Seven Writing Sins: Sloth

When I was a kid, we lived close enough to the San Diego Zoo to visit it frequently with our family and our schools.  One of my favorite monkeys was the baby marmoset monkeys.  It might have been because we got to hold these tiny, big eyed creatures.  Or maybe it was because they were so small that my seven year old hands provided shelter for them.

Then we moved.  Minnesota has two zoos.  None boasts exotic animals in quite the same way that San Diego did.  My new zoo love turned toward the sloth.

These slow moving creatures remained virtually motionless in their pens.  They didn’t amble so much as they inched.  Their only momentum seemed to be a result of gravity rather than a personal attempt on their behalf.  But I loved them none-the-less.  Not quite as much as marmosets, but a close second.

Marmosets are quick and agile.  Sloths are the exact opposite.

I’m sure it goes without saying that the slothful writer will get nothing done.  Slow and sluggish wannabes.  Muse writers.  One-day authors. 

Slothfulness is more than a sin, it’s a negative writing habit.

Note to self:

  • Books do not write themselves.  Authors must do the dirty work.
  • Muses do not write books.  Authors do.
  • Dreams do not write books.  Authors type them.
  • Hope does not write books.  Nor does faith or desire.

The only thing that can actually get words onto paper in a cohesive format is an author.  Writers must write, even when the muse is absent.  They must push through when rejections crush their dreams.  They must hone, not hope. 

They simply cannot wait for someone else to write the book they feel inside.  They must do this themselves.  It is a long and hard process and one better suited to a marmoset than a sloth.

What tactics work to keep you motivated with your writing?  Do you write every day or only when you feel like it?  What happens when your inner sloth rears its head?

24 responses to “Seven Writing Sins: Sloth

  1. You mean like right now? I get a little bit of this and a little bit of that done. Mostly writing related, but it gains me little forward momentum. Sigh. My problem thus far has been not finding a story line I’m in love with enough to continue writing for a year or so.

    • Victoria, everyone writes differently. I have no doubt that your method is perfect for you and that you are more productive than you give yourself credit for.

  2. Whe seein g your post it made me think of this: Sloths move at the speed of congressional debate but with greater deliberation and less noise. – P.J. O’Rourke

  3. ‘They must hone, not hope’ – LOVE that line!

    For me, motivation usually isn’t a problem. I think that’s partially because I don’t have a lot of time so I’m always excited when I get some. Crazy busy has its advantages! 🙂

  4. Okay, I know it isn’t on the writing topic at all. BUT here, look at this!

    Back to the subject at hand.

    You know me, I only write when I feel like it, even during NaNo. Which might be why I haven’t finished either of my NaNo stories yet… But when I am in the groove I do get some things done! Unfortunately the mood doesn’t strike as often as I would like it to!

  5. I’ve totally revised my thinking on this. I deny being a sloth — my non-writing time is productive because I think, generate ideas, get rid of chores that are hanging over my head, and recharge my writing batteries. Then I binge-write by setting myself up with blocks of uninterrupted time (sometimes a whole week) and living with my book. It works for me, and I feel a lot less guilt on the days I don’t write.

    However, I don’t recommend that method for writers who want to be productive and even make money. I’m retired from real work, so I have a little wiggle room to do what I want.

    • Patricia, enjoy your wiggle room!

      But I also agree with you. The writing process occurs even when we just think and contemplate. Those parts just don’t pay the bills.

  6. I go out and have lots of fun, clear the old head. Then I take my computer somewhere without distraction, the better to get down to business. Caffeine can also kick the old sloth’s ass sometimes… ^_^

  7. I’m trying to write everyday at this point. That may be severly challenged here soon. I’m looking at taking on a P/T job and the occasional article writing, I’m running out of time. Arrgghhh!! I will make it work! I’m determined. 🙂

    • Lisa, I was a STAH mom with a part time (on my own schedule) job. I should definitely devoted more time to writing than I did thinking about it! Now that I’m going back to full time, I know I will miss those moments I let slip by.

  8. I like to write every day, and when writing my first MS, I never had writer’s block because I wrote the story in pieces and put them all together at the end. If I wasn’t sure where a particular scene was headed, I would just work on a different one while the one I had laid aside incubated through the problem. I really enjoyed the process, a happy marmoset.

    Now that I have expanded into blogging, tweeting, querying, etc., the sloth rears its head relatively often. I have found that if I take a few minutes to switch gears and something else I need to do, or take a short break by going to Facebook Scrabble or Braingle, etc., it clears the mental cache and I’m better able to focus on what I need to do.

    • Wow, I am in awe that you finished your first novel with that method. I’m way too scatterbrained to make that successful.

      Chronology all the way. Or bust.

      It’s nice to find something that works to help focus, though. Keep it up!

  9. I think slothfulness is a writer’s worst enemy! It takes days and days to get yourself back on track and be disciplined, it takes 2 days to give yourself into the warm and fuzzy arms of the evil sloth! 🙂
    I loved your ‘note to self’! Muse, hope, dreams, fantasy… all very nice & necessary but in the end, “Books do not write themselves. Authors must do the dirty work.”

    • A hard lesson learned. If the stories in our heads ever see the light of day, it is only through our own perseverence.

      I suppose we could have our stories ghost written, but what’s the fun in that?

  10. After reading what you wrote I thought you might like this link.

  11. I have daily writing goals. I do most of my major writing M-F. I don’t usually work on my novel or stories on the weekends (unless a character or scene won’t leave me alone!). I write blog posts and writing exercises instead. Mostly, the weekends are for catching up on reading and living life away from the computer and office!

    Taking a break on the weekends is great for keeping me motivated during the week. I don’t usually feel burned out by the weekend, but if I do, I have two days to rest and replenish my mind. I also have lots of writing quotes around my writing spaces. I keep a dream board above my desk, too! It has pictures of things that remind me what I want to accomplish for my writing career.

    • Laura,

      You continue to inspire me with your well-thought out method of writing. You are so organized, motivated and centered. When I grow up, I’d love to be like you. Even just a little bit!

  12. For me the key is brokering an accord between my left and right brain. My right brain wants to doodle around and let the story wander; my left wants to write polished prose from the get go. My solution? The daily word count. Some days high, some low, but it’s the perfect compromise because my anal retentive left brain is cheering on my jabbering right (while meticulously watching the words tick off on the bottom of the screen) until we all jubilantly cross the finish line together. I know it sounds ridiculous but more times than not I wind up way ahead of my set limit with better prose and broader arcs than I had anticipated! In other words, I get out of my own way and write!

    • Send some of that good, writing mojo this way. It sounds like you’ve got this thing licked for right now and I’m glad you shared it with all of us.

      Best luck as you continue writing. May you reach those goals and keep both of your hemispheres happy!

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