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 :)
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?
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 hopefully 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.
Procrastination 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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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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 http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com