Yesterday, we talked about procrastination, and why it works. Because when you get down to those last few minutes, you know you have to write, you have to finish. This works great for me, but that is because I have a hero complex. Come along. We’re about to geek out.
The Hero Syndrome
I know a lot of people who cannot handle the pressure of a last-minute deadline. I was one of them when I was small. The thing is, I need an impetus, a push. I need a reason to write, and I realize that there are a good many romantics who consider breathing to be a good enough reason to write, and I hope that they all make lovely poetry somewhere, preferably at the top of a tree where I can’t hear them. I choose to not be a poet. I think the whole pen-and-sword thing started because writers need to believe themselves heroes in order to get any work done, ever.
If you don’t get the writing done, horrible things will befall you. The rent won’t get paid, you’ll starve, you’ll have to subject yourself to the horrible tyrant at the Widget Factory and be chained to a cubicle and have fluorescent lights shined in your eyes forever. The weight of the world is on your shoulders. You are the only one who can get it done. You are the chosen one. You are the ring-bearer, Frodo. You are the hero. You are the child, Bastion. Save us. The force is strong within you. There is no one else. You, and only you, can keep your world spinning.
You have to think. Shutting your eyes and jumping only works at the very last moment, just before the explosion happens and you’re shot across the atmosphere in a very cool movie still. Before that happens, there’s a moment of inspiration. Listen to it. What are you going to do? What are the first words going to be? You have to decide, and you have to decide now. There’s just no more time.
Make the decision and stick with it. No time for waffling. If you figure out something brilliant halfway through, you can change tactics, because that is the privilege of the hero. If some magical connection suddenly clicks into place, spin around and go in that direction. You’ve already started. You’re a man of action. (Or a woman, but seriously, being all PC totally ruins the rhythm of these things. We have to GO, people. There’s only five minutes left.)
Don’t look up.
The girl is crying, the sidekick is babbling, lightning is flashing, big explosions are exploding and someone nameless is screaming in the street. There’s probably an adorable puppy whimpering somewhere. Don’t look up, don’t you dare. No distractions matter at this moment, because the clock is running out. Whatever you do, don’t look up. Don’t check Twitter, don’t look at your email, don’t answer the phone. There’s no time for that. You’re writing.
If you stop, you’ll fall down. If you stop, you’ll stop forever. If you stop, Mount Doom will open cracks below your feet and it will always be winter in Narnia and the Nothing will eat Fantasia. You cannot stop. Keep writing, keep putting words one after another. Your words are your footsteps. You can correct them to keep yourself from falling down, but don’t ever stop putting one foot in front of the other. One word, another word, keep moving, keep going.
I swear, nothing was ever so powerful as being a hero, ever. I got myself a big hourglass at the Z Gallerie just because it was the coolest, most romantic thing I’d ever seen. It measures out, shockingly enough, one hour, which is a good unit of time to get something significant done. A press release, your web content, the first five pages of your short story. Reach out. Turn the glass over. Start running, start writing. This is your world, and you save it every day. John Steinbeck said something amazing that is my official writer’s mantra. It goes:
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
My time’s up. Subscribe now, or the world will end.