Tag Archives: procrastination

Five Reasons to Stop Procrastinating (and Start Writing)

You know how it is. There’s always something that needs to be done before you can work on your novel.

Cook dinner, wash the clothes, stack the dishwasher, sweep the floor, dry the clothes, bath the kids, do the ironing, rearrange your sock drawer, paint the house, knit a scarf, do some more research, buy Scrivener, create a storyboard for your novel, write an outline for your novel, colour it in with fancy colours, buy new pens, clean your desk, backup your hard drive, write a blog post, buy groceries, level your WoW character, read a book, plant a vegie garden, hand-make Christmas cards (all 300 of them), scrapbook your photos (from the last 40 years), clean out the attic/basement/garage, build an extension on the back of the house for your very own writing room…. The list goes on.

Some of these things are actually important. (Feeding your children, for example.)

Some of these things actually help you write your novel. (Writing an outline, researching, or cleaning your desk.)

But many of the things we prioritize above novel-writing are merely clever ways to procrastinate.

There are a lot of reasons we procrastinate. I’m not going to try to cover them all here. Instead, I’m just going to give you five reasons to STOP.

1. It won’t get better if you pick it.

Writers are imaginative people. It kind of comes with the territory. The upside to this is… well, you know the upside. The downside is that it’s all too easy to imagine things going badly.

What if I suck as a writer? What if everything I write is terrible? What if I’m not good enough to write a whole novel? What if I write a book and it sucks? What if my friends read it and they think it’s terrible? What if I never get any better? What if I do, but I can’t get an agent? What if I get an agent and can’t get a publishing contract? What if I get published, but no one buys my book? Or what if I self-publish but no one buys my book? What if people buy my book and they hate it? What if people hate my book and they write scathing one-star reviews everywhere about how awful I am?

What if I’m a failure at the only thing I’ve ever really, really wanted to do?

Woah, Nelly. Hang on a minute. Before you start relegating yourself to the “I Failed as a Writer so My Life Is Worthless” club, how about you actually sit down and write something?

Fear is natural. Fear of the unknown. Fear that you won’t succeed. Fear that you will, but it won’t live up to your imagination. But that fear will never go away if you feed it. Instead, practice overcoming it. And there’s no better way to do that than to keep writing. 

2. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

 You know the most fun part of writing a novel? The first chapter.

Hands up if you’ve got half a dozen files labelled “Chapter One” somewhere on your computer. Keep your hand raised if you’ve got more than a dozen. It’s a little known fact* that one of the easiest ways to procrastinate when you’re writing a novel is to… get this… start a new novel.

The thing about writing is that the fun bits are fun, but the hard bits are hard. (Actually, I’m pretty sure that applies to everything in life.) So we start our new novel feeling fresh-faced and bushy-tailed, bounding into the fun part of introducing characters and having everything go horribly, terrible, disturbingly wrong. And then…

Well, then writing seems a bit more like work. We can’t figure out the next plot point. Or we realise our characters can’t possibly escape from the situation they’re in. Or it suddenly occurs to us that the entire story is one clichéd mess of overdone tropes and Mary Sue characters. And it’s not fun anymore. So you go back and edit what you’ve written. Repeatedly.

But let’s be honest here. How many people want to read an awesome first chapter, followed by a one paragraph summary that goes something like this:

…and then the hero finds a heap of clues, and eventually realises it was his BEST FRIEND ALL ALONG! There’s some fighting and stuff, and in the end the hero kills his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend falls in love with him, and they live happily ever after. Oh, and he’s also gets all his best friend’s stuff. The end.

If your story feels like it’s not working, take some time out to plan, plot, outline, create colour-coded maps of your novel, and anything else that appeals to you. But don’t do it forever. Don’t do it as a means of procrastination. And don’t start a new novel. Work out what happens next in your story, and then get back to writing it.

* This is not actually a little known fact. We’ve all done it.

3. Tomorrow never comes.

As I said above, there are a lot of legitimate reasons why you don’t get any novel-writing done. There’s your day job, for a start. And you need to spend time with your Significant Other and your children. There’s that pesky need for food, drink and sleep. And society frowns on you if you don’t adhere to at least some measure of cleanliness.

But let me fill you in on a little secret: It never gets any better.

You will always have legitimate drains on your time. Always. The trick is to find a way to fit writing into your schedule even when you’re busy. Maybe you legitimately don’t have time to write every day. Or even every week. But there’s a very fine line between not writing because you don’t have time, and not writing because you’re procrastinating.

Did you know that over 85% of diets start on a Monday? And the main reason they fail? Because when the dieter has a piece of cake on Wednesday, she says to herself, “Well, I’ve blown it for this week. I may as well call this week a wash and start again on Monday.” Then they binge on whatever-they-like for the rest of the week.

Don’t be the writer who says, “Well, I was supposed to write on Wednesday afternoon but I was too tired and too busy. I’ve already blown my weekly target, so I may as well call this week a wash and start again next week.”

Don’t write tomorrow. Write today. 

4. It’s written in the stars (but you don’t have a telescope).

 Next month you could walk out of your house and get hit by a bus. And when you’re lying there on the street, the world getting dimmer and dimmer around you, which thought would you prefer to go through your head:

  1. Thank goodness I spent all that time cleaning the cornices and cataloguing my fourth grade stamp collection!
  2. Thank goodness I finished writing my novel!

Yes, I know this is entirely unrealistic. (Because who keeps their fourth grade stamp collection?) But it illustrates a point.

Anyone who has had a near-death experience will tell you they spent a lot of time re-evaluating their life, really looking at what’s important and how they can follow their dreams. Because they’re suddenly aware of their own mortality. Suddenly aware that maybe they can’t put off their dreams until after Christmas, after the kids are at school, after their finances are secure, after they retire, after anything at all.

Because “after” may not come. All you really have is “now”.

5. No one else can do it.

Do you know how many people can write the novel you’ve got in your head? Only one. You.

No one else in the world can tell your story as well as you can.

And you have a responsibility to tell it. You have a responsibility to yourself, to the people who will be your readers, and to the world at large. Because, in this one thing, you are completely and utterly irreplaceable.

So don’t deny the world your story. You are the only one who can make your dream a reality. Sit down, start writing and stop procrastinating.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on my novel. (As long as I don’t get distracted on the way.)

Are you a procrastinator? Any words of wisdom for us all?

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Five Ways Writing is like doing a Jigsaw Puzzle

 

Last Saturday night I had a phone call from my sister. “Hey Jo,” she said. “I just bought a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I don’t know why. I haven’t done one this big before. But I was thinking… We should have a competition. Do you have any 2000 piece puzzles you can do?”

Did I? No. Besides, it’s not much of a competition if we’re not doing the same puzzle, is it?

2000 Pieces of Healthy Competition

(As a note, it didn’t occur to me to say ‘No’ to the idea of a jigsaw competition. More about that another day.)

So I got all the details from her and planned to pick up the jigsaw from the local Toy & Game shop the following day. “Sure, have a head start,” I told my sister. “You’re going to need it!”

Over the last 11 days I’ve spent a goodly portion of time working on this puzzle and reflecting on the ways assembling a jigsaw is like writing. So, here goes:

1. It’s never as simple as just ‘sitting down to write’. There are always obstacles that need to be overcome.

Obstacle 1:

Sunday morning, off I went to the local Toy & Game shop (who will remain nameless) to buy a copy of the jigsaw. I was eager not to let Sister have too much of a head start. I browsed the jigsaw aisle. Slowly, my excitement began to fade. They didn’t have the one I wanted. Not to be defeated, I went over to the counter.

“Excuse me,” I said politely to the scruffy young man standing blank-faced behind the counter. “I was just looking for a particular Ravensburger jigsaw, but you don’t seem to have it. If you order it in, how long is it likely to take?”

The young man (teenager, really) turned to look at me blankly. His face remained expressionless for a moment, his jaw slack. Then he spoke. “We don’t order things people want anymore.”

I stared at him. Either he’d just said the most ridiculous thing a salesperson could ever say, or he’d uttered some kind of deep truth about the steady decline of bricks & mortar businesses in favour of the internet.

After a minute of silence, he added, “I suppose I could call some of our other stores. Maybe you could drive to one of them.” I thanked him, told him I’d order it online (he looked relieved), and went on my way. It took me until Tuesday to get a copy of the jigsaw. I did buy it online. On Ebay. And I got it $10 cheaper than if I’d purchased it in the store.

Obstacle 2:

The box said the completed jigsaw would be 98cm x 75cm. I measured my coffee table. Not big enough. I measured my dining table. Not big enough. Damn it. I didn’t have a flat surface big enough for the stupid puzzle. Except…

The only space big and flat enough was the floor. So into the spare room I went. I moved some furniture and lay a blanket on the floor. One work table coming up!

Obstacle 3:

Have you ever tried to do a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle on the floor while a rambunctious 4-year-old excitedly tries to help. It’s time for “I just wanted to look at the pieces,” and “I think that one goes over there,” and “Oops. I fell over in the middle of the jigsaw.”

There’s never a perfect time, place, or environment to write. (Unless you’ve got a special writing room with a lock. In which case you have my undying envy.) Find ways around your obstacles, learn to ignore or overcome distractions, and remember that small children can easily be bribed with chocolate.

2. When you sit down to write, it may seem overwhelming. That’s okay. Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve.

Have you ever opened a box with 2000 jigsaw pieces in it? Until 8 days ago, I hadn’t. My first thought was “Holy bejoly, what have I gotten myself into?” I ran my fingers through the pieces, trying to figure out where to start. I randomly picked up two pieces to see if they would fit together. One was blue and one had squiggles all over it that was probably writing.

Then I sat back, picked up the lid, and looked at the image of the finished jigsaw. I decided to start with the edges, and then do all the squiggly writing. Time to start sorting.

Regardless of whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, have a plan. Maybe it’s a 100-page outline. Maybe it’s a “brief history of the world” in 50,000 words. Maybe it’s a series of index cards, or notes in Scrivener (or another writing program), something just a vague plotline in your head and an image of a character or scene. It doesn’t matter. Choose the plan that works for you, but make sure you have one. Otherwise you’ll either find yourself trying to mash together two random elements in the story or you’ll be so overwhelmed and confused you’ll give up.

3. Track how much you’ve done, not how much you’ve got to do.

It took me a few days to get the edges and the writing done. Then I decided to do the water, and started sorting through the pieces for blue bits. My husband happened past the room and commented, “Wow. You’ve done really well. But isn’t it funny how when you look at the pieces you’ve got left, there doesn’t seem to be any less?”

I hadn’t really noticed. But then I did. The box still seemed as full as it had been when I started. I had this sense that I’d never finish, that there were just too many pieces, too much to do. And so I stopped for the day.

Writing is a mental game. Don’t focus on the 95,000 words you’ve got left to write, or the months of revising ahead, or the difficulty in finding an agent, or the future of publishing. Congratulate yourself on having written the first 5,000 words. That’s more than you’d done last week.

4. Your peer network should help you feel good, not bad.

My sister and I talked on Saturday night, one week after the challenge began. (It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get the jigsaw until Tuesday. The challenge started on Saturday.) We were both a little reticent about sharing our progress initially.

 “What if she’s done more than me? What if I’m losing?”

So we didn’t talk about how much we’d done, we talked about the process we’d been following. We’d both started with the edges (obviously), but then we went in wildly different directions. I did the squiggly writing, then the water, then the white circles, and was working on the map. She’d started with the outside circles, then moved on to the white circles and the water, and was starting to work on the squiggly writing.

We didn’t talk at all about how much we had left to go. We talked about what we’d done, the challenges we’d faced, how we overcame them, the process we were following, and shared tips on the sections the other hadn’t done. We talked about the obstacles we’d needed to overcome. (She also didn’t have a table big enough so had built herself a coffee table to suit, she had commitments every evening after work, and she’d run out of beer.) Mostly, what we did was encourage each other.

When I hung up the phone, I still had no idea who was “winning”, but I went back to my puzzle with renewed vigour.

Your peer group (whether they’re a critique partner, writing group, online buddies, whatever) should give you encouragement and challenge you to improve. Having a peer group is an integral part of writing. Without one, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone, slaving away over a hot keyboard. But if your peer group makes you feel bullied, useless, incompetent or stupid, ditch them. If your peer group tells you everything you do is wonderful (and you don’t believe them), ditch them. Find a new group of writers to hang with, either online or in person. It can make all the difference.

(Note: Don’t ditch them as friends, family, or colleagues. Just stop using them as your peer group/critique partner/beta reader.)

5. Set a deadline. Then share it with your peer group, friends, family, and random strangers on the street.

My brother called a few days ago to say that he would be passing through the area (none of my family lives within 600km (380 miles) of each other) on Saturday, and to check it would be alright for him and his girlfriend to crash the night.

“Of course!” I said. I was delighted to have heard from him. He’s great company, and his girlfriend is awesome.

Then I realised… I’ve got my puzzle set up on the floor of the spare room. I can’t move it without breaking it into itty bitty pieces. (2000 of them, to be exact.) And I don’t have anywhere else for Brother and Girlfriend to sleep. So that means…

That means I have to finish the jigsaw before this Saturday.

No pressure or anything. But let me tell you, every spare minute I have, I’m fitting pieces into the puzzle. Will I meet the deadline? Absolutely. Even if I’m up all night Friday.

If you don’t have a deadline, it’s easy to procrastinate. Or spend time designing new ways to outline, or new systems for recording information, or researching, or cleaning your desk, or whatever else you do when you know you’re supposed to be writing but instead find a productive way to avoid it. So set yourself a deadline and tell everyone about it. Give people permission to check up on you. And then work to achieve that deadline.

(Caveat: Make your deadline achievable based on your situation, and don’t be bullied into doing otherwise. Watching an unachievable deadline fly past is akin to motivation-suicide.)

So, how’s the jigsaw going? See for yourself: 

Look how much I've done! Three days to go.

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Productive Procrastination and Subjectivity

My weekly writing wrap-up is 12 hours late. I know. But it’s still Wednesday, so I figure it’s not all bad. Besides, I’ve been busy… Okay, I don’t have any good excuses. Or even mediocre excuses. Mostly, I’ve got the kind of excuses that really add up to procrastination. But it’s all been completely justifiable, productive procrastination. Really.

This week, I was insanely excited to be the winner of Chuck Wendig‘s Friday Flash Fiction competition, with my story Wish You Were Here. The prize was one of Chuck’s ebooks, and I chose Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey. I’ve been procrastinating reading it for much of the week, and getting a lot out of it. If you haven’t read any/much of Chuck’s website, I’d highly recommend either diving headlong into his past posts, or picking up a copy of this book. It’s full of epic win. Oh, and drop by and read the other stories from this competition. It’s well worth it.

Of course, the euphoria of being the winner quickly transformed into a dire need to produce another good story for this week’s Flash Fiction Comp, the theme of which is: That poor, poor protagonist. If not a better story, then certainly one of comparable quality. Or at least one that doesn’t completely suck. And so I’ve spent far more time working on this piece of flash than I have my actual WIP.

Hmmm… That wasn’t really the idea. But… reading about writing… writing short stories… they’re both productive. So they’re not really procrastination. Right? Maybe?

So, long story short, (“Too late!”) I didn’t actually add a lot of word count to my novel this week. In fact, I only added *cringe* 600 words. But I DID write every day (even if 3 of those days were working on my Flash Fiction), so I’m now up to day 30 of my 100 Words Challenge.

In other writing news, I have been inspired by Stephen Watkins to enter a story into this quarter’s Writers of the Future competition. I’ve been editing and re-editing the story over the last two weeks. I’d love to have four or five people read it and give me some feedback/critique on it. If you’d be interested, please let me know.

I’ve spent much of this week thinking about the reaction that we get from others when they read our work. I put forward this statement:

Writing is Art. Art is subjective.

As I mentioned last week, I had a story receive an honourable mention in the recent Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award, and it was thusly published in an anthology. I requested feedback on the story, and received it this week. Part of the feedback was that of the three judges, two really liked my story (and rated it quite highly), but the third didn’t like it and didn’t want it published because s/he didn’t think it was new or different, and “nothing much happened”.

Subjectivity.

There’s absolutely nothing I could have changed about my writing that would have made that judge rank my story any higher. S/he didn’t like the story. Not because it was badly written, or because the writing was weak,  but because s/he thought the idea had been done before. And probably done better. The other judges thought that my storytelling made an “old” idea fresh and interesting. This judge didn’t want to read another story about time/space portals.

Subjectivity.

Now, it would be really easy to get upset, to yell and scream, to complain that you can’t judge the merits of a story on what you do or don’t like. But… Really? Everyone does. Why should a writing competition be any different to a fiction market, or an agent, or a publisher? Or, for that matter, a reader?

John Steinbeck is, by all accounts, an amazing writer. But I don’t like his books. I really don’t like them. I wouldn’t spend money on them. If I was a publisher, I wouldn’t have published them. On the other hand, look at Stephanie Meyer. Her “merits as a writer” are far and few between, but she has a huge following because people like her books. They like the stories, regardless of her writing ability.

Subjectivity.

And, you know what? I think that’s okay.

What do you think?

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Writing, Blogging, and Wearing Pants

Some weeks seem to go on forever, stretching like a piece of hot mozzarella. Others… Well, I’m not quite sure where the last seven days went. It doesn’t seem like I should be writing another writing wrap-up yet. But my calendar says its Wednesday, and who am I to argue? (If for no other reason than because the calendar is much better at stony silence than I am.)

I’m pleased to say that I’m now on day 16 of my 100 Words for 100 Days challenge. This week I wrote 1000 wordson my WIP, whic brought me to the end of chapter 2, and a good way through chapter 3. I’m also back to writing “new stuff”, which is super-double-exciting (as my 4-year-old would say). I’m really enjoying my writing, and am looking forward to continuing to nail those words to the page.

If you were reading last week, you may remember that I was a bit disappointed in myself when I only wrote 900 words for the week. A couple of people pointed out that I shouldn’t be disappointed when I’d succeeded in reaching my goal, and that set me to thinking.

What is my goal?

100 Words for 100 Days is great. It’s fantastic. It encourages me to write every day, rather than “saving up” for a couple of big writing days a week. And that’s why I started the challenge in the first place. (Which is why I can’t just “skip a day” and then continue with the challenge.) But writing 100 words every day doesn’t feel like much of an achievement. I want that 100 words to be the minimum acceptable level of writing, not the target.

That got me thinking about what I’m actually aiming for, and I was able to put it into words when I was talking with a great writing-buddy last Sunday. I’m going to put it out there now for everyone to see, and damn the torpedoes.

I want to finish the first draft of this novel by the end of October.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. (1) I also want to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, and it would be easier if I have finished this project and can move on to without guilt. (2) After NaNo, I will hopefully have achieved some emotional separation from this novel, and will be able to look at editing it in December. (3) At the beginning of the year, I said that I was going to take this year off work to concentrate on writing, so that I could prove to myself that I could make a career of it. (Alright, I was also having a baby, but let’s ignore that for the moment.) Finishing by the end of October gives me a better chance of doing so. (4) Because I damn well want to, and I’m just stubborn like that.

I still believe I can achieve this goal, but it means that I need to be writing almost 5000 words a week, not 1000. Something needs to change. A lot of somethings need to change. But the primary one is the amount of writing time I have on a daily basis.

My first thought was that I could save myself an hour or two every day if I sent my kids out to scavenge their own food on the streets, rather than spending all that time preparing, cooking, serving, and cleaning up dinner each night. But that seemed a little unfair. Especially since Baby can’t even crawl yet.

Instead, I’ve decided to cut back on blogging.

Up until now, I’ve been blogging every day. And loving it. But I can grant myself a bit extra time each week by cutting out a couple of posts, and I’ll still be posting 5 times a week. My new blogging schedule looks like this:

  • Monday: Monday’s Top 5 – A list of my 5 favourite posts from the blogosphere last week.
  • Tuesday: Flash Fiction – This may not happen every week, but will be a chance for me to stretch my storytelling muscles in a different direction, and share the results with you, my readers.
  • Wednesday: All things Writing – Incorporating my usual Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up and Friday’s Writing Thoughts.
  • Friday: Life As We Know It – Kids, Parenting, Opinions, and other Random Things.
  • Saturday: Books, Authors, and Other Geekery.

This is going to start as of ….. now. So wish me luck with writing rather than posting tomorrow!

In a mostly unrelated topic…

I don’t just spend my time writing long, rambling blog posts. I also spend it reading blogs. At last count, I was subscribed to just over 70 blogs through Google Reader. Of those 70, I’d hazard a guess that 50 are related to writing, writers, or publishing in some shape or form. So I read a lot of posts about how to write, how to edit, how to get an agent, how to get published, how to self-publish, etc. etc. etc. I also try to read as many of the comments other people post as possible.

Over the last week, I’ve become increasingly aware of how many people preface their comments with phrases like: “I’m a pantser, so I don’t…” or “I can’t do that, because I’m a planner…” or “Because I’m a pantser, I only….” or even “I’m part of the ‘planner’ club, and…”

Really? Because I don’t remember getting my secret decoder ring when I joined the panster club.

Now, I’m not saying that Pansters and Plotters don’t exist. But I didn’t think the two styles were so mutually exclusive that the skills of one don’t apply to the other. Nor did I think we were supposed to add our preferred style to the end of our name, like some kind of class designation. “Hello. I’m Jo Eberhardt – Panster Extraordinaire.”

(If there’s any non-writers still brave enough to be reading this, let me explain. Pansters sit and write by the “seat of their pants”, watching the story unfold as they do so. Plotters work out the plot first, often via a detailed outline, before they start to write.)

It’s easy to fall back on something like being a pantser or a plotter as a way of avoiding stepping outside our comfort zones. It’s not impossible to move from one camp to the other. It’s not impossible to use different styles for different projects. And while it may be helpful to understand your own preferred writing style, I don’t think it’s helpful to pigeon-hole yourself so tightly that you don’t expand your skill base.

What do you think?

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The Cure for All that Ails You

I don’t have an office. I don’t have a study nook. I don’t even have a nice, quiet out-of-the-way place to sit at my computer and write. I don’t even have a real desk.

My computer is set up on a tiny, old 4-seater dining table. It’s in the living area. Well, kind of the main thoroughfare between the hallway (to the bedrooms) and the outdoor area, right next to the kitchen. The advantage to this is that I can always see what the kids are up to. The disadvantage is that I don’t ever have the chance to closet myself away from everything, and focus on what I’m doing.

To make matters worse, I have no window to look out of – just a blank, white wall behind my monitor. I’ve tried sticking pieces of white paper with motivational quotes on to it, but it doesn’t really help. It’s still a blank wall that sucks away my creativity and makes me feel like I’m sitting in a dungeon. My monitor is raised on a stack of old phone books. My notes are stacked in an old “pigeon-hole” set up that takes up over half the desk space. To sit in front of my monitor, I have to squeeze my chair so far to the left, My leg is pressed up against the table leg. And there’s not even enough free space to open an A5 notebook beside me.

Whew.

Talk about a non-creative space.

Yes, yes, I know. People write novels on paper napkins. Or in notebooks, 100 words at a time. Or in a local cafe.

People do.

But that doesn’t mean I want to.

So I went stationery shopping yesterday. I spent an hour drooling over new desks, awesome office chairs, and “luxuries” like these:

I filled a basket with notebooks, pens, highlighters, mini-whiteboards, colourful whiteboard markers, magnets, more pens, folders, sticky notes, a matching mousepad and notebook, another few notebooks, a series of matching archive boxes, and multi-shaped post-it notes. Then I added up my would-be purchases and realised that it was going to cost me almost $500.

So I put it all back.

Then I decided on a colour scheme (black fixtures & yellow stationery), and carefully picked: a single archive box with yellow drop-folders, a black folder stand & yellow manilla folders, a black pen holder, some yellow cardboard, a box of “stationery all sorts” like paperclips, pegs and mini-bulldog clips, and one (only one) notebook.

I was so excited to set up my new desk space. The yellow reminds me of sunshine and happiness, and also makes it feel less like I’m sitting in a cold, dark dungeon. I also used some pretty wrapping paper to cover up the old phonebooks my monitor is sitting on.

Aaaahhh..

I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture, but my “after” picture looks like this:

(As an added bonus, my husband tells me that the bright colour scheme is sure to scare off any intruders…)

What do you think – is buying stationery a good way to spice up your creativity? Or just a more creative way to procrastinate?

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Writing with Kids

I’m so motivated right now. I woke up feeling on top of the world. I’m ready to write. The ideas are running through my mind like wildfire. Give me that keyboard!

“Good morning, Mummy.”

A quick delay for good morning cuddles and kisses. There’s nothing quite like a cuddle from my four-year-old. He puts his whole body into it. I give him more cuddles, get him dressed, make him some breakfast, and get him settled watching one of his favourite shows in the lounge room. (Octonauts, you rock.) Then back to the computer to get started. My fingers are jumping with barely-restrained energy.

“Waaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaah!”

Baby’s awake. A long, soulful look at the computer screen (I haven’t even opened my WIP yet) and then into the nursery. Cuddles for baby, change his nappy, get him dressed, and take him out to the lounge to feed him. Big Brother cuddles up next to me, alternately snuggling with me and kissing Baby on the head. I smile and enjoy the moment. There’s plenty of time to write later today–how often do we get moments like this?

Baby’s fed and burped. I put him on his bouncer, get him settled, grab myself something quick for breakfast, and sit back down at the computer. I open my WIP.

” Mummy, can you play with me? Please?”

I look at Big Brother’s big blue eyes and hopeful expression. “Just for a few minutes, then Mummy needs to get back to work.” We play cars. And then blocks. And then I set him up with a new colouring book and some crayons, and escape back to the computer. It’s mid-morning and I’m not even dressed. I weigh up the options, and then dash off for a quick shower and some clean clothes. I’m back within 15 minutes. I sit down again – now I’m ready to get started.

“Waaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaah!”

Seriously – Baby’s hungry again?! Maybe he’ll go to sleep if I give him this dummy. No. Right. I get up, cuddle baby, change his nappy, go into the lounge room and feed him. Big Brother plays with a bat and ball, and I keep reminding him to be careful not to hit it towards Baby. Eventually the inevitable happens. Baby cries. Big Brother cries. I feel like crying. Cuddles all round. Baby calms down and drifts off to sleep in my arms. Big Brother calms down, but feels terribly guilty and keeps wanting to cuddle and kiss Baby. This wakes Baby up. He starts to cry. Big Brother starts to cry. I calm them both down, put Baby back in his bouncer, and cuddle Big Brother until he feels better. Back to the computer.

“Mummy, I’m hungry.”

Right. It’s almost lunch-time. I give Big Brother a chocolate bar to tide him over until lunch. My fingers are itching to get to work, and I want to capture the ideas I had this morning before my brain turns to treacle and runs out my ears. I sit down and rest my fingers on the keyboard. Then I realise that my computer has gone into Hibernate-Mode. I press the button to restart it.

“Mummy, I’m finished. Can I please have a chocolate milkshake, please?”

One chocolate milkshake coming right up. I give it to Big Brother, settle him back in front of the TV, and realise that I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. I stop by the kitchen on the way back, make some coffee, grab a chocolate bar for myself and head back to my computer. There’s a knock on the door.

I stand at the door while someone tries to sell me something and Big Brother dances around me asking them what their name is, and if they want to be his friend. I tell the salesperson I’m not interested and close the door. Big Brother looks like I’ve just kicked his imaginary puppy.

“Why didn’t you let my friend come in?” he asks plaintively. I feel like the worst mother ever. “I’m so lonely.” No, now I feel like the worst mother ever. I look longingly over at the computer and wish I could put words on a page just by thinking about them. Then I suggest to Big Brother that we play a game. One game of Pirate-Snakes-and-Ladders later, and he seems to have forgotten the trauma. Back to the computer.

“Mummy, I’m hungry.”

Lunch time. Damn it. And my computer’s Hibernating again. I switch the computer back on, head into the kitchen, and make a salad for Big Brother. My stomach growls while I’m doing it, so I make some for myself as well. I sit down and take a deep breath. What was my idea, again? I try to refocus my mind while I quickly chew my way through my lunch. By the time I’m finished eating, I’ve remembered the plot-twist I wanted to write this morning. I put my hands on the keyboard and type: The

“Waaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaah!”

girl looked

“Waaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaah!”

over her

“Waaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaah!”

Okay, ignoring Baby doesn’t make him stop crying. And I have a headache. I pick up Baby, and take him to change his nappy. He’s done the biggest poo in existence. I get it on my hand. I do the icky-poo dance where I abandon wiping his bottom so that I can clean my own hand and dance around in a circle waving it madly as though that will get rid of germs. Then I finish changing Baby and use hand sanitizer – not as much fun, but much more effective.

Baby is hungry. Again. I head into the lounge room and feed him. Big Brother is still eating lunch, and I practice deep breaths in a vain attempt to enter some kind of creative trance while feeding Baby and watching the trains of Sodor Island on their latest adventure.

“Mummy, I’m thirsty.”

“I’m just feeding Baby, honey. Can you get your own juice out of the fridge?”

“But I want a chocolate milkshake.”

“I can’t get up at the moment. I’m feeding Baby.”

“Please can I have a chocolate milkshake?”

“No. Go and get your juice.”

Big Brother does as he’s told, and starts drinking his juice. I let my mind drift back to my WIP….

“Mummy, I’m all wet.”

Big Brother has spilled his juice all over himself. I tell him I can’t get up, and he’ll have to wait a few minutes. He starts to cry. I tell him to come over so I can cuddle him. He really is all wet. Now my shirt’s all wet, too. It’s insanely uncomfortable. I put Baby down so that I can take Big Brother and change his shirt.

“Waaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

No time to change my shirt. I leave it the way it is. I go back and finish feeding Baby. Then Baby vomits on me.

I settle Baby and he goes to sleep. I settle Big Brother in the lounge room. I go back to the computer. It’s gone to sleep again. Just like my brain. I can’t remember what my WIP is. It suddenly occurs to me that my shirt is covered in juice and vomit. I go and change. I realise that I’m almost out of clean clothes. So is everyone else. I put on the washing. Big Brother hears me doing it, and heads in to “help”. It takes almost an hour to sort the dirty clothes, put the first load in the washing machine, resort the dirty clothes, take the clean clothes off the line, re-sort the dirty clothes and tell Big Brother that they aren’t leaves and he can’t jump in piles of them, fold the clean clothes, put the kids’ clothes away, re-fold the clothes and tell Big Brother that laying them out on the bed in order of colour isn’t actually helping, and then put the last of the clothes away. Then the washing machine is done, and I can put on a second load and hang out the first. Then back to the computer. Finally.

“Mummy, I’m bored. Please can you play a game with me?”

I’d like to say no, but I don’t remember what I’m working on. I’m not sure I even remember how to un-hibernate the computer. Un-hibernate. Is that a word?

Husband comes home. I’m collapsed on the couch. Big Brother is staring at the TV screen. A half-finished game of snap is still laid out between us.

“Hi, Honey. How was your day? What’s for dinner? Did you get a lot of writing done?”

“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

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Critiquing the Critique

I mentioned in my last Writing Wrap-up that I’d asked four different people to provide me with a review and critique of my story, A Rose by Any Other Name.

The people who I asked to critique the story are all quite differen:.one is a published writer, one an unpublished writer, one a writer & editor of a magazine, and one a voracious reader. They all have different levels of education, generally read different styles & genres of books, and have differing views on the value of fiction overall. The only thing they all have in common is that I trust each of them to give me honest feedback.

On looking over the four critiques, the overall result was really interesting. Here’s some stats for your (and my) enjoyment:

  • The number of comments/corrections/critiques made by each individual (in descending order): 33, 23, 12, 6
  • Instances of contradictory comments: 2
  • Instances of multiple people commenting on the same issue: 4

Overall, the four people involved all found different problems and mistakes. Of the four instances where there were multiple comments on the same issue, two were typos that were pointed out, and the other two were contradictory suggestions.

A quick bit of maths will tell you that I now had 68 comments. Obviously I didn’t agree that every single one of those items needed to be changed (although I took all comments on board and considered them). So I thought it would be interesting to look at how many of each of the aforementioned comments by each individual was actioned. Why? Well, there’s a big difference between pointing out 33 issues, and pointing out 6. I wondered whether or not suggesting more changes resulted in more changes being made.

So, here’s the result:

  • 33 comments, 6 changes made
  • 23 comments, 18 changes made
  • 12 comments, 10 changes made
  • 6 comments, 4 changes made
  • Total changes made: 34

I’m not sure what this proves, other than that it’s definitely worthwhile having multiple people critique your work. Or possibly it proves that I over-think things, and spend too much time thinking about writing than actually writing…

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