Mindless activities, doncha just love em? I putter mainly in my kitchen. But really, the whole house is game when I'm in that frame of mind. And the reason I'm not going to list the many many ways one can putter is because it's so BORING POINTLESS AND USELESS! Which is actually the definition of puttering.
Here's why I am writing about puttering on a blog dedicated to writing: it's because I recently “diagnosed” a fellow writer as being a putterer in his writing process. Puttering easily can be done while toiling away on your script or novel. This guy desperately wants to be done with his book so he can show it to an editor for feedback but he just keeps going over little chapters, moments and areas because a few months ago he came up with a newly realized emotional thru-line. He just wants to make sure all the tracks are laid down nicely.
a few months ago…
Classic Putterer. His precious writing sessions are stagnating because while he's ensuring this one thing is covered in each and every nook and cranny, he’s getting lost. He’s doing word counts, changing buts to howevers, wrestling with where to put new and exciting commas. He’s wasting precious time!
I'm not judging him. I do it with scripts. I'm like "Oh wait a minute, so and so is gonna have to say this thing and have this attitude in that old scene so this new scene makes sense." CUT TO: An hour later. Yeah, I addressed that, I also wrote a bunch of new material (most of which won't stay) and I looked at the jeans on sale at Madewell, put items in my cart and then didn't buy anything (a whole other level of puttering).
Art is war, remember? And to get past enemy lines and reap the spoils of the war you have to strategically move forward, neutralize the bad men and get a bunch of accolades, saving lives along the way (including your own).
But what about that niggling thing that happens when you do have a great new emotional thru-line that was only realized while you were halfway through your piece? That feeling of "I just have to make sure it’ll make sense! Let me do that, for the love of God!"
HERE IS THE SECRET TO FIGHTING THE PUTTER NUDGE:
Create a document called "MUST MAKE SURE." Your "Must Make Sure" Document reminds you of all the things you must make sure are in your work before you present it to anyone. That way nothing falls through the cracks and you have no excuse but to keep moving forward. When you're done with your current draft, you'll do a pass for each item listed in your "Must Make Sure" document, spot checking that the thing that has to be there, is.
It's not easy. Because of course a part of you will fight this every time a new idea emerges. You'll think I just have to do this one thing. Honey, that's putter talk and you’re above that. Now.
Of course you might be the rare putterer who has found puttering is a part of your process. In fact you do get a lot of shit done despite of or even because of your puttering... Okay. That's fair. But if you're like me, puttering serves little to no purpose and you don't need another unfinished piece of writing in your drawer to prove it.
Like Boston says,
The sun is shinin'
The clouds are breakin'
Cause I can't lose now, there's no game to play
And if you can't trust Boston, who can you trust? They finished songs and they even wrote a song about it. They were like the first anti-putterers.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.