Thursday, March 17, 2011

Writing procrastination makes the news

In The New York Times:

Is there a cure for writer’s block? (And no, “get a real job” doesn’t count.) A recent article in The New Yorker profiles a therapist who treats struggling screenwriters for hundreds of dollars an hour. For centuries, poorer scribes (which is to say most of us) have preferred to rely on rituals and folk remedies. Sharpen 10 pencils. Eat a sandwich. Pretend that the first chapter of your long-overdue opus is a casual letter to your grandmother. Weep quietly. Have another drink.

And from the article on Barry Michels at the New Yorker link:
By far the most common problem afflicting the writers in Michels’s practice is procrastination, which he understands in terms of Jung’s Father archetype. “They procrastinate because they have no external authority figure demanding that they write,” he says. “Often I explain to the patient that there is an authority figure he’s answerable to, but it’s not human. It’s Time itself that’s passing inexorably. That’s why they call it Father Time. Every time you procrastinate or waste time, you’re defying this authority figure.” Procrastination, he says, is a “spurious form of immortality,” the ego’s way of claiming that it has all the time in the world; writing, by extension, is a kind of death. He gives procrastinators a tool he calls the Arbitrary Use of Time Moment, which asks them to sit in front of their computers for a fixed amount of time each day. “You say, ‘I’m surrendering myself to the archetypal Father, Chronos,’ ” he says. ‘I’m surrendering to him because he has hegemony over me.’ That submission activates something inside someone. In the simplest terms, it gets people to get their ass in the chair.” For the truly unproductive, he sets the initial period at ten minutes—“an amount of time it would sort of embarrass them not to be able to do.”
It's really what Boice and Silvia and Raymond Chandler and everyone else has told writers to do, but with a Jungian spin.

6 comments:

profacero said...

I say authorship and authority are related. You have to give authority to your manuscript and to yourself, and insist that the external authorities involved remain secondary.

undine said...

If you're a Jungian, as the second person is, I'm not sure that you have a self apart from all those warring figures within you. But yes, you're right. The thing I found most interesting is that there was this elaborate Jungian structure to say "get in the chair and write."

profacero said...

I thought it was really convoluted, that second one, when I read it but I think now I see. Writing requires concentration and I remember many years ago, as in during college, thinking of it as a form of death. You have to make progress, but do not control the environment ... as in a journey through the underworld.

profacero said...

Annie Lamott: http://www.amazon.com/Bird-Some-Instructions-Writing-Life/dp/0385480016/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

Someone just turned me onto this and it goes a lot more to my issues than Boyce does. Boyce, schmoyce, I could blow him out of the water on time management, pacing, speed, and the rest. But, in order to do that, I have to have some sort of self respect going on. I think my issue about Boyce is his condescension: he assumes the problem is laziness or not knowing how to get things done, not oppression.

undine said...

profacero, thanks for the reference to Bird by Bird. I've heard that that's a really good book for getting rid of procrastination.

profacero said...

I'm not finished but it's much more English department-y than Boice, as in, it really recognizes that writing is creative. It still says, keep a schedule, don't be a perfectionist on the first draft and be happy to get something small done each day. BUT it emphasizes that it's more often than not a struggle, even for the most experienced and successful writers.