Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Less Consuming, More Writing

For someone who thinks of himself as a writer, I don't spend nearly enough time actually performing the act of writing.  I always feel bad about this, of course.  "I really should be writing" I tell myself, but there's always another level to beat, another chapter to read, or, more recently, another wall to paint.

Actually that last one really is a valid excuse, but the others are not.  Right now, I spend a little too much time "consuming."  I have that down pat.  I'm not a big TV person, although living with cable in the house has changed that.  I certainly watch more TV than I used to, but I'm still pretty far down on chart for overall viewing time.  I do, however, spend a good chunk of time playing video games and a significant chunk of my time reading.  Video games are at least interactive so I'm participating rather than simply absorbing, and I'm often co-operating with friends.  Still, at the end of the game, all I've got to show for my time is another pile of digital trophies, the modern equivalent of a high score.  That's nice, I guess, but not all that fulfilling, and not something I'd be proud to put in the annual family newsletter.

Books are just about the same.  I consume them and at the end I have a new experience, something I can talk about with others who have read the same book, but not much to write home about.  It can be enriching and, especially if I want to be a good writer, it's necessary to build up piles of these experiences but that's not really a concern for me.  By this point in my life, I've probably read more books than the next five people combined so I could probably afford to slow down a little.

Also, there's the Internet.  I think I may have mentioned my inability to walk through a room without stopping if someone is watching a TV show in that room.  Well, the Internet is worse.  I just get sucked in.  Stop to check one thing, don't surface for hours.  And it's all crap!  I occasionally find a useful resource or an insightful writer, and I'll follow that for a while, but it's not what I gravitate towards.  Those "getting sucked in for hours" incidents are mostly webcomics or internet fiction (sort of like reading books but much more variable in quality).

I just finished reading Clay Shirky's "Cognitive Surplus" which is all about how people are starting to use their free time in more productive ways than simple consumption.  It's a decent book, ties in to some things Bruce Sterling claims about spimes and wranglers, namely that our culture is headed towards a more participatory model: one where "amateur" is no longer a slur on the quality of work.

In other words, I'm feeling more guilty than usual about not posting anything here for a while.  Blogging isn't the most culturally beneficial form of participation, but it beats re-reading webcomics.  And besides, for a variety of reasons (guilt included), I've had a burst of inspiration in my fiction.  I'm producing there again, too, and, as with the end of every previous hiatus in my writing, I realized just how much I missed doing it.  I really do love this thing I claim to do but never quite get around to.

Clearly I haven't solved my procrastination problem.  There are a number of factors here, many of which I know and recognize, but I haven't quite worked out how to fight it yet.  Guilt is not a particularly healthy or (ultimately) effective motivator but at least it will get me started when I stop too long.  I'm not going to promise anything, I'll work on the doing instead.