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Pitfall 1: Wasting Precious Time

Updated on September 1, 2010
I put my feet up as often as I can possibly manage.  My feet can often be seen in this position, although in the colder months they will be adorned with thick socks, and probably not flip flops.
I put my feet up as often as I can possibly manage. My feet can often be seen in this position, although in the colder months they will be adorned with thick socks, and probably not flip flops.

Procrastination and Avoidance

When I first started to write fiction - only two and half years ago - I fell into such a good pattern of writing, filling every spare second with thoughts about my story, writing notes and character sketches and parts of scenes whenever I could, that I assumed I was a complete natural. Oh yes, this writing game was going to be easy, and I would have my best-seller written and on the shelves at Waterstone's within eighteen months (har har!). I had finally found the thing that I was good at, and there would be nothing and no-one to stop us this time ... oh no, hang on, I think that was actually Darth Vader on crushing the rebellion. Sorry.

Well, time has gone by, and as you have never heard of me - I'm Linda Anne Rawlinson, self-professed 'wordsmith', mmm - it's obvious that things have not gone according to plan. The novelty has worn off, certainly, and I have encountered many glorious problems in writing a novel (just as all the books said I might!). But I am also a self-confessed lazy person (as I stated in the hub entitled 'Hubbing!'). The following quote reflects the procrastinating side of my personality pretty well I think, and it has started to pop into my head quite a lot.

'If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces.  It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.'  Portia, Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 2, l.13.

He was right clever was that Shakespeare. He has a line for everyone, he does. I have found many over the years that apply directly to me, as I'm sure have many people. Astonishing isn't it, that words written some four hundred years ago should still ring true to us in today's twisted world? What wouldn't any of us give for a time machine, to pop along to points in the future to discover if our work had endured for half so long?

I have now fallen into a pattern of not writing, which, for a writer (albeit a complete amateur, let us be frank) is extremely counter-productive, as you may well imagine. I do sit down at my usual writing times (Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, as well as most evenings) and go through the motions of pretending to write something. I think I have fallen into some kind of writing pit, since I have given myself so many things to do to avoid writing the actual thing that I want to write, and I have become trapped. Two and a half years ago I had only a few letters to write each month, and my book to work on. Now I have added Facebook, Twitter, Hubpages (aah, beautiful), a couple of new penpals, short story competition entries, an extra novel to write, a photographic journal of my children, a personal diary where I write all my negative thoughts, and my blog.

Now, I think all of these writing projects would be manageable - other people manage it, our beloved Stephen Fry seems to be everywhere at once! - if I would just calm down about them all and work through them steadily. Instead I flit about from one thing to another, always plumping for the easiest option, never properly concentrating on anything because the other jobs are constantly jostling with each other for a place at the front of my mind. At the point in my life when I need to be beautifully focused, I am completely disorganised. I've never been disorganised before! Should I give up some of my projects? Facebook is a luxury, not a necessity - but it's useful for keeping up one's profile and sharing work; one just has to be careful not to lose whole evenings to it, as I do, frequently. But no, I don't think there is any need to give up anything.

Part of the solution is to not put the easiest task first every evening. The hardest piece of work - undoubtedly that's the novel, even when the words are pouring out too quickly for me to write them down - should be tackled first, and the other things should be used as rewards and treats for good behaviour. When a writer is subconsciously trying anything and everything to avoid doing the most important job, that writer must deal with herself as she might deal with a seven-year-old son who does not want to face his maths homework. Hard stuff first, easy stuff last. Or a food analogy: if you eat your peas first, then you can enjoy your Yorkshire puddings in peace.

The whole solution is simple, of course. I must make a list of priorities, and I must stick to it, rigidly. I will do this. Let us see how I get on. (Or is the act of making a list a badly disguised attempt to put off writing?! Aha!)

The moral of this hub is: be honest with yourself, don't put off until tomorrow what absolutely should be done immediately, and set a time limit of ten minutes on your use of social networking sites!

I may well compose many hubs about the pitfalls I encounter along the way (I foresee one entitled 'Hubbing when I should be writing my novel/playing with my children/cleaning my house/getting some fresh air...') But, erelong, I hope to also have a group of hubs under the heading of Writing Successes!

Some books that I have found very useful - but don't use them as a reason to put off writing for even longer!


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