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Informed by Failure

This is Writer Derailed

A manifesto, of sorts

Manifesto. Read my Manifesto. I’ve written a Manifesto. It’s all in the Manifesto!

Theodore Kaczynski

Don’t be alarmed. But I’m going to ask you a cheeky question.

Are you a writer?

If you’re not, nothing to see here, move along.

If you are, then…

Why are you here?

No, not here, skimming the unfamiliar mash of QWERTY of a newish blog, maybe leeching scant time usually reserved for playing Minecraft or Clash of the Clans.

I’m asking why you think you’re here, right now, on our dizzying mote of water, rock, and gas? Are you managing the scant time you’re allotted to pursue your writing goals?

Are you as engaged in your writing practice as you want to be? Do you have a body of work that you’d be proud of if fate decided today to knock you into the ditch like roadkill?

If so, this isn’t written for you. Move along, nothing to see here.

Or are you tidally locked with despair, dreading your deathbed knowing you felt your “creative power restive and uprising and gave to it neither power nor time.”

You think about writing. You know you should be writing. You want to write.

And perhaps you’re squandering your time, flopped on the couch with a beer and a bag of chips trying to decide what to watch on Netflix or HBO.

Feeling envious of the people who create what you view.

I’m this person.

Maybe the normal demands of life, like caring for your family and working hard to keep up with the bills exhaust you. Or maybe you have a career that demands most of your creative energy.

I’m this person.

Or maybe you’re in a tidal lock with depression, anxiety, trauma, or another emotional or physical derailing disorder.

I’m definitely this person.

Shit, maybe you wallow in fear and despair, dive deep into it in your worst moments and type desperate questions into your browser’s search bar or into Reddit or Quora.

Pleas like

  • Am I too old to start writing?
  • Why can’t I finish the writing I start? 
  • Why do I fail at everything I do?
  • I’m a failure and I don’t know what to do.

I’m this person, too.

Moreover, we make these searches not only because we’re hungry for a solution and looking for a little guidance.

We’re desperate. Despairing.

There’s no shame or guilt or embarrassment in asking these questions or feeling the feels that prompt them.

Fuck, I’m in my sixth decade, closer to death than not, and I do it. I think it. I feel it.

These beat in me all the time. Through decades of therapy and medications and self-help…like a heart under the floorboards.

How to give power and time to your writing

And stacked against him in the future, he knew, were yet further novels, successively entitled Unfinished, Unwritten, Unattempted, and, eventually, Unconceived.

Martin Amis, The Information

But I know what the problem is.

Perhaps your problem, like mine, is chronic procrastination.

Chronic procrastination is the inability to regulate negative moods.

Contrary to much popular belief and advice, chronic procrastination isn’t a time management problem. There isn’t a time management checklist or task list to use to make it go away.

If you’re sceptical, grab a copy of The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done, by Dr. Piers Steel. 

So it is, essentially, a mood disorder and it’s a thorny problem.

The outcomes and inputs can be the same–depression, anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt, chronic stress, self-sabotage, low self-esteem, fear, resentment, boredom (!?), frustration, and insecurity. 

It can affect your physical health, too, such hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

That’s an incomplete list, but, in short, chronic procrastination is self-destructive. It can literally kill you.

So, not good.

And if you throw a bunch of the outcomes or drivers into your psychological blender, you might find you’re unable to start and/or to continue writing.

Which sounds a lot like “writer’s block,” doesn’t it?

I think chronic procrastination is “writer’s block.” At the very least it is linked to “writer’s block”, and if we dig deep enough, chronic procrastination will be found at the core.

And stacked against him in the future

“If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.” 

Lillian Hellman (?)

By now, you might be wondering what qualifies me to write this blog.

That’s a fair question.

The simplest answer is that I’m describing my experiences managing chronic procrastination.

A more detailed answer is on the about me page.

The short answer is I’ve worked in the book world, in one way or another since, well, the mid-80s. I’ve worked many jobs, like parttime bookstore clerk, book journalist, and full-time book publisher.

As well, I’ve had some stories published and won some reputable contests.

But that certainly doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. Not at all.

Despite the crowd of writing advice blogs and books available, no one knows what advice works and what doesn’t, except in hindsight. 

And even then, the advice might not work the next time or, ever again. So while I will opine about other writing topics, I suppose the bad news is nothing you read here will cure chronic procrastination or make you a better writer

That’s not a power I have.

Besides, there aren’t any must-do rules, no secrets or shortcuts, no surefire system. How could there be? Creativity can’t be boxed. It is non-fungible.

Really, the only advice any writer can give is what worked and didn’t work based on their experiences or immediate circumstances. 

Why listen to me talk about writing or myself?

You don’t have to.

It’s not that I don’t want to offer solutions or that I can’t offer advice. Nor do I think writing advice is useless.

It’s because right now, in this beating moment, it’s not appropriate for me to tell you how to manage your thoughts and struggles and your writing.

What right do I have to do that? I think I need to earn that right.

We’re strangers, and many days I feel a stranger to myself. 

Really, some days I don’t know what I need, so I can’t know what advice you need. How could it be otherwise?

Maybe I’ll come to understand how to provide useful advice. Or maybe not. The best outcomes are is I continue the blog and it’s useful to a few people. 

And it’s important to be useful.

Let me know how can I be of use.


All material, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © Todd Besant. All rights reserved.

Photo Credit: Copyright © Todd Besant. All rights reserved

This blog is written and produced on Turtle Island in Winnipeg, MB, on Treaty 1 Land that is the territories of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and is the Traditional Homeland of the Métis Nation. All material, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © Todd Besant. All rights reserved.
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