Well I am past the first 10,000 words of My Name is Saul, but just barely. And June is halfway gone. By now, I am usually at the halfway point of my newest book and with Saul I am not even close.
Why is that?
There are a number of possibilities: writer’s block, simple procrastination, distraction, I have lost my passion for the subject matter, poor use of my time, and/or I lack the discipline to stare at the blinking cursor key. Each of these has an element of truth. But only an element. I’ll take them one by one.
I think it doesn’t exist, not really, and have written a number of articles about why. I just scanned one I wrote about four years ago when I was having similar problems with a character. And now have to laugh at myself for forgetting my own hard won wisdom:
The Universal Law of Writing
I am sure you have experienced exactly what I have but perhaps you have not stopped to consider what I believe is a universal law. One that demands opposition to creation: anytime you create something brand new, you’ll get push back. Whether from that critical ‘editor’ in your head, an opinion of a friend or what Stephen Pressfield calls ‘resistance’, each time we sit down to write, we face opposition. Since I am Christian, I occasionally have another name for Pressfield’s resistance.
That phrase is deceptive, I have learned, because there is nothing simple about procrastination. And have therefore written about it.
In an article I called, In Praise of Procrastination, Doubt, Missing Deadlines, I wrote, “Lesson learned: Be careful about the rules you believe, procrastination may prove to be the best- or only- thing to do.”
I had wholly forgotten it until I reread my own words. [Hope you’ll forgive the fact that I am quoting myself, this is the last time, I promise.]
The idea for this article came from Adam Grant’s Ted Talk called The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers. You’ve guessed already that one of those habits is procrastination. But organizational psychologist Grant has data to show what he calls the “sweet spot” of procrastination.
If you would like to know more, watch the video or read his book. That is tangential to my relief that what I am experiencing now has happened before.
But since common sense tells us that forever putting off doing the work will lead us nowhere. Therefore when big projects are lagging behind their milestones, I worry.
It’s also normal, in fact necessary. After months of pondering and studying deeply about anything, our degree of passion drops. It has to. If that degree of intensity remains, we become unbalanced, unable to concentrate on life. But Saul, the boy who grew up to be one of the most feared persecutors of Christians fascinates me. A murderer. And my interpretation of the question this new book will answer, “How did Saul, Jewish zealot, become Paul, the first Christian theologian?
Sure, like you and everyone else on the planet, I make good use of my time only sometimes. On those days, my focus is sharp and distractions make little to no headway. But there are also days…
Reading those articles written a few years ago have helped. A great deal. Mostly because of what I know about each book. I go through this each and every time. I am told by my friends who have gone through childbirth that they forget all the pain once they see their child. Maybe writing a book is not all that different.
But after we (Laura, Nancy and the proofreader) get to the point that it is the best we can do, I promptly forget about these times of doubt, that nagging sense of having a shadow; that character who is eluding me.
I gratefully return to that lesson that needs to be relearned: “procrastination may prove to be the best- or only- thing to do.” Adding a PS to that, thinking looks – and feels – a lot like procrastination.
Thank you for listening!