How to Procrastinate

(c) Peter O'Shea 2011 c/o flickr.com
(c) Peter O’Shea 2011 c/o flickr.com

1. Open a new document. Spend ten minutes setting the font, spacing, and indents.

2. Turn to a clean page in your notebook. Spend fifteen minutes sharpening your pencils.

3. Make a quick snack so you don’t have to stop writing. Spend a half hour loading the dishwasher and cleaning the stove.

4. Spend an hour organizing your writing books by height, then color, then topic, then height. Don’t read any of them.

5. Spend two hours searching online for inspiration. Spend most of the time looking at cat videos.

6. Make an update about your writing on Twitter. Forget the world exists for five hours.

7. Decide to take a little nap to replenish you energy. Wake up wondering why it’s dark already.

8. Jot down notes for a great story idea. Don’t actually write any of it.

9. Have kids. Enough said.

10. Make blog posts. Hey, that’s writing, isn’t it?


How to Write… Or Not

(c) Rubin Starset 2009 c/o flickr.com
(c) Rubin Starset 2009 c/o flickr.com

Recently I read an article on writing called, “Object Writing,” on the Writer’s Digest site. The part about “object writing” was interesting. It talks about picking an object that has meaning to you in some way and think of all the sense experiences associated with it–sight, smell, taste, sounds, and physical feelings. It also says there are two other senses: organic sense–“awareness of inner bodily functions”–and kinesthetic–“your sense of relation to the world around you.”

Sounds good so far. I really need to work on my description of senses instead of relying on a few terms or associations.

But then the author went into her advice on when and how to write. That’s where she lost me.

“Object writing works best when you do it for ten minutes, first thing in the morning.”

“Always wake up your writer early, so you can spend the day together.”

Yeah… that doesn’t work for me. I learned long ago that I am not a morning writer. I just can’t write first thing in the morning before my brain is functioning. And I can’t write during the day because of the constant interruptions. Between my husband and five children (thank god we don’t have any pets), I rarely go more than a few minutes without someone bothering me.

Of course, the author also says: “If your writer is anything like mine, “lazy,” even “slug” is too kind.” The key words there being, “anything like mine.” BINGO! My inner writer is obviously not like this author’s inner writer.

Okay, I get her point about getting up early to start your day writing because you will be more fresh and observant. At least I think that’s what she’s saying. But this does not work for me. I’m a night writer. Once the family is in bed, out comes the notebook and pen. I get more done at night than any other time of day. My inner writer spends the day soaking up experiences that go down on paper long after many people are sound asleep.

My other problem with the article is this little gem: “Guarantee yourself ten minutes and only ten minutes. Set a timer, and stop the second it goes off.”

No. Just no.

It goes on to say:

You’re much more likely to sit down to a clearly limited commitment. But be sure you always stop at the buzzer. If you get on a roll some morning and let yourself write for thirty minutes, guess what you’ll say the next morning:“Ugh, I don’t have the energy to do it this morning (remembering how much energy you spent yesterday), and besides, I’ve already written my ten minutes for the next two days. I’ll start again Thursday.”

I mean, obviously if you have a job and get up early to get some words on the paper, stopping when the buzzer goes off makes sense. Otherwise you might be late for work, but I’m a stay-at-home mom. I have all day to write (because only one child is home during the day and so is my husband). Also, my inner writer does not like being interrupted. Making myself stop at ten minutes just as my creative juices start flowing would make me weep. It would ruin my day. Not to mention when or if I wanted to continue what I was writing I would have lost the mood.

I have a crap memory. I forget what I was thinking hours, if not minutes, after I think it. I’ve taken to writing lists on stickies so I don’t forget things I want to do later. When I write, I do it fast before I forget, and still, sometimes I get frustrated because I’ll think of a great word that I’ll use in the next sentence, but when I get to that sentence, I’ve completely forgotten the word.

Any distraction breaks my concentration, and there goes everything I was thinking about. Just gone. It’ll take me another ten to fifteen minutes of thinking to figure out where I was in the story or what I was planning to write next. I’m the kind of person that will stay up writing all night because I’m afraid to stop. If I stop I lose the story, the voice, the inspiration. If I stop, the next time I come back to the story I have no idea what to write, and what I do write sounds completely different than the original. I don’t stop unless I have to.

So, setting a timer and only writing for ten minutes would ruin writing for me. Writing for thirty minutes wouldn’t make me not want to write the next day; writing for a forced ten minutes would make me not want to do it again because it zaps my creativity.

My advice to writers:

Write when you can or want. If it’s early in the morning before work while you sip your first coffee of the day–terrific! If it’s the dead of night surround by the quit darkness–fantastic! If it’s five minutes in between diaper changes and cleaning peanut butter off of your toddler or five minutes between supper and bath time–awesome! I used to write on butcher paper whenever it slowed down at work–back when I was much younger and my brain actually remembered things.

Write for however long works for you. If all you can give yourself is that ten minutes before work, then use it good. If you can fit more time during the day, then go for it. If you feel the need to stay up all night writing–probably not the best idea if you have to go to work or take care of kids the next idea.

Don’t listen to people that say you have to write a certain way because they aren’t you. Only you know what your inner writer likes, so listen to it.

So what time of day or night do you like to write? What techniques work for you?