Fear of Distraction

It’s midway through National Novel Writing Month, and things aren’t looking good for me this year. At this point, one should be at about 25,000 words… and I’m at, oh, 7,000 or so. This may be the year that I don’t win this thing. I’m sort of upset about that, because it breaks my winning streak of having won every year that I’ve participated (which is every year since 2001, though I skipped 2002 — or did you know that already?).

So I figure it’s time to dust off the blog and get to pondering things. Like why I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for fourteen consecutive years, but don’t really have anything that I would consider ready to show off for publication. I’m pretty sure it’s not a fear of failure that’s holding me back, or the complementary fear of success. I can pursue a short story to (near) completion, but novels are another thing.

I’m pretty sure that what holds me back is a fear of distraction.

By which I mean that I have a hard time committing to a novel of mine if I fear that something else better might come along and hey, I can’t work on it because I’m already stuck working on this thing. And therefore I’m afraid of committing to a novel. And the irony is palpable, because if I had been able to commit to, say, The Outer Darkness (in 2004), I may have finished that novel completely, and gotten others completed as well. But no, I had to dither and go through angst and worry that if I focused on that one, then other brilliant ideas would go unwritten.

And what if I finish a novel, get it all the way done, and find it was a waste of time? What if I find, at that point, that I should have written something else?

I suspect these are questions that just about every writer faces. But when does that fear of distraction/wasted time get to the point that it’s pathological, and interferes with your ability to get anything done?

I don’t know.

Suggestions, anyone?

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One thought on “Fear of Distraction”

  1. “Like why I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for fourteen consecutive years, but don’t really have anything that I would consider ready to show off for publication.”

    Hah, me too. Though in my case, I just don’t feel like anything I wrote actually is good enough to save and try to rewrite. Almost every year (especially if I do fiction rather than nonfiction) I am sick of it by the time I finish, I think it’s started to suck, and it’s not worth any more effort. My nonfiction comes out pretty well by my definition, but in the end, who really cares? Nobody does, me included.

    I think I’m also way too “eh” on the idea of publication. If I actually like something I write I can slap it on a blog, and anything more in depth than that, well, I end up not liking it and I just don’t care enough to try to get “real” publishing.

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