Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Approximately 4 Advanced Procrastination Tactics for Writers

So coming to the end of the Travesty that was Winter 2013-2014, not to be confused with the travesties that were all the previous winters since we moved to this damp and northerly place, I took a few months off of freelancing. My creativity was at its usual February Low, and I decided to give in to the overwhelming desire to lie on the sofa with a heap of books and eat chocolate. I told myself (and anyone else that would listen) that I would be back at the end of April. And then I signed myself up for a month of Bikram yoga to counteract the chocolate and get my ass-ana back in gear.

So I'm BACK! Oh yes, the cash flow is calling! The creative juices are flowing! I want to experiment, research, paint, and take long walks in the lovely spring sunshine. I've got some great writing projects too, fun features for kids and blog posts hither and yon.

I've done plenty of research, made notes, and emailed the relevant press offices, friends and family for information, images and updates.

What I haven't done is really sit down and finish writing the necessary 800 words or 300 words or whatever it is that each piece needs. As my chief child-feature proofreader-in-residence Max pointed out this afternoon, "Umm, this is not a real sentence. And are you going to have a beginning to this paragraph at all, or are you just starting in the middle?" Max reads my kids' features to make sure the language and vocabulary are child friendly. Today he was just horrified that I felt I was ready for proofing.

The problem has been Procrastination. Freelancers know that when you've got work to do, you sit down and do it at the same time every day. 'Inspiration' tends to turn up when you're working, and once you get your mind in the habit of focusing on work at a certain time every day, magic happens.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”― Pablo Picasso

I am so out of my routine that Inspiration has been chased out of town by Procrastination. I know that the only way to lure Inspiration back is with a hefty dose of Routine. Meanwhile, I have procrastinated myself into last-minute deadline panic.

So whenever I sit down to write, I immediately think "Oh, I'll just put a load in the washing machine." You might think that putting on a load of laundry would be a quick and sensible multitasking gesture, but be warned. Once you're there, you will find that you may as well sort the entire basket, iron that one blouse, stitch on a button, hem school trousers, tie-dye six t-shirts... The article isn't due for ages, right? You'll get to it in a minute.
“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well" - Mark Twain
Another great tactic I can suggest, if you have work that's not-immediately-but-soon due, is to drink gallons of water, tea and coffee. the ensuing trips to the loo will keep you away from your desk for extended periods of time. And every time you get up, there will be a new distraction beckoning! Have the plants been watered? Are those dead leaves that need picking off? Come on, it only takes a moment and that article isn't due for at least a week.

The most wonderful and effective method of not-writing, though, has to be playing find-the-glasses. Each and every time I get up, I take my glasses off and hide them in a different and top secret location. Then when I finally tell myself to get a grip and get back to work, I sit down at my desk and say, "Huh! Where could my glasses be?" A merry hunt ensues. Could they be in the laundry basket? Next to the kettle? By the loo? In the fridge? Oh look, leftover cake!!
“You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. 
What mood is that? 
Last-minute panic.” 

― Bill Watterson
Today two of my articles are DUE! Standing in the kitchen trying to decide whether I need another cup or coffee or another cup of tea, and finally deciding on a cup of soup, I also decided that what I REALLY need is a bread bin. But what kind? Must go online and google bread bin inspiration, I told myself. That was when I realised that I had taken procrastination to a whole new and never-before-seen level of awesomeness. So I gave myself a good talking to, and settled back down at my desk.

And wrote a blog about it.


3 comments:

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'll tell you what has cured my procrastination: not having any time to write by working full time. Suddenly I'm SO inspired with NO time to express it.
I like your new 'backsplash' here on the blog. Very cute.

Nan Sheppard said...

Green Girl, I read recently someone said (I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert?) that half an hour a day was enough. You can carve the time out first thing in the morning, or at lunch break, or in the cafe before you get home... Although with 3 boys I know EXACTLY what your working-momma days are like!

Marta said...

It looked like my day yesterday, especially gallons of tea:)