View Full Version : Creative Struggles - Procrastination, Distraction and the Like


OhLookABunny
06-07-14, 02:31 AM
I majored in Creative Writing in college, and also am big on the visual arts, sewing, crafting, lots of creative things. Too many, according to my neurotypical friends, and I have at times tried to narrow it down.

Creative inspiration comes and it's the best high there is. Ideas flow and form and I'm all eager to get it down on computer screen, paper, canvas, make it in fabric, sculpt it, whatever.

Then something happens - a need to attend to life's mundane business, or an unforeseen glitch - or my mind just wanders a little, then a little more . . .

One of my habitual and counterproductive coping mechanisms is to go out in search of more "gear" - research books for the writing, art supplies, fabric, etc. This makes me feel like I'm doing something to keep the inspiration flowing, but really it drags me down, adds to the distraction of clutter that is already, well, distracting.

Others in this same predicament? Let's talk!

Addesso
06-16-14, 07:51 PM
Oh yeah, I've done a lot of this. Currently I'm pursuing filmmaking (writing, directing, producing) and it seems the best fit so far--especially as I do have an outlet for stories that pop into my head. But I've seriously studied and pursued as a career photography, oil painting, and graphic design in the past.

As for "hobbies"? Oh man, where would I start with that one. I just love working with my hands, and as more jobs become more digital these days, I end up finding all kinds of "handy" things to do to preoccupy them when the need arises. Some of the skills have come in handy--like car repair and home renovation. Others I actually got good at, but I know is a time filler, like knitting, woodworking, making models, cross-stitch, and a LOT of cooking endeavors. I baked a lot at one time, but would always just give the stuff away--all I really cared about was putting stuff together!

I got really into climbing and hiking also, so started getting "stuff" for all that too. Is it really necessary? Suuuuuuure!

So yeah, I have so much "gear" that the thought of moving is kind of mind-boggling. I'm not a hoarder thankfully, but I REALLY can see how someone can start on that path and not be able to escape it.

The past two years--tho I haven't been actively shedding some of this stuff--I've at least been REALLY picky about what I do for fun and hobbies that I continue or decide to pursue. I've gotten to the point where I want to REALLY get good at something and not just do things because it's novel. So at this time, it's primarily filmmaking, climbing at a rock gym, and guitar an hour or so a day (wait, I didnt mention the guitar yet??). Every now and then I may see something that may be crafty entertaining, but I REALLY am honest with myself about just a temporary fun thing to do and that I wont acquire extra gear for it.

(Sidenote: I never got into seriously trying to play music till recently. I learned the drums on a whim about four years as I thought the physical activity would satisfy some urges, and tho it did, it's not really "musical" if you know what I mean. Just beats. But about three months ago I picked up playing electric guitar along with this PS3 software called Rocksmith. I seriously don't know why I didn't do this earlier!)

Every day is a constant struggle with idea generation. I get way more ideas for stories, images, etc etc than I know what to do with. Folk say just write it down, but seriously, I've had to just be ok with letting some stuff go or I'd be head down into a notebook every waking hour. Plus is I feel I'll never run out of ideas. Minus is trying to decide which one to pursue to fruition.

I've had various systems for catching these ideas down too. I can't say I ever settled on one that worked well. Very interested to know what other people do/have tried.

There is a lot of places this topic can go. I'd love to see more!

DistractedLemur
06-16-14, 09:35 PM
Rocksmith!
I forgot I meant to try that! Any good?

Gear Acquisition Syndrome is something I too suffer from quite badly. Having very little money lately to buy crap has given me some perspective on this though and made me want to focus on improving myself and my skills rather than buying more things.
Of course I never get around to selling the things I end up using.

Addesso
06-16-14, 10:30 PM
I'm really big on alternative learning strategies. And Rocksmith really fits that bill in regards to guitar instruction. At one time I tried learning with a teacher, and I paid for three $50 sessions and we didn't even TOUCH the guitar yet! All scales and music theory, etc, etc. No doubt eventually that's helpful, but really, I just wanted to freakin' rock! And yeah, tho YMMV, you really do pick it up pretty fast, you're playing to songs you know, and it's really fun.

It's kind of cheap too. Game is $50, but you can prob find a used guitar someplace for under $100. But once you learn it, you can just play anytime you want, which is great. That's one reason why it's my number one hobby right now--I can just pick it up and practice and I can take it with me to noodle around at someone's house or when I find downtime when I'm out.

OhLookABunny
06-17-14, 09:53 PM
I'm happy to see that there has been some interest in this thread! :yes:
Although I don't mean that I wish creative struggles on anyone; they're the pits.

For example, I've been on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for about 5 years and I have three novels started (plus a slew of ideas for more novels or short stories :doh:) and not one of them has gotten a complete first draft in all this time.

When I was a teen and even into college, living at home with the folks and not having but one or two bills to be concerned about, I could write a lot more consistently. I still had undiagnosed ADD-related problems, the most memorable being the honors project that I presented to the professors, they suggested final revisions, and I never got those done. It was my big shame, and in the master's program I bailed as thesis time drew near. Now I know why.

Sometimes I really wish I'd majored in studio arts or graphic design and minored in creative writing, but that ship has sailed. I am trying to balance visual art and writing (and sewing, and and and and . . .). From time to time I make these lists attemtping to streamline what creative pursuits I'm going to continue with, and which are minor ones that I should drop. It works for awhile, and then "SHINY OBJECT!!!" and I end up with more new ones.

Oh, and even trying to do the "main" ones - case in point, my science fiction novel - I must research, research, research (fear of making a blooper), and I must make a papier-mache' planet and figurines of my aliens (because I'm a visual person and because it's fun). But all these things take that oh-so-precious commodity, time.

Addesso
06-18-14, 05:00 AM
... the most memorable being the honors project that I presented to the professors, they suggested final revisions, and I never got those done. It was my big shame, and in the master's program I bailed as thesis time drew near. Now I know why.

In my early-30s I decided to go back to community college to redo my GE classes so I could transfer as a painting major to SF Art Institute. My previous private art school credits wouldn't transfer over (which I did when i was 18-20, and also didn't complete) so I had to retake almost three semesters of classes. I was in this English class with a really great teacher, but when we got to writing our big paper for the class, I kept missing deadline after deadline. I believe I actually missed the final due date.

I believe we met right at the end of the semester about it and we talked about it. How I had a great thesis and outline and everything was researched and structured out, but I was *struggling* to just write the damn thing. And I told her that it's always been like this, but as I got older the systems I had in place didn't seem to be working and I think I might be bipolar and blah blah blah. And she wrote a book down for me to read, and it was Dr. Amen's book Healing ADD. She told me that she had a young son with ADD and that I should read the book. And that's how I got my start down this path.

What sucks was that she gave me an extension to turn it in before the summer ended, and I never got around to it. =p

I have two major short film projects that never finished. TBH, both didn't have a lot of production help and too short of a timetable, so the quality went to crap early on, and when we ran out of time shooting, I just felt that it wasn't worth getting more days and paying more money to re-shoot. And that sort of thing happens somewhat often anyhow with these projects, but a friend did mention that I don't finish work, and people do remember that and it affects your reputation on future projects.

OhLookABunny
06-19-14, 06:00 PM
In my early-30s I decided to go back to community college to redo my GE classes so I could transfer as a painting major to SF Art Institute. My previous private art school credits wouldn't transfer over (which I did when i was 18-20, and also didn't complete) so I had to retake almost three semesters of classes. I was in this English class with a really great teacher, but when we got to writing our big paper for the class, I kept missing deadline after deadline. I believe I actually missed the final due date.

I believe we met right at the end of the semester about it and we talked about it. How I had a great thesis and outline and everything was researched and structured out, but I was *struggling* to just write the damn thing. And I told her that it's always been like this, but as I got older the systems I had in place didn't seem to be working and I think I might be bipolar and blah blah blah. And she wrote a book down for me to read, and it was Dr. Amen's book Healing ADD. She told me that she had a young son with ADD and that I should read the book. And that's how I got my start down this path.

What sucks was that she gave me an extension to turn it in before the summer ended, and I never got around to it. =p

I have two major short film projects that never finished. TBH, both didn't have a lot of production help and too short of a timetable, so the quality went to crap early on, and when we ran out of time shooting, I just felt that it wasn't worth getting more days and paying more money to re-shoot. And that sort of thing happens somewhat often anyhow with these projects, but a friend did mention that I don't finish work, and people do remember that and it affects your reputation on future projects.

Definitely feel your pain. :( I like Dr. Amen's material too by the way - he has a new book out, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. I have only skimmed it so far.

I remember a coworker at one job (I had 50 jobs in 30 years before going on disability! :rolleyes:) saying, "You don't finish anything, you keep starting new things." I had a non-ADD mom who I guess served as my structure while growing up, then when I had to figure out how to do deadlines, the "stuff" hit the fan. :eek: It depended on how structured the class was, though. Classes with ordinary syllabus and regular quizzes and tests, even papers to write, were generally okay. It was those bigger, more amorphous projects like a thesis that got to me. :faint:

Struggling to write . . . oh, yeah. I am such a big-picture person, I have to see the forest before I can deal with any of the piddly trees. And that's how my ideas come, too - full blown - but in reality one has to write a novel word by word. I can try tricks such as writing the scenes that I feel I can write and then fitting in other scenes around those, which helps some. So does outlining. But the actual writing is hard to relate because it's trees instead of the forest. Ack!

OhLookABunny
07-05-14, 01:24 PM
An update - I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo for July and having some better luck with my writing. :yes: A key component of my success is doing it clandestinely; I've told few people - that way I don't feel that pressure if I don't succeed. Also, if I have to be sneaky, it kind of adds an element like a game and makes me pursue writing time rather than sort of dread it.

Any other creative types doing something interesting this summer?

Addesso
07-07-14, 07:45 PM
I'm finally getting a lot more writing done on short screenplays and commercial ideas. One or two of these will go into prep soon, so hopefully have one done before the summer ends. One or two more before the end of the year.

I guess that's one thing that makes screenwriting somewhat easier. It's still a blueprint of sorts, so the words aren't as critical as they'll be translated visually (which I'm better at) or through an actor's actions. Whereas with written work, those words ARE your last line of communication before the reader so they hold a lot of weight. In screenplays, pretty much only the dialogue goes through to the viewer unfiltered. And which happens to be the hardest part of screenwriting for me.

OhLookABunny
07-13-14, 03:44 PM
I'm finally getting a lot more writing done on short screenplays and commercial ideas. One or two of these will go into prep soon, so hopefully have one done before the summer ends. One or two more before the end of the year.

I guess that's one thing that makes screenwriting somewhat easier. It's still a blueprint of sorts, so the words aren't as critical as they'll be translated visually (which I'm better at) or through an actor's actions. Whereas with written work, those words ARE your last line of communication before the reader so they hold a lot of weight. In screenplays, pretty much only the dialogue goes through to the viewer unfiltered. And which happens to be the hardest part of screenwriting for me.

An interesting take on writing. :) I had an idea for a comical screenplay but that seems harder to me. Just got done posting in a thread about movies - I gravitate more toward the printed word. You and I could probably collaborate on a novel - I tend to write "around" the main action and dialogue first. It's annoying - I know I need to get something happening, but everything's about how the characters get to or from the place where the action happens. Like they go in the spacecraft to the alien planet, and I describe the craft and the voyage in loving detail - but all the time knowing what really matters is what's going to happen when they get there! :scratch:

Part of it is that I need to do more outlining on my plot, and I could research till the cows come home and never feel sure that I won't commit a blunder that other science fiction fans in this case (I also do other genres) would spot instantly. But I suppose some of it is also my personality, being more of a bookworm than a person of action. I'm agoraphobic, so I avoid travel as much as possible, and I'm clumsy and awkward physically, so it's easy to get lost in the world of my imagination but not know quite how to translate it to the reader. Well, I forge onward, hoping that in revision at least those things will be easier.

Addesso
07-13-14, 04:45 PM
More on screenplays: I wonder how others "see the story in their head" when they think up, hear, or read a story. Is it more abstract or visual? And if it's visual, do they see it like it was a stageplay and they're in the audience? Or are they one (or several) of the actors? Like a comic book? Like tv? Or a movie? For me, it actually does start to unroll like a finished film complete with camera angles, closeups, cuts, pans, etc. So for me it's more of just writing down those shots as they roll by. More like birdwatching or reporting I suppose. Then I'll go back and do the thinking part of analyzing what I captured, and creating parts to smooth links or add information that was missed, or editing/deleting the extraneous stuff.

Right now I'm working mostly on short spec commercials and shorts, so it works out well. You're never that far ahead or behind the main story. I have a few ideas for features, and they're still in the note stages, though the one idea I REALLY like I do see several key scenes completed already. I should just stop procrastinating and write those scenes out fully into a script and just be ok with all the blank pages in between. Unload to free up more imaginationspace!

I'm still pretty new to this craft, so I'm always looking for different ways to go about how to do it. I've recently finished (after a one year pause) Stephen King's On Writing. Interesting food for thought, and though I used to write more short prose years ago, I haven't recently. I've thought about getting back into it, but my words seem extremely fumbley right now. I may have just grown used to the frugal economy of screenplays. I have Robert McKee's gargantuan Story on my shelf unopened. lol

But one thing I seem to notice is that novel writers tend to write from beginning to end. They may have an idea of the story, but it's a pretty loose and general guide and they just write. And if the story pulls them in another direction, they'll just write in that way and it may change their outline doing so.

Screenplays, at least the way I'm currently thinking of them, are more top down. (And this could be because with a book, you don't expect folks to read at one go. Some folks might, but most will stop and pick up later at their leisure and continue the journey. Whereas, with a movie, you expect your audience to see it all at once typically in one sitting and in a set time. And there isn't much time to dilly-dally along the way--maybe because it's visual, but when a movie drifts into something not important, it seems to stick out like sore thumb, unlike in books where it's sometimes a welcome reprieve. Dunno--interesting food for thought...) Though I come up with an idea first (and it may come with a LOT of parts raining down in various stages of completeness), when I finally write it in my notes, I usually try to figure out a title immediately. Then I focus on a really tight logline. One to two lines. If that's good, then expand that into a one page synopsis--how it would sound like if I had a few minutes and I wanted to tell it to someone. The synopsis would incorporate most of the cinematic story structure--plot, subplots, transition points, acts laid out, etc. From there, maybe a treatment or just right into the main script. As folks write, things may change going back up, but usually if the logline is solid, that won't change.

Sometimes I feel when someone writes a short, and it seems all over the place, you can spot the flaws by going up a level and looking at the story structure. How are your plot points laid out? Act structure? If that's a mess, then I compare that to the logline. Does the structure work with the logline? Is the logline still unfocused? Is this even the story you want to tell? Or they have a great logline, and structure, but the short just wanders cause of all the beautiful things they want to put in--time to kill your darlings. It sounds very pitch like, but unfortunately in this industry, to get stuff made too, it has to sound great and you have to sell it. And great titles and great loglines help you get crew, money, locations, etc so you can actually make that dream come alive. Novels maybe you have more freedom and latitude because you don't rely on so many other people. Dunno.

I guess that's what spooks me about long form writing--not knowing where things will turn up. I hear things like, "let the characters go and do their thing and you just write it down." And I guess maybe I think that if I let my characters loose like that without more rigid structure laid out, they just wouldn't do anything because of all the possibility. Maybe because they all have ADD. lol

OhLookABunny
12-13-14, 12:31 PM
More on screenplays: I wonder how others "see the story in their head" when they think up, hear, or read a story. Is it more abstract or visual? And if it's visual, do they see it like it was a stageplay and they're in the audience? Or are they one (or several) of the actors? Like a comic book? Like tv? Or a movie? For me, it actually does start to unroll like a finished film complete with camera angles, closeups, cuts, pans, etc. So for me it's more of just writing down those shots as they roll by. More like birdwatching or reporting I suppose. Then I'll go back and do the thinking part of analyzing what I captured, and creating parts to smooth links or add information that was missed, or editing/deleting the extraneous stuff.

Right now I'm working mostly on short spec commercials and shorts, so it works out well. You're never that far ahead or behind the main story. I have a few ideas for features, and they're still in the note stages, though the one idea I REALLY like I do see several key scenes completed already. I should just stop procrastinating and write those scenes out fully into a script and just be ok with all the blank pages in between. Unload to free up more imaginationspace!

I'm still pretty new to this craft, so I'm always looking for different ways to go about how to do it. I've recently finished (after a one year pause) Stephen King's On Writing. Interesting food for thought, and though I used to write more short prose years ago, I haven't recently. I've thought about getting back into it, but my words seem extremely fumbley right now. I may have just grown used to the frugal economy of screenplays. I have Robert McKee's gargantuan Story on my shelf unopened. lol

But one thing I seem to notice is that novel writers tend to write from beginning to end. They may have an idea of the story, but it's a pretty loose and general guide and they just write. And if the story pulls them in another direction, they'll just write in that way and it may change their outline doing so.

Screenplays, at least the way I'm currently thinking of them, are more top down. (And this could be because with a book, you don't expect folks to read at one go. Some folks might, but most will stop and pick up later at their leisure and continue the journey. Whereas, with a movie, you expect your audience to see it all at once typically in one sitting and in a set time. And there isn't much time to dilly-dally along the way--maybe because it's visual, but when a movie drifts into something not important, it seems to stick out like sore thumb, unlike in books where it's sometimes a welcome reprieve. Dunno--interesting food for thought...) Though I come up with an idea first (and it may come with a LOT of parts raining down in various stages of completeness), when I finally write it in my notes, I usually try to figure out a title immediately. Then I focus on a really tight logline. One to two lines. If that's good, then expand that into a one page synopsis--how it would sound like if I had a few minutes and I wanted to tell it to someone. The synopsis would incorporate most of the cinematic story structure--plot, subplots, transition points, acts laid out, etc. From there, maybe a treatment or just right into the main script. As folks write, things may change going back up, but usually if the logline is solid, that won't change.

Sometimes I feel when someone writes a short, and it seems all over the place, you can spot the flaws by going up a level and looking at the story structure. How are your plot points laid out? Act structure? If that's a mess, then I compare that to the logline. Does the structure work with the logline? Is the logline still unfocused? Is this even the story you want to tell? Or they have a great logline, and structure, but the short just wanders cause of all the beautiful things they want to put in--time to kill your darlings. It sounds very pitch like, but unfortunately in this industry, to get stuff made too, it has to sound great and you have to sell it. And great titles and great loglines help you get crew, money, locations, etc so you can actually make that dream come alive. Novels maybe you have more freedom and latitude because you don't rely on so many other people. Dunno.

I guess that's what spooks me about long form writing--not knowing where things will turn up. I hear things like, "let the characters go and do their thing and you just write it down." And I guess maybe I think that if I let my characters loose like that without more rigid structure laid out, they just wouldn't do anything because of all the possibility. Maybe because they all have ADD. lol

Sorry I am so ridiculously late responding to this - hope we can get the dialogue restarted. I like the points you make. Gives me lots of food for thought. It sounds as though you've got a good handle on the demands of your medium and the ability to mesh your thought processes and your writing processes with those demands.

I'm definitely a "big picture" person with my novel concepts. I haven't tried a short story for years, though I will probably do some down the line - ideas that I've jotted down that would be fine in that form and don't beg to be expanded into novels. But for now, I'd be so happy if I could just get my novels into workable drafts. My M.O. seems much less focused than yours with screenplays sounds. I wonder if I should try that medium just as a mental exercise to help me be more efficient!

Genre - or lack of specificity thereof, or mashups of genres - is very much a determinant for me as to how challenging a novel manuscript will be. I have three novels-in-progress. The romance genre one is easiest because I am following some formula conventions, which function as a skeletal framework for the characters and events. Next there is what I'd call either a mainstream or possibly a literary novel (using NaNoWriMo's categories of classification). It's more open-ended, but there's a fairly linear progression discernible.

In all my writing, I've changed my M.O. over the years. When I was younger and didn't have bills to pay and tons of other stuff on my mind, I'd just start with Chapter 1 and go to the end. Now I prefer to jump around as I write, do the key "anchor" scenes and fill in. And I'm still working out the plot as I go. I'm probably between what NaNoWriMo terms a "planner" vs. a "pantser."

Now the third - or actually the first one I started, and the first in terms of largeness of scope - is a science fiction with elements of other genres and an overall wrestling-with-big-issues vibe to it. It's been by far the most challenging. It started as my first NaNo novel and I just wrote, then quickly realized all the research I would need to do in science, history, religion, and more, and how much plotting and characterization such a big story needs. I'm still, five years after starting, wrestling with this many-headed Hydra of a book! :faint:

InvitroCanibal
12-31-14, 04:56 PM
I majored in Creative Writing in college, and also am big on the visual arts, sewing, crafting, lots of creative things. Too many, according to my neurotypical friends, and I have at times tried to narrow it down.

Creative inspiration comes and it's the best high there is. Ideas flow and form and I'm all eager to get it down on computer screen, paper, canvas, make it in fabric, sculpt it, whatever.

Then something happens - a need to attend to life's mundane business, or an unforeseen glitch - or my mind just wanders a little, then a little more . . .

One of my habitual and counterproductive coping mechanisms is to go out in search of more "gear" - research books for the writing, art supplies, fabric, etc. This makes me feel like I'm doing something to keep the inspiration flowing, but really it drags me down, adds to the distraction of clutter that is already, well, distracting.

Others in this same predicament? Let's talk!

There was a head general in the civil war that graduated from west point and fought for the north. He kept gathering troops but never would engage in battle. When lincolin asked him why, the general kept saying he needed more men, more supplies, artillery, always more. This general was not necessarily a coward, he just never felt prepared enough and did not want to fight until he knew he would have the tactical advantage. While waiting for that advantage, stonewall jackson was moving his troops through the south winning battle after battle with such speed it would inspire german millitary strategists in creating what became known as blitzkrieg (lightning war.)

The point of the story is that oppurtunity isnt given it's taken. You say you want to write, than you need to pick up the proverbial pen and blitzkreig that ****.

I think you should just write even when you know it'll be garbage.

Just write even when you feel like it sucks and have no idea what you're producing.

I think too often people get caught in this idea that in order to do something successfully, they have to be at their best. Perhaps gathering supplies is just you wanting to be at your best before you write but this can lead to never writing.

All the while keeping you from oppurtunity and fresh ideas