Writing Waste 3. Messing about with apps, tools, systems
Stop messing about with apps, tools, and systems pretending you’re writing – you’re not fooling anybody
One of our big dogs here at the #DisasterFarm, Gilda, loves bones. In fact she loves them so much that when we give all 6 big dogs a bone each, she systematically steals each bone (after distracting the other dog with a “look over there at that lion”-type bark) and arranges the spoils in a semi-circle of joy around her. She has a little nibble on one, and whilst she’s not looking one of the victims of her thievery will try and recover their bounty. Gilda rushes to defend it, spending the whole day guarding the 6 bones, never getting a moment to enjoy her own. She is perpetually in motion, but getting nothing done.
If you’ve never seen a dog with 6 bones, look in the mirror. You might be doing the same as Gilda. Spending all your time looking at your booty, slathering over apps, toying with tools and no time actually doing anything useful.
Things that feel like progress but are actually just motion:
- Consuming other people’s apps or tools (and feeling curious)
- Reading about other people writing (and feeling despondent about your own abilities)
- Watching other people write (and feeling jealous)
- Discussing the latest tools, techniques, ideas on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc (and feeling smart)
- Buying the latest course, book or magic system on writing (and feeling hopeful)
- Planning the best way of writing (you’re feeling optimistic)
- Testing the newest notepad, moleskin, gel pen, planner (and feeling creative)
You are letting your feelings drive your activity!
These problems start with -ing words (if you wanna get technical they’re gerunds, non-finite verb forms) – consuming, reading, discussing, buying, planning, testing – feeling.
These wasteful activities are ongoing – they don’t stop – they are non-finite – you may never finish!
If you’ve tried out all the writing tools, downloaded the trials of Scrivener and Evernote and BlahdeBlah, read Anne Lamott and Stephen King, bought enough stationery to keep Amazon in business for a year, and convinced yourself that you’re in motion to write your book you’re like a dog with 6 bones. If you’re always looking for the right system, book, or guru and you consume them, try them out, waste your time… then give up for a few weeks and get on with some “real work”, you’re like a dog with 6 bones.
You’re making waste.
The only activities that really matter are writing, editing and shipping your work.
The causes of messing about with writing stuff
There are a few causes, you might think of more:
- Perfecting procrastination – see waste #6. If you try hard enough you can be “writing your book” for a lot of years if you still haven’t found the right pencil!
- Lack of reader focus – see waste #1. When you don’t know who you are writing for your flitty thoughts gain control of your activity.
- Doubting yourself, or your ability to write. Only your audience will be able to tell you if it’s good enough – you have to ship it to get feedback!
- “Escape-goating” – blaming the tool, app, system, guru for your lack of writing, so you keep looking for something better. You have everything you need right now.
This constant search for the perfect app (that will do the writing for you) is fruitless. You’re like a cat with two laps. Pawing at one whilst looking longingly at the other. Jumping to the new, squishier lap, only to lament the loss of lap number one.
Thoreau said it best: “It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
How to fix messing about with apps, tools and systems as an excuse for not writing
Let’s fix the two biggest problems – searching for the perfect system and trying out all the tools. When you fix these two, the other issues will disappear too:
- Pick your system and stick with it: Planning and creating a system is a good idea – but do it once, not every couple of weeks! My writing and running my business/life system is something like this:
- Monday = Marketing. If you are an expert you need to market yourself. Set aside a day to do it. Don’t leave it till you have the time, you won’t!
- Tuesday and Thursday are client days (Together). Usually I work in isolation, so these two days are my favourite days of the week – I get to work with the wonderful, talented people who are on my mentoring program.
- Wednesday = Writing. A whole day dedicated to writing, editing, shipping something!
- Friday = Fix it! Finish it! Feck it! I like to have Friday’s off, but if I have broken something during the week or have left something un-finished, I work till it’s completed. Then I can say Feck it, and take the rest of the day off!
- Saturday and Sunday are Sh!t days. Here at the #DisasterFarm we have a lot of animals, they make a lot of poo! Someone has to clean it up!
Don’t copy mine (or anyone else’s) system – create your own that works for you. Set boundaries. Decide on your writing day (or hour) and get it in your calendar. Plan in advance what you will be writing. Don’t let your writing time be wasted with consuming other people’s stuff. I’m going to talk more about planning your work in later articles, but for now, fix your waste, so you have time to write.
- Accept your current tools: I’m agnostic in all things writing – MS Word or GoogleDocs? Evernote or Keep? Pen and paper or voice recording? Self-publish or hybrid publish? It really doesn’t matter. I have my favourites (and I’ll share them with you if you want to know), but they all do the job of helping you capture thoughts, organise ideas and write more, so you can ship and influence the people who need to hear you. So, stop blaming the app, sit your ass down and write.
On the subject of asses… A while ago (14th Century) a philosopher called Buridan had an ass (well I don’t think he actually had an ass, but was just thinking about a hypothetical ass he might have had, as philosophers do). This hungry and thirsty ass (not a very responsible ass owner, I’m glad it was only a theoretical ass) was placed exactly at the midpoint between a big pile of hay and a big bucket of water. Because the ass is completely irrational (all equines are) and couldn’t decide whether to quench his thirst or satiate his hunger, he died in the middle, of hunger and thirst. (Gilda, let that be a lesson to you.)
The moral of the story? Don’t be an ass!
Solution: The tools you have available to you right now are good enough. Pick up the pen and paper, and write. Open the Word document and type. Switch on the voice recorder on your phone and talk. Stop consuming, start creating.
Till next time…
PS: To solve my dog with 6 bones problem, I have to psychologically and physically intervene. I enforce the rule that Gilda cannot take the other bones, I am very bossy. If you need bossing give me a call!