I have a confession to make. When it comes to writing, I have a very well-developed procrastination habit. Writing is hard work, no doubt about it. But I find that the hardest part of writing is putting my butt in the chair and getting down to business. Like so many others, my life is jam-packed with a million and one things to do. I have a family, a full time job, and friends — all require a big chunk of my time. So my free hours, my writing hours, must be protected at all costs. Sadly, I am not always successful.
I tend to work best when I have deadlines and limited time available. If I clear several hours and tell myself that I’m going to spend the time writing, I often find myself doing something else. Here are five diversions that are sure to eat up my free time, if I let them.
1. Facebook. I know that I’m not alone here. I tell myself that I’ll just pop on to update my status or message a friend….and then, before I know what’s happened, I’ve done a quiz to find out which classic novel best describes my life, looked at several photos featuring sloths, and engaged in a rousing debate with a stranger on someone’s post about parenting techniques.
2. LOST. Netflix has the entire series available! The best part is my son watches with me, so this is always time well-spent. Plus, I can easily convince myself that it’s practically research — the characters are so well-developed that this show could almost be considered a workshop all by itself. You believe me, don’t you…?
3. Reading books about writing. The secret to a productive writing life is sure to be found in the pages of the very next book on the craft that I come across…right? Yeah, okay. I know I’m kidding myself. I have learned many valuable lessons through the years this way (see this post for a list of my favourite writing books), but sometimes you have to draw the line and do the work.
4. Research. I like reference books, too. I own many types of dictionaries (standard, visual, slang, names, etc.), several different thesauri, books of quotations, books on the origin of words and phrases, guides on handwriting analysis, atlases, volumes on which birds can be found in North America and the types of mushrooms that grow in Southern Ontario, and so on. Sometimes I’ll be working on a project and realize that I need to know the exact type of tree that my main character might expect to find outside his bedroom window in British Columbia, or what day of the week March the sixteenth fell on in 1987. When this happens, it’s game over. I pluck a few likely books from the shelves, and jump from fact to anecdote to concept. It’s the intellectual equivalent to the Sunday drive and suddenly, I’m meandering down paths just for the pretty scenery.
5. This blog. Imagine a map of my brain. One quadrant is labeled Procrastination Centre. Now picture a big, red dot…right in the middle of that area. Beside the dot, there should be a label where you find these words: YOU ARE HERE…