Tag Archives: Procrastination

Procrastination sets in

Procrastination sets in

As most writers know, NaNoWriMo is upon us, and at the beginning of the year I had planned to participate this year. However, ‘life’ got in the way and I also found myself a good way into writing a novel by the time November rolled around. So, instead of putting my work-in-progress on hold and write an entirely new novel during NaNoWriMo, I had set myself a challenge to have the first draft of the original novel completed by November 30.

All was going well until I turned 40.

In the few weeks leading up to the big four-oh, all of my spare time was focused on party preparations, (because you only turn 40 once, I was happy for it to be a ‘big deal’).  Anyway, my writing stopped during this time and now, after the partying has come to an end, I turned my attentions back to my manuscript.

But nothing happened.

I sat at the computer, checked my emails, read the news, listened to music, played a game – everything other than write. Then today, when I was having a coffee trying to psyche myself up to write, I thought I should do some sewing, clean the house, go shopping etc.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, I have been in this position before, so I know what is happening – I’m procrastinating!

Tsk! Tsk!

Oh, well, at least I have managed to sit here for the last few minutes and write a blog post. Now, if only I can transfer this concentration and get back to my novel…

If you want to write, then write

I have read a number of articles recently claiming to provide ‘expert’ advice on ‘how to write’.  If I was going to rely on all of this ‘expert’ advice, I would achieve nothing other than becoming totally confused.

The majority of the articles I have read appear to fall into two main categories – the first advocating a fully structured approach to writing where endless hours are spent outlining themes, plots, characters, scenes, conflict, resolutions etc, and the other category advocating a ‘write first, structure later’ approach.

With two equally earnest camps expounding opposing points of view, how is anyone interested in writing but not feeling confident about their abilities supposed to get past reading all of this ‘expert’ advice and write their stories?

I don’t for a minute claim to have any expertise in the field of writing – but it is definitely something I enjoy, and more and more it is something I can’t live without.  From countless conversations I have had since I embraced my need to write rather than ignore it, I have come to the conclusion that writing is a very personal thing,  everyone’s experience of writing, and with writing is very different.

With this in mind, I would argue that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write.  Rather, if you want to write, or need to write, then write – anywhere, anytime, anyhow.  If you get into a writing habit, without trying to meet the expectations of so-called ‘experts’, eventually you will find your own style of writing that works for you.

In fact, the one thing that all of the articles I have read recently agree on is developing a daily habit of writing.  For some people this might be first thing in the morning, for others last thing at night.  Some people will make a definite time to write, and others will steal five minutes here and ten minutes there throughout the day.  I personally don’t think it matters – whatever works for you.

So, if you are one of the many people out there who have a story or stories to tell, or one of the many who have said, “One day I’d like to write a …”, then the only advice this non-expert can give you is start writing.  A story will not tell itself, you have to write the words – even if it is only 50 words a day.

Seeking discipline

To say that I am an undisciplined writer would be an understatement.  I am lazy, (I only tend to write when the words are busting to get out), and I like to procrastinate.  This generally means that I write in fits and starts, and sometimes I don’t get a lot of writing done at all.

I have ‘story starts’ everywhere – on a pin-board, in notebooks, on sticky notes stuck on my book case, on scraps of paper in my handbag, hidden in my drawer at work, and scattered on various paper forms all over my desk.  These ‘starts’ are complete sentences that pop into my head from time-to-time, quotes from the people around me, notes about something I read, emotions I felt listening to a song…  Anything that really strikes a chord with me at any given moment usually ends up in my collection of ‘story starts’.  The problem I have is that I have not been disciplined enough to develop these ‘starts’ into something more substantial.  If I don’t get the whole story in one go, then until now, whatever I ‘get’ has been forever destined to float around as incomplete, and unrealised potential.

Partially to save myself from being buried under all of these bits and pieces,  partially to improve my writing, but mostly to develop a good writing habit so that I can write my first novel, I have started to push myself to tackle at least one of these ‘story starts’ each week and develop it into some kind of half-readable story.  Of course, this means that I have had to write when the words are not necessarily ready to come out of their own accord, and when I have lost ‘the moment’ in which I madly jotted down the words in the first place.

Interestingly, procrastination has reduced since I have started to sit down and ‘force’ myself to write.  I have looked forward to the designated writing time more than I thought I would.  Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I would do it 24/7 if I could, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy having to work a bit harder to get the words out than I normally would.  Writing is starting to become a priority, almost to the point that I will now write when I am procrastinating about doing other things (like the household chores).

Having said all that, I am still undisciplined.  I don’t have a minimum time target, or word target for each writing session.  My recent routine has been to come home from work, cook dinner, get the family sorted, check my emails and then sit and write as much as I can before my eyes require some physical assistance to remain open.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, suggests an absolute minimum of 1000 words per day, regardless of how much time it takes. I am nowhere near that target at this point, but I am working up to it.  Working full-time and having a whole heap of emotional and family problems going on around me provides plenty of excuses for not writing, but hopefully by the end of the year I will be well on my way to the 1000-word-a-day target.

The other interesting thing that I have noticed is that the more I write the more ideas I get.  As I turn off the computer, or put away the pencil and paper after working on one story, my mind is often inundated with new stories, characters and plots.  I am taking this as a good sign that I am on the right path.

Creating Writing From The Ashes has definitely helped motivate me.  Announcing to the world that I will be posting one or two short stories each week means I have a goal to work towards, and this has definitely helped me focus more on writing and be more determined to spend the time required to create a readable story from the ideas I get instead of just jotting down a sentence or two and leaving it at that.  Writing blog posts is also a good ‘warm-up’ to get my mind focused on the writing task at hand.

Well, I’m off to do some more writing!  Thanks for taking the time to visit.  I would love to hear about how others have become more disciplined – tips about what works and what doesn’t – so please feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment.