Tag Archives: Procrastination

Didn’t do it

I’ve been sitting here trying to think up a post I could write which would distract you from the fact that I’m not answering my last post, but I couldn’t. So honesty is the best policy; I didn’t write a word.

The positive side is that I didn’t even turn on the computer, so it’s not like I sat staring at a blank screen three times this week. The curse of active November struck again and I had unexpected events covering two ‘dedicated’ writing times, and one night I was just too damned tired.

So I’m going to try again this week. If I’m writing the same post next week, then you know I’m embracing the excuse and maybe I really am just avoiding writing.

Easily frustrated

I have a very short fuse at the moment. Everyone is feeling it; friends, family, my computer (but in my defence the computer has seriously been provoking me this week). What’s even worse is I feel justified in every outburst, which is very out of character for me. The guilt module has apparently been uninstalled.

There is a lot of stress at work again, with 200 people being made redundant last month and a threat of more on the way. I’ve also managed to over-book my weekends, leaving the precious little time at home to be filled with unavoidable chores.

But I wonder if the stress is not really the cause of my grumpiness, after all, it is usually there in one form or other. I am starting to think it is the lack of writing.

True, the stress has impacted on the urge to write, but maybe when I have been turning away from the computer I should actually be turning to it? It is like when you start feeling sad, so you avoid going out, but when you do get forced to go out you realise it is the best medicine for your sadness. I think writing might actually be my stress outlet.

So I will say no to a few people this week (lucky for the guilt un-installation), turn the phone off, detach the internet, unplug the TV and force myself to write. I will commit to Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday ALL morning. Let’s see if this is the kick-start that starts to improve my mood as well as my productivity.

Document management

My day job is all about electronic document management. That’s why it is so embarrassing to discover how bad I am at paper document management.

Before I got started on the next writing project I thought I’d pull together all the work I’ve done on it so far. It is not that there is a lot, but it is everywhere!!!!! Just when I think I’ve got it all, I find a notebook with a few random pages of scribbles.

What I wonder is how did I ever expect to use all these notes when I seemed to be doing my best to hide them so well? I know how it happens, I get an idea and I don’t want to lose it, so I write it down in whichever notebook I have close at hand. But that is the best way to lose ideas, not record them.

My recently finished project was started and finished in a short period of time, which might account for my extremely helpful decision to make all my notes in the one book. Everything I had ever thought about the story was in one place.

So I think I’m going to invest in an expanding file and rip out all the ‘novel notes’ from my different pads and put all the related story ideas together. Yes, it does sound like another excuse for some heavy duty procrastination, but I think it is necessary!

Now if I could just work out how to apply metadata to paper…

Too many choices

A friend recently attached internet to her massive TV. With the whole internet stretching out before us all we could narrow it down to was YouTube. And then we had no idea what we wanted to watch. I’m embarrassed to say this, but with all the choice in the world, all we could think of was funny cat videos. We were overwhelmed to the point where our brains just closed down (just as an aside, the cat videos were very funny).

This is what it is like when you sit at the computer and attempt to ‘write a story’. If you haven’t been struck by an idea and you just try to force one out, there is too much choice and (for me) the brain goes blank.

That’s why, if I’m looking for a new story, I put limitations on myself. I set arbitrary rules just so my brain has something to hook into; a rock must be a significant part of the story (just typing that story ideas start to come), it must have the theme of loss (yep, happening again). It is only when there are some boundaries set that the idea generator kicks in.

This, of course, I have extrapolated into wider life. Maybe this is why so many of us are unsure of what we really want to do in life. We keep going along the same path as everyone else because it is easier than making a decision. Getting a job, a partner, 2.4 kids, a house and a dog called Rover is something we can focus on. When we open up the whole world as an option, our brains go blank.

360 Review

Occasionally I stop obsessing about how to be a better, more dedicated writer and I think about how to be a better, more dedicated person. Part of me was seriously considering inviting friends and family to give me a 360’ review so I could better identify and deal with my faults.

For those not getting crushed by the corporate machine, a 360 review is where you get (usually anonymous) feedback from your staff, managers and general colleagues. In other words it is a bit of a slag fest from people who work with you at all levels (hence 360’). It is usually confronting, upsetting, unfair and often ignored, but only because most people are not used to being critiqued.

As much as I love self improvement, and books from that section do take up a big chunk of my non-fiction reading list, I must admit I wasn’t sure that I was quite ready for that level of honesty.

Then I started reading a (self-help) book that told me that really, we all know our faults and issues, they are the things we project onto other people. Suddenly my 360’ review is not necessary! All the things I complain about in others are apparently the things that deep down I know are wrong with me.

The weird bit is that I never complain about others being slackers and watching The Voice when they should be editing. And I haven’t yet got upset about others promising to focus on one story and then immediately starting work on another. I’m not sure if this means that these things are not faults, or if it just means that they are not faults that I need to fix.

Maybe I need to read a different self-help book?

The year so far…

To date this year I have read less, written less and edited less than at any time last year. In fact, the only New Year’s resolution I have been able to keep so far has been to eat less chocolate, and that was only because I was staying at other people’s houses so didn’t know where their chocolate stashes were.

Is it me, or is it January?

I won’t let myself get too worried yet, but if things haven’t improved by next weekend I might have to do something drastic, like say no to some social events!

Dear me, even this blog post is a record short one. Roll on Fruitful February!

Fear

If there is one thing that my penchant for self-help books has taught me, it is that fear does not need to be of the heart-rate-increasing variety. Some fears do not spark your adrenalin or send your skin clammy. In fact some fear does not show itself at all. Why, because it is so ingrained that you know you will never let yourself face it, so your body does not get worried.

One that falls into this category is the fear of failure. Different people are afraid of failing at different things. For writers there are lots of failures we worry about. The story won’t come out on the page as perfectly as it looks in our heads, so we don’t write it. People won’t like the story when we finish writing it, so we don’t show it to anyone. Publishers will tell us that we have no skill and we should quit now, so we don’t submit our story. Academically we know these things probably won’t be issues, but it doesn’t stop the fear from getting in.

A lot of self-help gurus preach that you should do one thing a day that scares you. I think this is actually really good advice. It trains you to a) look for fears and be aware of them, and b) know that you can survive facing them. It is very easy for us to let our sub-conscious mind go about making our decisions so we don’t even know what we are afraid of, keeping us in a little, secure, safety-bubble.

But that won’t help you to become the best that you can be. Facing your fears is how you grow. That is how you learn what you are capable of, and it gets you to stretch beyond the familiar to the possible.

I think my fears have been holding back my submissions this year. I’ve subbed only two things, and one of those got accepted. Not a bad hit rate, but it is a terrible submission rate. So with what is left of the last two months of this year I’m going to face that fear. Let’s see what is possible.

Bookcase

I promised myself that I would get a bookcase before the end of the year. I might have been cutting it a bit fine on the timing, but I have finally got one. After nearly a year of living with books piled in my wardrobe, on my study floor and under my desk, I (at last) have somewhere to put them where I am not at risk of falling over them.

The funny thing is that even though I’ve been thinking about it for nearly a year, it took me over two hours to put my books into the shelves –and I’m still not happy with the result. I just didn’t know how to group them.

There are the obvious groupings; horror, sci fi, fantasy, but even those categories left me scratching my head about where a particular book actually fit. When I added literary fiction, popular fiction and non-fiction (travel, biography, biology, finance, computing, writing, weird UFO and crop-circle stuff) I found too many books could fit into nearly ALL the categories.

And don’t even get me started on trying to keep the books of one author together, have you seen how many genres Stephen King has dabbled in?!?

Maybe I should have done what a friend of mine did when she put her books in the shelf… she put them in colour and size order. There is no denying it looked great, but if you wanted to find a book you would be in trouble if you couldn’t remember what colour the cover was.

Bookcase
The final stack – for now

I hope you finished all the tasks you set for your 2012, if not there’s no better time than now for writing your 2013 task list. Have a safe and happy New Year!

Being the better me

You know, this better me thing seems to work. It started out as a conscious effort to have better me-hours after dinner to make sure I would turn on the computer and write instead of turning on the TV and vegging.

It worked! I watched a lot less TV this week and got a lot more words written. But that wasn’t all. Suddenly I found myself picking better me food choices for dinner (no frozen chicken Kiev and chips this week), going for a walk in the evening or spontaneously bursting into sit-ups.

Then the tendrils of better me-ness reached even further. When I walked past meeting rooms where the projector and lights had been left on I actually stopped when my brain screamed out ‘what would better me do?’ so I could go in and turn them all off. I picked up bits of rubbish. I put other people’s dishes in the dishwasher.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not yet become the better me, I have a long way to go before I can make that claim, but better me turns up a lot more than she did before I invited her in. I like better me. She and I might just get another novel finished.

The better me

As my cat stood hacking away at the furball caught in her chest, her body heaving over and over with the struggle, I found myself hoping she would swallow it and save me the trouble of cleaning it up. The better me would have been rooting for her to bring it up and expel the torment from her body. Today I was not the better me.

Often when we imagine of how we will react to a situation, I think we see better versions of ourselves. The version who will go to the aid of the person in need, even something small like choosing the carrot over the chocolate snack, doing the sit-ups or sitting at the computer writing, not wasting time on the TV/ garden/reading/ <insert procrastination poison of choice here>.

Tomorrow we think we will be the better me, giving ourselves the freedom to be the slack me today. But what we are today is what we are.

Maybe if I focus on being the better me for just one hour each day, thinking and acting as she would, then I would get a lot more things completed? And maybe, one day, when I realise I’m not thinking about what the better me will do tomorrow then I’ll know that, at last, I have become the better me.

It’s worth a try…