Delaying Tactics

My Books
My Books

Fortunately, it’s only gloomy outside–a grey, foggy, damp, cold January day. Inside, it’s cozy and I’m having fun looking at photos for possible book covers, and playing with the collage function in Adobe Photoshop to create a new cover photo for my Facebook author page (see photo to the right). And yes, I know I should be writing.

Two weeks ago norovirus came to visit, so a lot of writing did not get done. Drinking gingerale, eating crackers, sleeping–yes.  Writing–no. And this week, I caught up on a project that got behind while I was sick. Could I have done more of my joywriting? Of course, but I’m an expert at delaying tactics, and it’s amazing how the days can fly by.

And this is not something new. I thought I’d look for a blog to share about procrastination for any fellow sufferers out there, and went to my favourite writing blogger, Kristi Holl, for inspiration. Well, this is embarrassing. Here’s the link to Kristi Holl’s blog on procrastination, where you will see me bemoaning this same problem last April, and for the same reason: I finally have more time to write. On the plus side, I did actually write three books last summer: two non-fiction for self-publishing and another for a contract. And I finished editing five short stories, and, with a friend, produced a short story anthology for boys, with the layout and publishing side being all my responsibility. But I clearly did my share of moaning before the production of all these words got underway.

So, I declare this year’s moaning period is over. New start today. Onward!

Hope you have a great writerly week ahead!


No Excuses Now

BlossomsSpring is making a valiant effort to warm up my part of southern Ontario, though the roof tops were white with frost this morning and double digit temperatures have been scarce. But I know things will change, and the trees will soon show signs of green.

I’ve been making valiant efforts to write every day–and failing lately. I was making great progress until the middle of last week when a nasty cold decided to take up residence just as my final marks were due–along with my taxes–and a major freelance gig needed to be finished. Nothing like a cold to slow down everything. However, the marks went in on Friday, the freelance gig and taxes were done yesterday, and as of today, I have nothing to stop progress on the books I’m working on. A great feeling.

And a scary one. I can be the world’s champion procrastinator when it comes to getting down to the work. My best solution for getting the writing done lately has been to not write at the computer and to keep my phone on mute. I love checking Facebook and my email and playing Free Cell, and can waste a lot of time doing that instead of writing. I’ll be trying out some strategies in the next couple of weeks that I hope will help me make serious progress on my projects. I’ll let you know how they work. If you know of any tried and true techniques, please pass them along. I have a lot to learn here.

In the meantime, I’m talking to a couple of grade 8 classes on Wednesday about what a writer does, so I need to work on finding props and organizing my presentation in the next couple of days, too. I love class visits, so I’m really looking forward to my Wednesday morning with Mr. Brenneman’s classes.

I hope you have a creative week ahead!

The Pit and Me

A Saugeen Lane - to remind me that I have to get moving toward my goal.
A Saugeen Lane – to remind me that I have to get moving toward my goal.

Some people hit a wall when they’re working on a writing project. I hit the pit—or rather I dive into it–full of self doubt and insecurities. For me, self-doubt is inexorably linked to procrastination, which expands, like the gases in Boyle’s law, to fill the space in my life where I should be writing. And I stop writing. Not for long, but for long enough to get gloomy about it.

So that’s what I have just done—again. And if this is a pattern of my writing life (and it is) then why do I keep writing?

Putting words on a page is hard work, and sometimes, like a two-year-old, I just want to sit on the floor with my blankie and yell, “I don’t wanna!” But, of course, I do “wanna.” I want to put those words on the page, not because it’s some huge pleasurable experience to do so, but because I love the feeling afterward—of having written. Scrolling back, checking the word count, printing and holding the pages, revising—that’s the fun stuff. And that’s what keeps me writing.

It will probably come as a surprise to no one that the pit stays completely out of sight when I’m working on a paying gig. Oh, I still procrastinate, but I don’t get all gloomy about things or question how I have the nerve to call myself a writer. The validation of a contract is a great cure for the pit.

So I’ve now embarked, full of enthusiasm, on a new project, and have found the pit again. So what’s next? A slow climb out, inspired by my procrastination mantra:  “You’ve done this before, so just get on with it.” (Chocolate helps—and Swedish berries, too.) I know that I will get the work done, and I will find the enthusiasm again.

Do you hit a wall or find the pit when you’re working on a project? What helps you keep going?

Pen in Hand

IMG-20130709-00210Yesterday at Kristen Lamb’s Blog, Kristen listed 5 traits of the successful writer: passion, self-discipline, humility, healthy relationship with failure, and persistence.  She states, “We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.”

Each of the five traits on the list can be a challenge for me at one time or another, but the most consistent challenge is self-discipline. I am constantly distracted by my laptop life: Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, Free Cell and Spider Solitaire, Ravelry (looking for my next knitting project), reading other people’s blog posts, etc.. The writing/working time slips away as I roam from one distraction to another. I’m not alone. People are actually writing about this phenomenon. Here are two links to articles about what is being called Internet ADD: and

I’ve decided that the only cure is abstinence. I have the luxury of a lot of writing time this week, and finally, yesterday, I figured out what I had to do to get anything accomplished–and did it. I closed the laptop, got out my journal, and worked my way through the next chapter of my book. Today I’m going to type up my notes–on my NEO (no internet, just a nice clicky keyboard and a small screen.) I have three more days to myself this week and a lot to accomplish. I’ll let you know how this strategy works.

Do you get distracted by your online life? How do you switch off and get the work done? What’s your biggest challenge among Kristen’s 5 traits? Love to hear your thoughts and solutions.

Hope you have a creative week and find your own way to carve out some creative time and make progress toward your writing goals.


The Lure of Research

I have discovered an extremely effective delaying tactic–research.  As long as I’m reading about the work my character will be doing and the setting he’ll be doing it in, it’s still writing time. Right? I’m making progress on my story. Right?


I love opening my resource book and scribbling notes from it in my journal, or scribbling in the margin if the book is mine. I print articles and file them in cheerful folders for highlighting and more margin scribbling later. And I learn so much, too!

Did you know that a medieval scribe might have to sharpen his or her quills sixty times during a day’s work? (Yes there were female scribes and illuminators, too.) Did you know that pages in today’s books are rectangular because the parchment that was used in most of the pre-Gutenberg books was cut that way because of the shape of the animal’s skin from which the pages were made?

All very useful information, but it’s not helping my story get written. Why the procrastination? Simple answer: because I know how hard the writing will be. I know that what’s ahead will be a slow and often dissatisfying process, and yeah, I find launching a new project scary, too. What a wuss!

I like to think of myself as a writer, so enough whining, reflection, justification, procrastination, whatever you want to call it. Time to ‘writer-up’ and get to work. I have an appointment with my treadmill desk this afternoon. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Do you procrastinate? What lures you away from the blank page? What helps you get the writing done?

More Writer’s First Aid–A Must-Own Book for Busy Writers

Kristi Holl’s More Writer’s First Aid: Getting the Writing Done is the perfect resource for writers who want to carve a writing career out of a life that seems already full of family, work, and just the “stuff” of living. I printed my PDF review copy, because I read better that way. I used sticky notes to highlight the parts that stood out and that I could mention in this review. I ran out of sticky notes. There were gems in almost every chapter.

This is a book that gives you permission to be human—to be confused, frightened, crazy-busy, in pain, and a first class procrastinator. Kristi offers accessible solutions to the challenges of a writer’s life without being trite or condescending. She writes with a voice that has “been there, done that” and has sought solutions in the work of other writers as well as from her own instincts. She shares her solutions and the struggles to find them and make them work, without a smidge of “holier than thou.” She speaks as a fellow traveller and survivor who has worn all of life’s hats, along with that of writer. Reading the book is like having a special writer friend give you a hug and a nod of complete understanding—just when you need it.

This is not a how-to-write guide. There are no tricks for writing great dialogue or creating a compelling story arc. Chapters are grouped under these headings:  ENJOYING THE WRITING LIFE—EVERY DAY!, WRITING HABITS THAT HELP YOU, A WRITER’S EMOTIONS, FAMILY MATTERS. She deals with the hard stuff. How to work after a loss, while working the day job and juggling family, when serious illness hits you or a family member. And the practical: how to stop procrastinating, the realities of finding writing time—and equally essential—thinking time, in a life full of demands on your time and attention.

I’ve read a lot of books about writing over the years. (I even wrote one!) Only three have made my annual reread list. Now there are four!

Blogger KRISTI HOLL is the author of 39 books, including MORE WRITER’S FIRST AID.


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