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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Potchking

The September 2009 issue of Writer's Digest contains an interview with science fiction writer Cory Doctorow (who is one of the key authors now pushing for Creative Commons licensing to allow posting of free online versions of authors' works--but that's a discussion for another blog entry). Doctorow claims that many writers are heavily into potchking, a Yiddish word for fiddling around instead of getting the job done. Poseur writers tend to talk about and daydream about writing, but rarely place butt in chair to actually do it. Then there are bona fide writers who will find every excuse imaginable not to write.

I have to admit, I've done my fair share of potchking over the years, particularly when it comes to writing a novel. I actually wrote two complete novels when I was in my 20s, both of which are utter garbage and do nothing but demonstrate my naivete from 30 years ago. I started writing my third novel, one that I thought had huge potential, back in 1987. I actually got about 150 pages into it, but mandatory overtime at work, getting married, and "every excuse imaginable" kept me from completing the thing. Now, looking over the draft and my notes, I find it hard if not impossible to generate energy to revisit the project.

This probably sounds very familiar to many writers out there.

Here's the thing: I'm writing every single day--at work and at home. So, I'm not totally potchking. And my priorities are often determined by $$$. Writing a novel takes a great deal of time and may have little reward; a first novel rarely makes back the advance. I can make more money in faster time writing articles for gardening and other magazines. "But, Weldon, you can make $millions with a best-selling novel!" Sure, and I can win the lottery tomorrow.

But I do believe in Robert Heinlein's advice to writers, which Doctorow mentions in his interview: Write, finish what you write, send what you write to an editor. Most poseur writers fail at one, two, or all three of these steps--assuming they even get started. If I get stuck, it's usually in the second step--I have no problem writing or sending things out to editors, but I have a number of unfinished projects.

So, what's the solution? I'm not sure. But I bet prioritization rather than procrastination has something to do with it.

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