K is for Kryptonite

Posted by on March 25, 2016 in rational writer, recent | 2 comments

K is for Kryptonite.

 

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I’m sure you’ve brushed up on your superhero lore. There are a couple dozen types of Kryptonite, but they all mean disaster for the Man of Steel—he loses his powers when he’s confronted with the stuff.

As authors, we all have our Kryptonite, too.

For some of us, it’s related to the physical act of writing: We’re bad at putting our butts in chairs and our hands on keyboards, or we’re bad at staying there once we’ve seated ourselves, or we’re bad at taking breaks once we’re there, so our bodies end up twisted into unrecognizable heaps of aching bones and joints and tendons.
For some of us, it’s related to the act of developing a story: We don’t outline so we get caught half-way through a novel with no idea of how to work our way out, or we do outline and we’re bored to tears and incapable of writing once we start, or we tell the same story over and over and over again, or we forget that a story needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

For some of us, it’s related to prepping a story for publication: We don’t have an editor (or a copy editor) so we believe we can skip that step, or we don’t have a cover designer so we think we can just throw something together in Word, or we don’t have an ebook formatter so we rely on the vendors to do that work for us without checking the end results on any device.

And for some of us, it’s related to promoting the work we’ve published: We don’t like interacting with people so we avoid promotion opportunities in person, or we do like chatting on social media so we spend countless hours online when we should be doing other things, or we find it easier to spend money than to invest time so we throw thousands of dollars at an advertising campaign without any sense of whether we’re getting a positive return on our investment.

There are dozens of steps from coming up with a brilliant idea to selling a finished book to thousands of readers. And every one of those steps can become a stumbling block—Kryptonite—for you.

So what are you going to do about that?

First, take a close, critical look at your life as an author. Unflinchingly evaluate your weaknesses. Don’t allow yourself to believe that problems will magically disappear, especially when those problems have persisted since the very first time you considered writing a story. For example, you might feel an uncontrollable urge to drop in on social media during the time that you are supposed to be writing—every single time you sit down to write.

Second, brainstorm solutions to conquer your Kryptonite. At this stage, don’t hold back. Consider all possible methods for controlling the problem you’ve identified, regardless of the cost (in time, effort, money, etc.) In our example, you might ask your social media friends to send you reminders to knock it off if they catch you online during specific hours. You might turn off your phone or close applications on your computer or disconnect from the Internet. You might purchase and install blocking software such as Freedom, which will limit your ability to reach certain websites during certain times that you determine in advance. You might buy a second computer that has no capability of accessing the Internet.

Third, determine the costs for each of your options. While asking you friends to police your behavior has no financial cost, it might take a large emotional toll and cause you embarrassment. On the other hand, no one has to know if you’ve spent your money buying discipline (in the form of a second computer), but you’ll have to allocate funds.

Fourth, stage your response to your personal Kryptonite. Don’t assume that one minor action will resolve your problem. Rather, have back-up methods ready in case your initial response fails. Give yourself time, though, to make sure that the first approach isn’t working if you’re disappointed in a single short-term test.  For example, if you determine that your first step will be turning off your phone will you work, but you lack the discipline to leave your phone off on Day One, don’t give up on that strategy immediately. Instead, try it again on Day Two. Maybe even on Days Three, Four, and Five.

But don’t try to fool yourself, either. If you’ve tried a strategy for five consecutive days and you can’t make it work, then that strategy likely isn’t going to be a good long-term solution for you. Look at your “staging” notes. Try your next strategy.

Not one of us is perfect. We all fall off the wagon sometimes. But the rational writer develops a series of tools to defeat known weaknesses.

So? How about you? What Kryptonite do you face in your writing career?  What strategies can you develop to defeat the forces of evil?

2 Comments

  1. Science fiction and technology writer Jerry Pournelle has an upstairs room he calls the Monk’s Cell, which has a computer disconnected from the Internet.

    Whenever he wants to spend time working on fiction without distraction, that’s where he heads.

    Bob Shepard of Denver

    • Hmm… and my Kryptonite seems to be that my website isn’t forwarding me comments the way it’s supposed to do! I’m sorry I didn’t respond to this sooner!

      (I could use my own Monk’s Cell, as evidenced by the fact that I’m responding to this instead of working on the FRIGHT COURT sequel!)