round robin

Eccentric – but helpful! – writing practices #writetip

After spending the past few weeks in New Zealand – where I had a brilliant time with my family, exploring the lovely city of Wellington and the beautiful coastline – I’ve been sadly neglecting my blog. But now September is coming to an end, and I’ve returned home just in time for another Round Robin post. But before we go on to today’s topic, let’s procrastinate (my favourite occupation!) with a few photos from Down Under :)

helena fairfax, new zealand

helena fairfax, new zealand

helena fairfax, new zealand

helena fairfax, new zealand

This month’s Round Robin topic is: What writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric – or at least never mentioned – but you find helpful?

round robin, helena fairfax

I think I must be the last person in the world to advise anyone on good writing practices. Here’s an example of my writing day. I get up in the morning and check my emails and social media and soon become immersed in some fascinating article on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or else how to cook the perfect Yorkshire Puddings, or maybe a website with interesting knitting patterns for animal hats. The internet is full of wonderful stuff. What on earth did I do before it was invented? If I can’t find anything to distract myself with online (and that day rarely happens) then I spend breakfast reading my book.

My dog is generally thoroughly fed up of my procrastinating ways by this time, and so we go out for a walk. Walking is good. Walking is not really procrastinating – it’s a time to think about my writing, and where it’s headed, and helena fairfax, round robinhopefully convince myself that my new story is great and that gaping plot-hole will somehow magically resolve itself. I say “hopefully”. Of course that doesn’t happen. I arrive home thinking everything I wrote the day before is complete rubbish, with a sick feeling of dread that I now have to spend a day wrestling to put it right.

Here’s useful tip number one: eating more food at this point is not the answer. I have learned this the hard way.

So now I’ve wasted time online and walked the dog and since making more snacks is out of the question there is really, really nothing else for it but to boot up my laptop and carry on where I left off the previous day. Here’s useful tip number two: a book won’t write itself. If you’re expecting the Good Elves to arrive in the night and get down a couple of thousand of words for you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Sit your bum in the chair and either think about what you’re going to write, or else do the actual writing.

helena fairfax, round robinProcrastination is absolutely my worst failing. There are some people who love writing that first draft, but I’m not one of them. I love dreaming up my ideas, my characters, and my setting. I love revising my finished manuscript and polishing it to perfection. I really don’t love at all the process of getting those words down in the first place.

I’ve tried a lot of things to overcome this failing. The Pomodoro technique works quite well for me at times. (This is where you set a time limit of 25 minutes writing, a break for 5 mins, another 25 minutes writing, etc. I wrote about this in more detail in this post.) It started working not quite so well when my 5 minute breaks kept growing longer and longer.

Here are a couple of “eccentric” things I do to try and stay focused on the dreaded task in hand:

  1. Every hour, get up and take your laptop to a different place to write. I might start in the sitting-room for an hour, then at my desk for an hour, then sitting on the bed, or go out round the corner to the local café for an hour. The change of scene / posture somehow stops me going stale and keeps me focused.
  2. I remember the books I’ve already written. I had this same agonising process with all of them, and yet somehow they got done and published. I remind myself that despite my constant procrastinating, I still managed to do it before – so I can do it again if I just get on!
  3. I think about eating an elephant. I seriously do visualise this! It is possible to eat a whole elephant – you just have to do it one bite at a time. That’s how it is writing a book. I think of the words I am to write that day as one “bite”, and I try not to think of the entire elephant. If I think of it this way – as small, achievable chunks –  I feel calmer and less likely to grow despondent and thus begin procrastinating again.

Someone once asked me why on earth I continued to write, if I found it such hard work. That’s such a difficult question! Why do Olympic athletes practise for hours and hours a day and stick to a rigid eating regime, just for a few weeks’ competition and the slim chance of winning a medal? Why do ballet dancers continue to perform when their feet are bleeding? Part of the reason I write is because I have a story in my head that I think might entertain others. Partly it’s for the enormous sense of personal achievement when a book is finally finished, or when it’s published, or accepted by a publisher, or receives an excellent review. Partly it’s for the satisfaction when a passage I’ve written is exactly right. Partly it’s because I still haven’t written the perfect novel, and so I’m practising, practising, practising. And partly – and this is a large part – it’s because when I’m writing I’m in an entirely new world; a fabulous, exciting world of characters from my imagination who, on a good day, come alive on the page.

* * *

Are you a writer, and if so, do you procrastinate as much as I do? What tips do you have to stop procrastinating and get down to writing? And do you have any other “eccentric” writing habits of any sort that help you work?

If you have any comments or tips at all, I’d love to hear from you!

And as this is a Round Robin, you can check out what other authors have to say on this subject by clicking on the links below. Thanks to Rhobin Courtright for another excellent topic!

Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Margaret Fieland
Rhobin Courtright

28 thoughts on “Eccentric – but helpful! – writing practices #writetip

  1. Glad you had such a brilliant trip, Helena – lovely photos. I’m so pleased to read your post as I am such a terrible procrastinator! I also much prefer the second draft and editing once I actually finish the novel. I only write for short periods at home on the computer, but I get the most new words down on pen and paper when out at a cafe or on a train.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ros, that’s interesting you write more when out and about. When I first started writing, I wrote with a pen and paper on my daily train commute. There was nothing to distract me, and so I managed to get quite a few words down per week. Perhaps I should explore this again.
      Thanks so much for dropping in, and for sympathising!


  2. Hi Helena, and welcome home. The photos look fabulous. Glad to know you had a lovely visit. I’m also a procrastinator and I do notice the book that has been best received is the one I wrote basically in NaNoWrMo while ‘doing’ my mum-in-law’s washing and a host of other ‘stuff’. DH took over the stove! Not editing was the hardest thing to learn (and I didn’t quite manage it), but the 1700 words per day was an eye-opener. Hmn! Should I try again this year? anne stenhouse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne, how interesting that your NaNoWriMo book was the one that’s been best received. November is approaching. Perhaps I should try it this year. Part of my problem is I’m a perfectionist and constant self-editor. Being forced to write quickly might help.
      Thanks for your comment. Definite food for thought!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, you could have written that post about my writing methods too, although i no longer have a dog to insist I go for a walk, so mine could be slightly worse. I do like the idea of moving writing space every hour though. Might try that one.


    1. I’m so glad to find I’m not the only one who procrastinates, Suz. Sometimes I get despondent when people post online about their word count for the day. I try not to compare myself to others – it only makes things worse. Good to find out I’m not alone in my time-wasting ability! Do let me know if the change of writing space works for you.
      Thanks so much for dropping in!


  4. Lovely photos, Helena.

    I don’t think I’d call it eccentric, but if I’m in writing mode and finding it a struggle, I concentrate on where I want the plot to go, and then just do the dialogue, as though I’m writing a play. It moves things on a bit and I go back in pad it out later.

    I’d could chat all day about my how much I procrastinate. I’ll tell you about it later, though.

    Liv x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Liv, that sounds a great idea about the dialogue. Or just writing down the story as it happens, without all the embellishments that make it flow and add colour. I’ll give this a try, along with Anne’s suggestion of speed-writing.
      Thanks for your suggestion!


  5. Helena, I, too, find walking my dogs helps me think of ideas for my writing. Often, a poem will come to me as I walk. Then I’m forced to repeat it over and over in my head as I continue to walk so that I won’t forget it. I carry my cell phone in my pocket, but somehow it never occurs to me to make a note on it.


    1. Margaret, I’ve had that same thing happen to me, where a descriptive passage occurs to me – often while I’m driving or sitting at traffic lights, and not able to write it down. I repeat it over and over so I don’t forget!
      Thanks for dropping in, and for your great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Helena
    What beautiful photos of New Zealand, glad you had a good time! Lovely blog, ah,procrastination… there must be something in the air, this was the subject of my last blog (August 28th), inspired by that wonderful author E.M. Delafield who talks about ‘the inequalities of Fate’ which somehow always led to her writing getting interrupted, once notoriously by the ‘Pantry Sink’, which …’seems to have blocked itself up’. Hands up all those familiar with the ‘Pantry Sink’ syndrome!


    1. Oh, the pantry sink syndrome is one I know well, Laurette! :) Haha! That is a great quote. What I need is someone to lock me in a room with only a desk and a laptop and no internet connection (and no sink :) ) How I wish I could buckle down of my own accord. It helps a little to know I’m not the only one.
      Thanks for dropping in – and for your great E.M. Delafield reference!


  7. “Procrastination is absolutely my worst failing. –I love dreaming up my ideas, my characters, and my setting. I love revising my finished manuscript and polishing it to perfection.” You could have been talking about me!! Especially the time suck that social media and the internet can become if I let it. Maybe I’ll consider that elephant for dinner. BTW, New Zealand is one of the friendliest, loveliest places I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit.


    1. Hi Skye, how funny that we have exactly the same writing likes / dislikes! If only we lived nearer and we could encourage each other to buckle down to the dreaded first draft :)
      That’s great that you visited New Zealand. It was my first time there and I totally agree – such friendly, laid back people, and the scenerey is stunning.
      Thanks so much for dropping in!


    1. Hi Rhobin, thanks again for setting the thought-provoking topic. Now I’m thinking of all the books I could have written while time-wasting on the internet. You’ve spurred me on to get cracking :) Thanks for dropping in!


  8. So glad to have you back home safely, Helena. What a long trip, but so beautiful and you got to spend time with your family. Happy for you. It’s looks like we all procrastinate. I’m doing that now. In fact have done it all day with various visits on the internet. But in the old days, maybe I’d have just visited over the back yard fence with neighbors. That’s what this is like. And I’d argue that all the “real life” experiences are in fact helpful to our writing. Though of course, we do actually have to put our rear in the chair.
    Loved your hint about snacking! I needed to hear it when I first started writing. Oh, my the M & M’s and Hershey Kisses and Mixed nuts I consumed while pecking away at the page.
    I work best on my big computer rather than my laptop, but for writing retreats with no interruptions I can really crank out the words on that laptop. I need to set up that situation for myself at home–that of course means not FB or blogging! LOL
    I’ve shared your wonderful post. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing my post, Marsha. I like your comparison with visiting neighbours over the fence. That’s exactly what it’s like! It’s great to have writer friends – even if only in cyber space – to drop in and chat to and who empathise.
      Writing needs discipline and I admire the way you manage to keep up to all the necessary social media as well as getting your books written. That takes hard work. We should reward ourselves with a few M&Ms now and then :)
      Thanks for dropping in, and for your great comment!


  9. I am also a procrastinator and use food and social media as a distraction. Last year, when I had a great deal of writing assignments to complete I gained 15 pounds! I am trying really hard not to use food anymore but it’s hard. I find that if I write very first thing in the morning, while drinking my coffee I can easily get lost in what I am doing. If I dare to first check emails, social media or the fridge I am done :( When I am having a hard time getting things started, I actually use a pen and paper instead of my laptop. Then, as I enter the words onto my computer, I am usually doing a first edit as I go. I have no idea why this process works so well for me but it does. The words can come out so much faster with just a pen and a pad of paper; no access to social media or emails or anything else. Cheers.


    1. Hi Lynn, I so sympathise with using food as a means of procrastinating. I go and make myself a cup of tea and it’s so easy to snack at the same time. That’s a great idea not to check your emails/social media first thing. It’s so easy to get sucked in. And I really like the idea of writing on paper first. I’ll try this one out. Thanks so much for your great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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