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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fighting the Wrong Fight?

I've been quiet on the blog for the past week, away from home and most Internet access enjoying family, cooler weather, small-town life, and the Jersey shore. Just before leaving yesterday, I came across this crime blotter news item in the Vineland Daily Journal:

A turkey set off an alarm at a business on Wolf Road just after midnight Saturday. An officer found a turkey pecking at the glass on the front door. It appeared to be fighting its own reflection.

Reintroduced to Southern New Jersey a couple of decades back, wild turkeys have proliferated to the point where you see them everywhere, pecking in the weeds, scratching at the dirt, and fiercely protecting their young. They're alert parents and large enough to open a can of whoop-ass on any dog, stray cat, or fox who dares to venture too close to their brood.

Yet, as seen above, they're not exactly Rhodes scholars about figuring out the difference between a real threat and their own reflections. They've been seen attacking shiny hubcaps, flinging themselves against windows, and scratching the heck out of the side of freshly-washed cars. Such frantic, self-defeating activity tires and distracts the birds...not to mention taking their attention from the real threats creeping up.

As you work to achieve your writing goals, you need to ask yourself, am I worrying myself silly about things I can't control, things that ultimately don't matter? Am I expending my time and energy pecking at glass doors instead of producing the kind of meaningful work that has the potential to excite an agent, an editor, and (with the right luck, timing, and effort) a large, receptive audience?

The uncomfortable truth is that there's not time to do everything, be everything, follow every possible path. We can only choose priorities to keep from fluttering about like turkeys attempting to do everything at once.

What's your priority this week?

4 comments:

Joni Rodgers said...

Right on, Colleen. I think you could extend that metaphor to the way writers tend to peck ourselves to death.

Welcome back!

Barbara Sissel said...

Great analogy, Colleen. I love having a couple of laughs with my lessons.

Kathryn Paterson said...

Thanks so much for this. As I close in on querying and submitting, this is key for me. I also think I may need to invoke another facebook (and now twitter) fast, because I find myself getting distracted again, this time from well meaning but ultimately distracting "advice." Granted, in a weak moment, I asked for the advice, and it wasn't even about the novel itself per se. But the answer literally had me fretting well into the night and exacerbated my tendencies towards anxiety.

I just don't know how I can go from "this novel is basically ready" to "the whole thing's a piece of sh&* and I'm wasting my time" in about 60 seconds flat, but with me, anything's possible. So is this just me, or is it a writer thing?

Would help if I could distinguish between the fear and any real problems in the work. At this point, though, I have too many people telling me it's good. Going to tackle that one last thing that's bugging me and LET.IT.GO.

Colleen Thompson said...

Thanks, Joni and Barbara. And thanks to you, too, Kathryn.

There's a point just prior to every one of my book's releases where I've absolutely convinced myself it is utterly devoid of merit. This feeling of impending doom, I've later learned, has no correlation whatsoever with the book's reviews, sales, earnings, or reader satisfaction. It's all about staring at the same set of words for so long that even Shakespeare's finest would begin to feel like drivel.

Trust yourself. Trust the work. Send it out as soon as you can manage!