You do not need Neil Gaiman’s gazebo

I love November, I really do. From a writing point of view, there’s a lot of enthusiasm and creative energy floating around. I don’t know if that’s something that’s generated by NaNoWriMo, or if Chris Baty just tapped into it (possibly by accident) when he scheduled the event the second time around. (I suspect it’s the latter.)

Aside from the energy, I just like this time of year for the weather — fall is far and away my favorite season.

It’s one of those times of year when I really envy Neil Gaiman. Not for his writing (he has his, I have mine), or amazingly supportive group of friends (I also have that), or his dogs (got those), or daughters (got one of those too), or even his house (which is lovely, yes, but there’s too much snow in Wisconsin).

No, I envy him for this:

This is Neil’s Gazebo. It’s where he writes.

Nice, isn’t it? All the amenities, none of the distractions. It positively screams artistic and charming, and my god, I can’t even imagine what those trees look like right about now.

It makes me want to build a writing shed in my backyard. Seriously. I’m utterly fascinated by small, efficient living spaces, and have spent hours – even days – scanning sites like shedworking, drooling over videos like this one, and making sure that tumbleweed‘s monthly hit count stays up. Wouldn’t it be great to feed that obsession and get a whole new workspace out of it in the bargain? That’d mean my office inside the house would open up… We could use the extra bedroom…

*slaps self repeatedly*

*blinks*

Right. Where was I?

Ahh… right. I was daydreaming about a nice, personal, private, darling writing space.

Instead of writing.

I’m seeing that a lot right now. There are a lot of people out there who are supposed to be writing and are instead wasting their time trying to build Neil Gaiman’s gazebo. I see a couple of people doing it every day.

“Not me,” you think, smug in your superiority.

Oh really?

Let me give you a couple examples of what I’m talking about.

Every day, Twitter sends me a message (or two, or three) that reads something like this:

@writeria90210 is now following you on Twitter!

Bio: I’m a writer. I love writing and books. And writing books. This is my new twitter account devoted to writing.

See that? That’s a gazebo. @writeria90210 has some other twitter account, but decided to make another special twitter account just for writing. How charming and artistic. Their twitter account probably looks like this:

How about:

Bio: I am currently writing my debut novel and looking for a [sic] agent.

That’s a gazebo designed to house the cart that you bought before you bothered getting a horse.

Or this one:

Bio: Switching from @oldusername account to this @myrealname account, so that all my writing is associated with ME.

I think I’ll call that one “painting the gazebo”.

I don’t mean to pick on anyone, but I think it’s really important to call this what it is: procrastination. (My granddad, puttering around in the back of my head, wants to call it “bullshit”.)

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why you’re doing this. It feels nice to create these cozy little writerly spaces. As an added bonus, these little side projects are finite and quickly achievable; it doesn’t take much time to set up a new twitter account (believe me, I know), and boom: when you’re done, you have this whole new space to play around in. You’ve accomplished something.

Writing? Writing is a sort of a never-ending battle; sometimes it’s nice to have a battle that’s a little more… endy.

Plus, once this little space is created, there’s more stuff you can do with it! Get the throw pillows just so, adjust the light through the window, get the wallpaper up, and maybe… down near the end of the day… maybe write someth — Oooh! Or you can post stuff to the new twitter account! Even better! A series of 140 character posts, each one with a definitive end, and lovely little ‘ding’ of completion! So much more satisfying than the ongoing slog of your Work In Progress.

People: I understand. I really do. Scientists have done a lot of studies on procrastination, and their conclusion isn’t that we’re lazy: it’s that we simply like things that we can have now. (Hat tip to ***Dave for reminding me of that post.)

Their conclusion is also that we’re better people who make better stuff if we can manage a little delayed gratification.

That means no quaint and adorable writer space and more writing in whatever space you’ve got handy.

It means more writing instead of building gazebos (whatever form those gazebos happen to take): less twitterbation, fewer blog posts about ‘the process’ and ‘how the writing went this morning/this afternoon/this evening/yesterday’, fewer posted excerpts, less time “getting in the mood”.[1]

More writing.

Get back to it. The gazebo can wait.


1 – Anyone who knows me knows that I am guilty of all those things. If you feel I’m directing any of these comments out to the rest of the world with you in mind, remember one key thing: If it’s not about me, I’m probably not going to waste time talking about it. Sad, but true. XOXO

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40 thoughts on “You do not need Neil Gaiman’s gazebo

  1. Thank you for this. Like we say in my country: If the suit fits, put it on. The suit fits. I am guilty of all this, but I do it by downloading loads of writing softwares with the excuse that the last one “didn’t feel right.” Right now I’m using the beta version of Scrivener for Windows… and I’m sticking to it. Sigh. I’m gonna take your post’s title and make it a mantra: I do not need Neil Gaiman’s gazebo. I do not need Neil Gaiman’s gazebo.

  2. Of course! To quote myself from this post:

    “…[post] fewer blog posts about ‘the process'”

    and…

    Anyone who knows me knows that I am guilty of all those things.

    Tautological proof: anything that isn’t writing is keeping me from writing.

    My only defense is that, per De’s advice, I’m trying to challenge myself to do more than just what I did last year (or the other six years), and that means that I’m purposely pushing myself to write blog posts AND do NaNoWriMo (actually, I plan to do it twice this month, if I can).

  3. Ha ha! I only came here (On Neil’s recommendation) AFTER I had finished my writing assignments for the day. Ahead of time. For once. And I’m not doing NaNiWriMo because my last two novels were rubbish and I don’t think writing a rubbish novel in a month is better than writing one in three months, so I’ll keep writing plays. And selling them. hooray for me.
    Nice Gazebo, though.

  4. Hahaha I love that. Yes, I have also built my gazebo (blog and twitter and facebook) BUT I like multitasking my writing (or at least I tell myself that. Really it’s just a way to make sure I stick to my daily word count goal of about 1670 words per day for 30 days)…

  5. It’s a creative thing. I mean, I got up off the couch to make my husband a cup of coffee and the poor bastard is still waiting for it because in the meantime I saw a @neilhimself tweet that led me here.

    So instead of illustrating (which is my creative wheeze) or making that damn cup of coffee for my long-suffering husband, I’m commenting on your blog post. (laugh)

    Go figure.

  6. This was a great post and I’m totally guilty! Of course at the moment the only thing I’m procrastinating about is actually working. I have a full time job and when I should be doing that I’m usually writing. >:-}

  7. This is so true, also in drawing. Though it took me a long time to realise it unfortunatly. Now I’m trying to make it better but some days goes better than others. Actually since I’m kind of a statistics freak, I mean, addicted, or maybe just overly methodical, timing my drawing hours with toggl helped me a bit.

  8. 1. “twitterbation” = best Twitter neologism ever
    2. Agree that November is the perfect month for NaNoWriMo. Just late enough to freak out about all the writing goals you promised yourself you’d accomplish starting last January.
    3. True, true, true, all of it. But after you get that novel published (and you can’t get through the process unless you’re working under that assumption) you’re publicist is going to wish you had taken the time to start that Twitter account months ago. (I should know, I’m a publicist.)

    1. Re: #3. I (definitely) have no problems with twitter accounts — my issue lies with futzing with them endlessly when there’s Stuff To Do. :)

  9. And because he deserves a shout-out, I urge everyone to click the link in there to Chuck Wendig’s article about posting excerpts. It’s very very good.

  10. Totally. Yes. And moreover, those process posts tend to get prescriptive.

    But.

    There is some truth to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” philosophy. One needs at least a mental gazebo, a door to slam on all the freakin’ brain-sucking details of household infrastructure or office politics or Thanksgiving melodrama. It needs to be allowed to spend some of your resources on gazebo building instead of on the IRA or the college fund.

    Trotting back offline now.

    1. I’m definitely in the camp that believes you have to be the greatest defender of your time.

      Sometimes, you need to defend your time from yourself, as well as others.

  11. I’m putzing through the last hour of my soul-sucking day job and found this. So, I’m saying this gazebo is fueling the creative fires for later. Much like taking a walk gets you ready to plunge back in after getting stuck at a certain plot moment in your prose.

    As writers today it seems we have to also be marketing execs, social media gurus and have an even cooler partner who supports us.

    Thanks for the writing-focused distraction …

    Love the “twitterbation” and Chucks article on excerpts.

    However, I think once I reach the level of Gaiman, I’m entitled to a writing shack (I can’t do Gazebo, Gaiman beat me to it).

  12. Perfection. Just informed my husband if he catches me making excuses for not putting butt in chair to write/ wittering about online/doing ANYTHING but my writing, he’s to tell me to get out of the fecking gazebo.

    Thanks for this. Spot on.

  13. I was mouse-potatoing instead of writing when I read this, and afterward I felt so guilty about procrastinating that I walked away from the computer and wrote three new scenes. Thanks for the kick in the ass. I needed it!

  14. *glances at mockup of personal writers’ website hanging on wall*

    Heh.

    Don’t worry, I’m waiting until after I finish the novel to get it going!

    I like that part about instant gratification. It makes me feel less like a failure and more normal. This just means that we have to work really hard to beat what’s in us naturally.

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