The final manuscript of The Little Board Game Café is now out of my hands. I’ve read it for one final time, agonised over every comma and double checked the spelling of all the Polish words in there. From here on, other people will take my precious debut novel on its journey towards publication and my part in its creation is over.
The first draft of my second novel (title TBC) is now with my editor Rachel, so there’s nothing I can do on that either except cross my fingers that she loves it.
This leaves a big hole in my life. I don’t have a job: I retired very early, partly because of chronic migraines and partly because my husband took early retirement. For the last few years, a large chunk of my time is spent writing. So it’s time to crack on and write novel number 3.
Novel number 3 is about Martha. Her story has been in my head for several years. I’ve already written a few chapters. I’m fairly confident (unusually for me) that it’s a good idea because it was shortlisted in the 2021 Penguin Christmas Love Story Competition. Yet still, opening my computer, opening the Martha chapter and looking at my bullet-pointed plotline, I am unable to write a word. I’m doing what many of us do: procrastinating. Writing this blog post instead of my book. Checking my emails. Making yet another cup of coffee.
Why is it so hard to get started on a new project? Or to restart an old one that’s been put aside for a few months?
A novel is a daunting prospect. Eighty to ninety thousand words that you have to conjure up from your own imagination. Getting into the skin of your main characters and seeing the world through their perspectives instead of your own. Working out what they’d do in each situation they find themselves in. Understanding their psychological make-up so that they seem like real people. Keeping track of the many threads and sub-plots that weave their way through the book.
It’s no wonder I’m stuck. It’s such a big task.
On the Psychology Today website*, psychologist Ellen Langer, Ph.D. (2019) writes, “if we take one small step, that step leads to another and eventually even a challenging goal becomes achievable.” The website advises breaking tasks down into smaller chunks and not getting hung up on trying to make things perfect.
And that is, I think, why I am stuck. I want my story to be perfect. What novelist doesn’t?
Yes, that’s it. I can’t write a word because I’m being too much of a perfectionist.
Time to procrastinate a little bit more then, and google ‘strategies for overcoming perfectionism.’