Some might say that my quest to discover the meaning behind this little recurring problem that I have was merely a procrastination device used to avoid work. I say that said device is proof that I needed to research.
And, I have disturbing news for writers. I’ve discovered a syndrome that I suspect we all suffer from to some degree. I’m calling it Story Attention Deficit Syndrome or SADS for short. And I get it—bad. Often.
What’s a syndrome? According to Google, it’s “a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, or behavior.”
Yep. I’ve got a serious case of SADS. Well, I do sometimes. Not all the time. All I know is that some days I just don’t want to work on what I should work on. I don’t have writers’ block. Seriously, I wish I did. That’s easier to deal with, you know?
Nope. I have what I call “Writer’s don’t wanna!” I don’t wanna work on what I’m supposed to be working on.
The first step in identifying this writer’s syndrome was to evaluate a few things.
I created great lists of questions to ask myself, flow charts to evaluate “if this” then “this.” I did it all. But then I realized it boiled down to just a few questions.
So, if you’re in the middle of a bad case of “Writer’s Don’t Wanna,” ask yourself:
Is it a bad day or a true “don’t wanna”?
Look, bad days happen to everyone. If your tire blew out on the freeway, your kid puked on your shoe just as you stepped into Bible Study, and dinner burned… in the CROCKPOT, not feeling like writing might just be because you’re exhausted and need a do-over. Give yourself grace. Eat some ice cream. Go to bed.
Why don’t I want to work on it?
We sit there and no matter how much we feel like we want to write, we just can’t—why? Is it because you don’t know what happens next? You haven’t plotted that far? Your idea morphed beyond your plans? Do new ideas need to percolate?
Or do you not know? All you do know is if you have to write one more blasted word OF THAT BOOK, you’ll pull out your hair. If it’s the former, you just might need a bit of brainstorming and off you go. However, if it’s the latter… You’re one more step closer to SADS.
Has it been longer than a month since you’ve written anything else creative?
Look, blog posts and articles don’t count. So aside from those, if you’ve only worked on this one project for a month or more, you might just need a bit of variety in your creative diet.
I like variety—lots of it. I don’t want to eat spaghetti every night for dinner. No, I don’t want to wear anything but navy skirts and white blouses every day (did enough of that in school, thank-you-very-much). I don’t want to only read books by one author, no matter how much I love his work, and I don’t want to write one book, day in, and day out until it’s done.
In fact, I need a break. Often. Why? You know how fun it is to binge-watch a really great TV show? You’re done. You have that after-glow, and if there was another episode, you’d be thrilled. But how often do you want to start over, and watch all 20 seasons again right now?
Maybe you do. I don’t.
And sometimes when I’ve been immersed in one book for sixty-thousand words, I just want a few hours of something else. I like variety. Lots of it.
Maybe it has only been two days—but you’ve written ten thousand words in those two days. It’s just something to think about. You may need variety—and that’s a sure sign that SADS is creeping in. No variety + lots of words = SADS
Identifying—easy. Overcoming? Well, that could be trickier.
Three ways to overcome SADS in any situation:
1. If you can afford time on another project, close out your Scrivener project or your Word document. Open something else. Work on it for a good five thousand words. Immerse yourself in it. Breathe in the characters, the setting, the ideas.
Come back to your current project with fresh eyes. Consider it a “working vacation” where you come home and yes, you worked while you were gone, but a change of scenery did you good!
2. If you are just sick of your work in progress but can’t handle working on two projects at once, give yourself twenty-four hours off. Read a book—even one on writing craft if you need to justify it. Or, read something in your current genre to remind you of why you chose to write this. Anything. If that just makes you want to tear out your hair, try a movie. Do something crafty or DIY a project around your home. But whatever you do, keep stimulating those creative juices—just for twenty-four hours. Because there’s something about priming your own creative well pump with the flowing ideas found elsewhere!
If all else fails:
3. And if you just can’t take time away from your project at all, then try a little “productive procrastination.” Go reread sections of it. Find good quotes and make quote images to share. Reread your favorite sections and see if there isn’t a way you can think of to make your next one even better. Introduce something unexpected and get your character out of a sticky situation. Basically, use what you have to spark an even better idea.
If all else fails, make yourself work out of order and work on that scene you’ve been dying to write. Sure, you may have to rewrite it a bit when you get to it if you’ve added bits you didn’t expect, but that’s okay. Because it got you over that horrible episode of SADS.
Of course, there’s another thing it could be—totally unrelated to SADS but can spark that horrible syndrome. If your work has you yawning and aching for an escape, and a break of some kind doesn’t help, ask yourself, “Is this just borING?” Because if it is, perhaps what you need to reevaluate your story, or at least that part of your story. If you’re bored, you will likely bore your reader, too.
But if you think it’s just you—that you’re just out of sorts with your tale, then you’ve likely got a case of SADS. And if you don’t fix it, you’re likely to make your story SAD (Scared of Author Disorder) as well.
Chautona lives and writes in California’s Mojave Desert where she strives to use story to connect readers to the Master Storyteller.