Tag Archives: procrastination

How to Write – a manual for distractible writers

Step 1. Check email, in case you have won some nationwide competition or had a world-renowned journal accept one of your stories.

Step 2. Check Facebook. There could be a writing opportunity on a page you’ve liked. Or a cute puppy video.

Step 3. Check Twitter. You may hear some interesting news that prompts you to write a brilliant new piece of fiction. Or creative non-fiction. Or a cool sort of limerick.

Step 4. Check Instagram. You may get good ideas for a snack.

Step 5. Get a snack. And a drink while you’re at it.

Step 6. Sit back down. Open your document. Yes, just go to the toilet. Be quick.

Step 7. Write. Stay there. Do not access the internet, ring people or text people. Write.

Step 8. Briefly congratulate self. You’re writing!

Step 9. Keep writing.

 

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Work it, baby

This is not a post about high intensity interval training. I walk the dog and take the odd yoga class, but I’m no fitness guru. In fact, I’m not a guru of anything. However, my friend Jen* has achieved guru status in my eyes.

I met with her this morning for coffee and a catch-up. We talked about books we’d read, our own writing progress, our ‘day jobs’, our kids. And then we hit the topic of procrastination. Otherwise known as The Writers Curse. We both admitted that the internet is a distraction, and I bemoaned my tendency to avoid writing by doing household chores, snacking, phoning people and patting the dog. (I claim to love writing, but I think the truth is I mostly love having written. Sure, I love writing when the words are flowing thick and fast, but honestly, that’s pretty rare. Often it’s a hard, bloody slog. So what I really enjoy is when I’m done.)

When I’d finished complaining, Jen looked at me with her clear, steady eyes and said, “What I do is put a timer on. For thirty minutes, I have to sit there and work. I can’t get up and do anything else. Then, when I’m done, I set the timer for a ten minute break.”

How fantastic is that? None of this ‘I’ll work till midday now’ when it’s only nine a.m. and within five minutes you’ve checked email, followed a link and are reading about dogs who sense seizures. Oh no, you only commit to thirty minutes of work. An achievable goal. A sweet, approachable, friendly sort of goal.

I tried this plan today, and guess what? Over the two hours available to me, I did three 30/10 sessions, which is (embarrassingly) waaaay more than I’ve been getting done lately. I was focussed and calm. There was no other option but to write, yet I knew I’d get a break in a matter of minutes.

I suppose the 30/10 approach is nothing new, but I hadn’t thought to apply it to writing. So if, like me, you find yourself faffing when you want to be writing, it might be worth a try. And Jen, if you happen to read this before I tell you in person … thank you, thank you, thank you!

*Name changed to protect the guru.

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