day. This, of course, can be taken too far, such as suggesting the stifling routine of picking the same time each day or week to dedicate to writing. However, in theory, the idea is an effective, if quaint, way to produce material.
There are other variables to consider, however. A well-rounded writer can’t just think about writing as the only essential activity. Interacting with cultural phenomenon such as Netflix and Facebook are critical to developing your analytical and creative faculties. If you encounter someone who suggests that watching five different T.V. shows is a poor use of your time, quote a popular but seemingly meaningless catch phrase from one of the shows. Everyone around you will laugh except your detractor, because he has been doing other things with his life. He will then feel left out and culturally irrelevant and leave in shame.
Besides, if you can call yourself a writer, why bother with actually writing? That would be a waste of time, an ironic twist on what the champions of discipline are advocating.
Deadlines are so named because they kill the soul. As writers, we probably can’t do away with these symptoms of the creativity-draining system that controls our lives. They are too pervasive for that.
We can, however, make a statement of protest. My first suggestion is extreme procrastination. Nothing says, “Your imposition of an arbitrary deadline is outdated and restrictive” than waiting to the very last minute and thus churning out poor work riddled with mistakes that will soon bleed red ink.
Of course, you must also vocalize the injustice if anything is to change. This is often referred to by its common name, “complaining,” but of course this is an oversimplification and doesn’t capture the revolutionary spirit of the comments.
In conclusion, we, the undisciplined, have a battle before us. Formerly, we would have taken up arms against things like laziness, irresponsibility, and rationalization. Now we understand that in so doing, we would be taking up arms against ourselves. It’s time to take on the real enemy, one that has nothing to do with us, the helpless victims. It’s time to fight the establishment, one late, poorly written, sloppily edited manuscript at a time.
Will you join me?