I've wanted to be a writer since I was kid. Every time we got a creative essay assignment in English class, I knew I was going to rock it. Because that's just what I do. I'm a writer. I always have been, and I always will be. I dreamed, in my Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony-strewn bedroom of selling that big novel, of doing nothing but sipping lattes in some French bistro in Paris while I pounded out my next bestseller. I didn't dream of having a cigarette in my hand while I did so, but this was in the days before I became a smoker.
Sure, I flirted with other career options. Briefly, I wanted to be a doctor, but I hated biology labs. My Catholic grandparents tried to convince me I should enter a nunnery and become a Bride of Christ, and before I knew what sex was, it seemed like a good idea. A teacher, an astronaut... Always I flirted, but ultimately I remained loyal. I was a writer, and I was going to write.
And yet, the older I got, the less time I found myself with which to write. Other responsibilities crowded me: homework assignments that needed to be done, friends who needed to be talked down from the metaphorical ledge, the mouthbreathers who frequented my Subway where I was a sandwich slave. I began to look for other outlets for my creativity, but they mostly involved drinking myself silly every weekend while I crushed on the secretly gay guy with the really nice clothes and the awesome cologne.
Then I discovered roleplaying, and I was hooked immediately. Here it is, I thought, ecstatic I'd found something that I could really enjoy doing again -- because let's face it. As fun as getting smashed on George Street with friends you barely tolerate when you're sober is, the price you pay the next day wasn't so much fun. Here, I thought, is my creative outlet.
While it ultimately proved to be a self-imposed trap, roleplaying online did do wonders for my until-then stunted muse. She reawakened in a blaze of fire and fury, and made me conceptualize new stories... but the lure and the promise of instant gratification with someone REAL and LIVE (if a thousand miles away) constantly pulled me from actually completing any work.
And I wondered why.
I picked up books about dialogue and characters and plot, books written or edited by successful authors. But they weren't going to help me. Not really. All they were was another way to waste time while I was convincing myself I was doing something to further what I snootily referred to as "the craft" (this was back when I was still an author and not just a plain old writer, mind). Eventually, they became what they were meant to be -- reference material -- but until then, they were just another method of procrastination. They were just another distraction.
My search for why I couldn't finish anything continued. I downloaded programs from the Web that came with some amazing reviews -- Storyweaver, Liquid Story Binder, a host of others I can't even remember now -- and was hopeful in the fact that this would end my dry spell. And somehow, it didn't. I didn't think then to blame the fact that learning how to use the program was a distraction in and of itself; I spent hours I could have used to write trying to figure out how to use the features of each program without actually making any real progress on my stories.
And I wondered why.
Finally, finally, I stumbled onto the novel idea that... maybe external influences weren't really to blame. Sure, they had a role to play, but maybe... Maybe I was the problem. I was lazy, I was undisciplined, I was easily distracted by shiny new toys and video games... Finally, it dawned on me that maybe I was the reason I wasn't writing anything of note. Maybe the fact that I'd rather play Exalted or prepare for my GMing session of our rotating Dungeons and Dragons campaign played a factor in why that short story had been sitting with only 2000 words left to go on my computer for the last year and a half.
These days, I'm not much better. I have two kids, a third on the way. I have to get up every three or four minutes to chase the kids out from where they shouldn't be, or rescue the cat from having all her fur snipped off, or get them some snacks, or break up cage matches in the middle of my living room, or just be glomped on for ten minutes straight. I have housework and laundry and bills and rent and groceries and a million other things that require my time and attention...
But the main problem's still me. That hasn't changed. And it never will change. At least now I realize that, and I can work forward to get something done, at long last. I can finish a story. I can use a pen and paper, or a word processor, to write, without all the need for the extraneous crap that'll only serve to distract and make me procrastinate. Finally, I can get over my internal issues and get off my goddamn ass...
Right after I check my FarmVille Farm on Facebook, that is.