Davinci Syndrome

Have you heard of the Davinci Syndrome? It is the collection of signs and symptoms observed in creative people who have more ideas and visions than they can implement, making it difficult to complete a project before rushing off to the next.

Signs may include:davinci

  • rewriting, especially as the book is being written
  • editing the first chapter eight times before going on to the next chapter
  • procrastination, sharping pencils instead of writing
  • forgetting what was written in chapter 3 and ending up with your character living in Chicago in 1974 instead of in Iowa in 1969 in chapter 11

Apparently, Leonardo Davinci had so many ideas, he left some incomplete. Not only that, but some historians believe Davinci was a perfectionist and never truly believed his creations were done. Can you imagine thinking that the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper still needed work?

mona lisaBesides being a painter and sculptor, Leonardo Davinci was an architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. Talk about multi-tasking!

I often feel like I suffer from the Davinci Syndrome. I am basically a short-story writer, primarily non-fiction. I am currently working on my first novel and find myself stuck as I rewrite and try to perfect my characters or plot.

IMG_1910With short-stories, it is much easier for me to write the story and move on to the next idea quickly, With a novel, I find I need a storyboard so I didn’t confuse the time or place in my story.

It is fortunate (or maybe not) that I am committed to my novel. It is near and dear to my heart. I will plod along, writing and rewriting, and maybe someday actually finishing it. I have a new group of writer-friends who are encouraging me and keeping me on track. Could they be the “therapy” I need to overcome my Davinci Syndrome?

My short story, “I Have the Coffee On” is in Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul (2000) page 169. It is the story of the North Platte Canteen during WWII.

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Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

What prevents us from writing?  Why can’t we write at times?  We come up with all kinds of excuses.

Excuse #1  “I am too busy.”

Being too busy means you don’t want to do it.  If we really want to do something, we make the time; we prioritize.

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Excuse #2  Children and other distractions.

I have a friend who has 11 children and has managed to write three novels in the past couple of years.  Her advice? Write when you can, even if for just a few minutes before bed or after getting the children off to school and the baby is sleeping.  Keep your workload expectations low, but be persistent in writing every day.  Some days writing is squeezed into 5 minute intervals.  Other days longer periods are possible.

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Excuse #3 Fear of failure.

Sometimes our expectations are too high so we don’t write because we are afraid we will “fail.” Maybe we think we aren’t good enough, that we don’t deserve to be a writer.  When we let the fear of failure stop us, we are focused on the end product, not the process of creativity.  We have forgotten how much fun it is just to write.  Overcome fear by doing.  Sit down and write just for fun and see what happens.

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Excuse #4 “I am not inspired.”

What are you waiting for?  A cloud to open up and the sun to shine down on you?  By thinking you are uninspired, you are missing the things that could be inspiration for you.  Clear your head of the negativity and look around.  There is inspiration everywhere.  Erma Bombeck used to write about mundane things like cookie sheets.  Use your imagination.  Try some writing prompts and see where they lead.  Image

Excuse #5 “This is not the right moment.”

When is the “right moment?”  Waiting for the bus, sitting in the airport, taking a coffee break at work–consider all the times you are doing nothing.  I tend to “write” in the shower.  Some of my best ideas come to me in the morning as I get ready for work.  I mull them over in my mind during the day, then come home and put them down on paper.  Sometimes I make little notes throughout the day so I don’t forget a particular scene or dialogue that I have thought of in the course of my work.

Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Show up in your moment and write.  Worry about the rewrite later.  Get it down on paper.

Tropical Island

Excuse #6  Writers’ Block

I may be an exception, but I haven’t experienced writers’ block, unless I don’t have a clear idea of what it is.  I have had times when I didn’t know what to write next, but it soon passed as I relaxed or distracted myself momentarily.  I have written scenes where suddenly I don’t know what happens next, but I keep writing through it, producing many poor images and sentences until finally, my writing breaks through.  I think the answer to writers’ block is to relax and don’t put expectations on your writing at that point.  Your story will come back.  Don’t give up.  Keep writing.  “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Thomas Edison) Instead, dress your writers’ block in a frilly pink princess dress and top it off with a sparkly tiara.  Relax and enjoy the ride.

Princess with Flower

Excuse #7 “My idea isn’t original enough.”

“There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Yet, everything is new when seen through different eyes.

One day I told a friend that I felt like I was regurgitating ideas that others had before me.  I didn’t feel like my material was “fresh.”  Other people had written about the same topic. (I was writing a non-fiction piece at the time.)  My friend, a photographer, listened and put it in perspective for me. “I can take a photo of the Grand Canyon that hundreds of other photographers have taken, but mine will be unique.” She explained that we all have a “different eye” or take on things.

Our ideas may seem similar, but unless you plagiarize another’s works, your writing is original.  So what if we both write about a big red barn in the middle of Kansas?  The words we use, the images we create, will be slightly different.

Excuse #8  “I need to do more research.”

Whether you think you need to do marketing research or content research, don’t let it stop your writing.

I love to do content research and it shows in some of my non-fiction pieces.  When I write non-fiction, research is my favorite part.  There are times I find so much material for a story, I get lost in the research and forget about writing the story.  I enjoy learning new things or finding more depth in a subject I am familiar with.  I have to force myself to stop and write the article or story.

As for marketing research, I don’t care for it.  About the extent of my marketing research is looking at a Writers Market now and then.  I have friends who frequent the book stores and look up books in their genre, study the book, checking who published it, reading the first line of each chapter, then going home and googling the author(s).  I feel guilty for not doing the same, but I find it tedious and uninteresting.  It may hinder my “success” to a certain extent, but not enough for me to change my behavior.

It seems the best thing to do is to set aside time for both writing and research.  One author I know spends one day a week doing marketing research and the rest of the week she writes.

I attended a writers’ workshop once in my early years where the speaker said, “Getting published is 40% writing and 60% marketing.”  Unsure where he got his statistics, I preferred not to pay attention to those numbers.

Maybe I’m like my writer-friend in Chicago who believed her writing was “channeled” to her and therefore couldn’t be edited. Maybe I am living in Lala-land, not accepting that I need to do more marketing research.  For now, I will stick to writing and let the chips fall where they may.

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Excuse #9 “Paying the bills is more important than writing.”

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”  ―     Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We all need an income in order to live.  Many of us have regular jobs.  I, for one, am fortunate at this stage of my life that I have the freedom to work a flexible schedule, only working a couple days a week, allowing time to write on my days off.  (Of course, I also have errands to run and household chores to do like everyone else.)  The trap is–“How much money do I need?”  I can work more often if I choose, but that cuts into my writing time.  It’s a double-edged sword.  Nursing pays much better than writing, but I am more passionate about writing.  I am blessed to have these options.  I enjoy being a nurse, especially in the NICU with the tiny babies, but writing is my addiction.  There have been times when it has been busy at work and I have been asked to come in.  Rather than turning them down, I have thought about the paycheck and it has trumped writing that day.

The key here is priority.  If you have a healthy attitude towards money and don’t think you need all the gadgets with the bells and whistles, then your writing will not suffer.  People who have full-time jobs still manage to find time to write.  It is important to them, so they find the time.

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Excuse #10 _____________ (Fill in the blank)

What is your excuse for not writing?

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