JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

News Squib: For Writers Who Procrastinate (And That’s Most of Us)

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It’s Squib Saturday. Time to share the best, most interesting (or most entertaining, or most outrageous) tidbit of information I’ve gleaned from all the stuff I’ve read –or done– this week: How to Stop Procrastinating by Going To Lunch

 

From l to r: Marilyn Murray Willison, Sonia Cooper, Cathy Helowicz (PBWG Executive Director), and Me at Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach

 

If there is one thing writers love it’s to listen to advice on how to stop procrastinating long enough to finish their novels or screenplays. Give them the opportunity to listen to such advice over a long, leisurely lunch, and most writers will leap at it. I certainly did when I got an invitation to attend the Palm Beach Writers Group talk and lunch at the Chesterfield Hotel’s Pavilion Room this week. The subject of the talk by PBAU English professor and writer, Dr. Gene Fant?  How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating and Love Deadlines.

What’s procrastination?

That’s definitely for me I said to myself relishing the thought of setting aside my laptop for the afternoon though, truth be told, I probably would have wasted the time anyway waiting to see what outfits the gorgeous Melania (a fellow immigrant of Eastern European descent) had chosen for her big day. Or, I would have spent the afternoon on Twitter waiting to see exactly how long it would take the new POTUS to tweet. See, that’s what procrastination is all about: there’s always something seemingly more important to do than sitting down at your laptop to write.

Three Productivity Tips

As it was, on Inauguration Day I procrastinated, but in a very productive way because this is what I learned from Dr. Fant, a pioneer blogger at First Things and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and writer and editor of more than a dozen scholarly and popular press books:

Every writer should:

Find a way to generate deadlines for him or herself. These can be artificial deadlines as, for example, in promising to send Mom (or a friend, or other relative) a chapter a month.

Stop writing in the middle of the page or even in the middle of a sentence because a blank page is the biggest impediment for a writer.   Dr. Fant acknowledged borrowing this tip from a fellow professor/writer, but it’s a very good one. I’ve heard it said before in a different way: Don’t ever write till you’ve written yourself dry. It’s much easier to get right back to your computer or laptop if you stopped in mid-flow the day before.

Find your rhythms: Block out a specific time to write. Establish triggers for that block of time — whether it’s the first cup of coffee of the day, or eating a piece of chocolate — and don’t allow anything else to intrude on that time. For some writers, the block of time will be only 20 minutes. Doesn’t matter. It’ll keep the juices going every day.

In extreme cases, it could mean working in bursts of 18-20 hours like William Faulkner, American Nobel Prize laureate worked — but, of course, if that’s how you work, you’ll need to cut a couple of inches off your office door like Faulkner did so that someone can slide your meals and drinks under the door for you.

Photo Credits: Cathy Helowicz; Bigstockphoto.com; 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. A much needed subject and an excellent post. Illustrated no less! Thank you, Joanna !! Here’s my contribution.

    The How. Marry mindless chores to your writing. Start computer, check where you left off. Begin thinking of next sentence and get up to do the dishes while considering that one sentence. Rotate it, shift it, modify it, contrast it. When you have it edited, stop, rush back to the computer, enter it, return to chores/work/hobby/game/conversation with next sentence in mind. Your friends will understand. 😀

    The goal. One page per day. If by the end of the day, you’ve completed one page, at the end of ten months you will have a full-length novel with plenty of time for rewrites and edits. 🙂

    P.S. Lunch as procrastination. Pure decadence. lol

    • You are so right about the “lunch” decadence, Rafael. In fact, most days things look much more like you describe them. Yep, even unloading the dishwasher is sometimes preferable to sitting down in front of the computer. But you are right, while carrying out those mindless chores, we are always thinking about what sentence goes next on the page.

  2. WHY DO FEMMES MAKE WRITTING SUCH A CHORE? FEMALES HAVE CORNERED THE WORLD MARKET ON THE ART OF CHATTER HOOK YOUR TOUNGES INTO THE HI TECH PORTAL THAT PUTS YOUR CHATTER ON PAPER,SCREENS,BATH ROOM WALLS,SIDES OF BLDGS.

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  3. ViIEWING YOU LUNCHING IN THE RECESS OF MIND I HEAR BARBARA STREISAND SINGING THE LADIES THAT DO LUNCH

  4. THANK YOU!

  5. Dr.Bill was deep into his computer at my annual exam. I asked him to let me
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