Procrastinate With Purpose

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. Do what procrastinators do best: make a list. List some of the things that have kept you from doing creative writing. When you notice things from your list intruding on your work, recognize them and find ways to eliminate them
  2. Learn a little about the writing routines of your favorite writers. Some wrote before they got out of bed; some wrote new versions as the publisher fired up the press. Be inspired by the many ways writer approach their work.
  3. Write without an appointment. Don’t wait until your next “date” to get some work done. Go right now and write 100 words of new stuff. The end of this sentence marks 119 words of suggested exercises.

The Crying List

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

When I was in high school, some of my friends and I would write notes to pass to each other in the halls between classes. Some of the notes were simple observations on what was happening in the classroom–I still remember the one C wrote me about counting the spots on the biology teacher’s tie–or queries: “What should we do at lunch?” But since we were teenagers, the notes often spiralled into angst. Out of these notes grew the crying lists. Crying lists were recitations of all the reasons one needed a good cry: “I feel like crying because I got 7/20 on the last French quiz and I’m going to faaaaaiiiilllll!”

The lists always started with serious (or at least semi-serious) reasons for the writer’s general state of miserableness, but the idea was to keep listing until you couldn’t think of anything else to add–and that meant the reasons would get progressively more silly and trivial the longer the list got: “I feel like crying because the vending machine was all out of Oreo ice cream bars so I had to have a Fudgesicle!” By the time the list had been passed around and read, the serious issues commiserated on and the silly ones laughed about, the writer inevitably felt better. Somehow, writing it all out had a way of putting our problems into perspective. It was cathartic–kind of like a good cry.

Has it felt like everything and everyone has been conspiring to keep you from your writing lately? Try writing your own version of the crying list–this one with a writing focus. Start with “I’m blocked because…” or “I don’t have time to write because…” or whatever start-phrase fits your situation. Then list every single thing that’s preventing you from writing. Give yourself permission to wallow in self-pity, to lay blame, to whine. When you’ve finished your list, pass it on to a friend or fellow writer–someone who will understand–to read. Commiserate, discuss, laugh, and know that you’ve kicked a hole in your writer’s block by writing something.

The Key is Discipline

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

If you’re a morning person, try writing for an hour each morning before doing anything else–even if it means getting up an hour earlier than you usually do (yes, it’s okay to put the coffee on before you get started, but don’t wait for it to finish brewing before you actually start writing!) On the other hand, if you’re a night person, try writing for an hour each night before you go to bed–even if it means staying up an hour later than you usually do (I wouldn’t recommend coffee for that purpose, though!)

But What is Your Story About?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

It’s been said that if you can’t summarize your story in one sentence, then you don’t know what your story is about. You may not have a finished manuscript yet, but writing a synopsis can be a great way of maintaining your focus when you’re writing a longer work of fiction. Try this: start by boiling your story down to a one-page synopsis. Next, cut that synopsis down to one paragraph. Try not to omit any of the key points. Finally, write the one sentence that says it all.