Do you use writing to avoid writing?

I think I do

Photo by Luis Lierena

I used to think that reading was one of the methods I used to stay away from the blank page. It was easier to read one more page that try to write one.

I used to read a lot of books. I still read a lot of books. I think I have become more selective in what I write but if I exchanged the time I spent reading for writing time I would get more writing done. Obviously.

But I have switched some reading time to writing time. I’m writing now using time that previously I would have used to stretch out on the sofa and read a book.

Progress.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

A while back I shared how I was giving up on morning pages. A writer friend challenged my reasons for continuing with the pages when I seemed to have made the pages a goal rather than a warm-up exercise.

Now I find I have started filling a notebook with notes and thought and quotations in an effort to fill said notebook within a month. Telling that same friend my new plan met with the incredulity you might expect.

What I want to write is the first draft of my novel. I have much of it done and, as my friend pointed out over coffee this morning, if I spent the time working on the novel instead of writing in the notebook, I would have the first draft finished in quick time.

So why am I writing in the notebook? Why do I feel it essential to write a daily Medium post?

The simple answer is probably the right one: writing anything feels like it makes me more of a writer and writing notes and Medium posts is easier — a short-term gratification — than writing my novel.

Going forward, I think I have two options:

1. When I feel I want to write something, work on the novel;
2. Stop meeting my friend for coffee.

So much is written every day — on Medium, in blogs, on Facebook, and forums — and so much is both ephemeral and, let’s be honest, very repetitive.

What would happen if even a small percentage of the effort expended on creating this background wallpaper to our internet lives was spent instead on something harder to create but of greater long-term value? And of value not necessarily for the world at large but at least for the person writing.

There is a Kierkegaard persona — and I forget which and I have long forgotten in which book he appears* — who claims that his most ardent ambition is to make something harder for mankind. He is fighting against the convenience that appears to eat away at the creative soul of every one of us. Sometimes, posting is easier than working for the long haul.

Despite what my friend says — and despite what conclusion I may have been close to reaching above — I think what I need to do is cut out some of the other ways I waste time rather than the extra writing. But I will make sure the novel comes first every day.

That, for now, seems a fair compromise.

*I took the trouble to look it up: Johannes Climacus is the pseudonym or persona and the book is Concluding Unscientific Postcript