Every once in a while, my little blog here strives to be something more than a platform for the shameless whoring of myself and my various scribblings. There are the infrequent reminiscences and ruminations about favorite books, films, or TV shows. On rare occasions, I might see fit to delve into a current events topic. Rarer still are those entries where I try to offer meaningful writing advice, or at least a pithy anecdote gleaned from my time in “the trenches” of writing for a so-called living.
This is one of those pieces.
Early last year, faced with a deadline to have a post ready for the Novel Spaces writing blog, and also caught up in the grips of a Writing Project That Would Not Die, I came up with what follows after the cut.
Not all that long ago, when I was neck deep in Corporate America, it was common to share a newspaper clipping or e-Mail offering a bit of humorous if not cynical insight into our little world. This went double within the realm of corporate information technology, where many of the everyday practices still make me scratch my head in befuddlement.
One that I’ve always remembered, mostly because for years a copy of it occupied a space on the small tack board above my desk, was “The 6 Phases of Any Project,” which consisted of the following:
- Search for the guilty
- Punishment of the innocent
- Praise and honors for the non-participants
After more than twenty-five years spent in the arena of software development, be it for the government or the private sector, let me tell you that this list is so on point that it’s painful.
While wrestling with the aforementioned Writing Project That Would Not Die, I began thinking of how such a list could be applied to various writing endeavors. The result of that fevered brainstorming?
The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project
1. Enthusiasm – Hey! It’s a new story! You’re excited to get started! Perhaps you’ve spent weeks if not months developing an outline and character back stories, or maybe you’ve just settled into a brand new pair of comfortable sweats which are ideal for writing by the seat of your pants and seeing what springs forth from your imagination and your fingers. Regardless, it’s time to get going! Those words aren’t going to push themselves, after all. Chapter 1, and away we go!
2. Procrastination – What? It’s only the first week. You’ve got plenty of time to get this done. Meanwhile, there are whole new seasons of awesome shows dropping all over Netflix, or that stack of DVD or Blu-ray gift sets you just bought thanks to those gift cards you got for Christmas. What, doesn’t everybody binge watch The Bachelor or Deadliest Catch to relax after a hard day spent staring at that manuscript in progress? What’s the big deal? The story will still be there after the weekend.
3. Disillusionment – Well, this was a pretty stupid idea for a story, huh? The luster has worn off and all there is now is a lot of blank white page and a deadline. That outline you were so proud of? It made a nice sound going through the shredder, didn’t it? Writing by the seat of your pants sounds like an awesome plan right about now. Besides, whatever blob of incomprehensible gibberish you might conjure will still be more productive than the three hours you spent organizing your book shelves alphabetically by height, format, and subject. That was before you put everything back the way it was when you started, because what the hell were you thinking, anyway? When’s this damned story due?
4. Panic – The story’s due when? Are you kidding? That barely gives you enough time to post an ad to Craigslist hoping to hire a ghost writer and pay them with a Starbucks gift card and whatever loose change you find in your couch. Do ghost writers like Ramen noodles? You hope not, because you’re down to your last package. When is somebody going to option your last book for a movie and send you a check, for crying out loud? Wait. Who’s that talking in the other room? Your kid? Wait, when did you have a kid? Can they ghost write? Do they have a brother or sister who can help?
5. Self-Loathing – You’re starting to question your very existence by now. Nothing’s going right. Even the inconsequential things are conspiring against you, trying to trip you up any time you’re able to string together two coherent sentences that you don’t completely hate as you type them. How long have you been wearing those sweats, anyway? Are those Frito crumbs in your hair? You’re taking coffee intravenously at this point, and you’ve run out of milk for your cereal but hold on! Wine works just as well, if not better! Tell those other people to stop judging you. Tell those people to shut up. They’re not your mom!
6. Cramming – You can do this you can do this you can do this you can do this. There’s only twenty-five thousand words to go, and ten hours to get there. Your fingers are numb and bleeding, but the muscles in your hands haven’t given up the fight just yet even if you can’t remember the last time you had feeling in your butt. You’ve ingested enough caffeine that you can see sounds. Every time you look up at the clock thirty minutes have passed but you’ve only typed ten words, and three of those were “I HATE EVERYTHING.” Still…you’ve got this, right?
7. Coma – Congratulations! You’ve finally finished and delivered your manuscript, and you’re now entitled to collapse into an insensate heap across your bed or your favorite recliner, and give yourself a well-earned rest. Feel free to reacquaint yourself with any other denizens of your household, who to this point have been little more than ghostly apparitions in your peripheral vision whenever you paused to look away from your monitor. Might want to grab a shower and burn those sweat pants, too. However, you can’t spend too much time basking in the afterglow of this achievement because hey! You’ve got this new story, and you’re excited to get started….
And so it goes.