Procrastinating, prevaricating, postpone, put off, prorogue (yes, it is a word) and other things beginning with P

I’m the worst. I love writing, I love creating new characters, new situations,, new plots. But I also love interacting with people. Since the advent of social networking, I have spent far less time writing that I have Tweeting and Facebooking, and since when does a noun automatically have the ability to become a verb?

I have three problems which ‘stop’ me writing productively:
* I get distracted easily
* I get overwhelmed by the tasks I want to complete
* I never seem to find time to write.

I came upon two great blog posts recently. The first was from Clair King, recently signed to Bloomsbury for her first novel, and it talked about puppies. Not nice ones, though. You should read it. it’s damned fine .: Claire King’s Blog :. She talks about “puppies”, interrupting your thought processes and work. This is one of the key points:

So the idea is to train the puppies. When you notice a thought popping up which is not the ‘in and out’ of breathing, you do not pick it up and cuddle it, let it lick your nose. No. You say ‘Hello, puppy. I’m busy right now so sit down. We’ll play later. Sit. No, sit. Sit!’ And you go back to thinking about your breath.

So that’s stage one. Understanding what the problem is.

When I got a new laptop, I was pleased that I could use the new whizzy one for all of my internet stuff (30-odd tabs open in my browser at all times – nuts or what?), and the older one could be used for writing! Brilliant! And to encourage myself, I’d turn off the WiFi on the old one, so when I was officially “writing”, I couldn’t meander around the internet. FAIL! What do I do? I have my writing laptop open, new work in progress, little edit window for things I need to check up on later – and my other laptop open behind, showing Facebook and with Tweetdeck running in the background. D’oh! Not good.

So now we come to me being overwhelmed by the number of tasks. I have several projects in my head right now, and several more projects that I would love to work on, if only I could spare the time.
And then I read another great blog post from Dean Wesley Smith .: Dean’s Blog :. One of the key things I picked out of that post, though:

So if a person spent 15 minutes per day and wrote 250 words, that person would finish a novel in one year.

Now, if that person spent 1/2 hour per day on writing and created 500 words per day, they would finish 2 novels per year and be considered prolific by many people.

Write 1,000 words per day, or about an hour, and in 270 days you would have finished three novels. And that means you would only have to do that five days a week to write three novels per year. In other words, it doesn’t take many hours to be considered prolific.

Wow! What? This really struck home with me. I can type pretty fast – my NaNoWriMo stuff gets typed at around 1,000 words an hour, so I’m right on the money, according to Dean.

And here we come to the third problem. I can’t find time to write.

Why not? Well, by the time I set myself up, get all my notes together, make a cup of tea – well, there’s just not enough time to write anything meaningful.


I’m trying to find at least two hours free so I can write properly, but that’s never going to happen. For one, I have a very busy life. And for another, I get distracted at the drop of an email notification. So what to do?

The answer is in three parts:
* I’m to put all distractions to one side. They’re not important. Well, probably not. Don’t be checking social networking and email and RSS feeds and book sales every ten minutes.
* I must stop putting self-imposed timescales on everything. Write when I have the time, and don’t get overwhelmed by trying to finish something too soon. The book buyers will be there tomorrow, and they’ll be there for years after if I write well.
* I need to get used to writing in small doses. Accept that I’m unlikely to get two hours without any interruptions, and write for half an hour.

I think this will work. If I only concentrate on one project at a time (I know, obvious, but I get enthusiastic), I won’t get overwhelmed, and the books will come out when they come out, when they’re finished and when I’m happy with the writing.

And now I’ve finished this blog post, I’m just going to make a cup of tea, feed the dog, check … well, at least I’ve written for half an hour without stopping.


12 thoughts on “Procrastinating, prevaricating, postpone, put off, prorogue (yes, it is a word) and other things beginning with P

    1. geraldhornsby Post author

      Hi L.C.
      Yes, you do. I do. Lots of us need to concentrate on what we do best, which is writing. And don’t forget – the best marketing strategy is to write more books.

  1. Libby

    The best advice, and the only thing that seems to work for me, as I am as distractable as you, is to set a timer for 40 minutes. During that time, you write. You don’t revise. You write fresh material. You dont email, FB, answer the door, or the phone. When the timer goes off, you stop. Even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Go check your email, your forums, etc. Because you’ve left off in the middle, the thinking is you;ll return to the material soone.

    The rest of the time, you edit. Polish. revise. It sounds simple. And it works.

    1. geraldhornsby Post author

      Great idea, Libby. I may adopt that. The strange thing is – once I’m writing, I really love it, and don’t want to stop. One of these days, I’ll just unplug the damned router cable. That’ll teach me.

  2. Kate Bowyer

    Hi Gerald, I totally understand being distracted by all the different stories fluttering around just waiting to get out and on paper. But for me I can only work on one project at a time, so whenever I think of a new story idea I quickly write it down and put it away with all my other ideas. This way I know I won’t forget it and can come back to it after I’m done with my current work in progress.

    I also am trying to look at ‘time’ differently. I use to think I needed a large block of time to write but like you I’m trying to learn to take advantage of small amounts of time to write.

    What also has helped my procrastination with writing is to have a weekly ‘to do’ list which helps me stay more focused because shiny keys also distract me quite easily if I let them.

    Finally the only thing I turn off is my email when I’m writing. I can’t stand the distraction of the pop-up alerts every time an email comes in. I need the browser open though because when I want to research something or need to look something up I can’t let it go till later and need to take care of it right then and there and then I can continue writing.

    The really good news though is that I actually didn’t procrastinate this morning and sat down and wrote for over an hour.

    Thanks for the post, it’s always nice to know that I’m in good company when it comes to being a procrastinator.

  3. geraldhornsby Post author

    Hi Kate

    Thanks for the comments. I really think this partitioning of time is the way forward. Instead of being overwhelmed by the thought of needing to write 5,000 words by the end of the day, I write what I can, when I can. And, in the first draft phase, I’m not going to put deadlines on my writing. All I do is take shortcuts, write too much dialogue, and put down any old rubbish words just to make the word target.

    I think what I’ll do is to use a different browser for research. This will stop me hitting the bookmarks or the history to get to my favourite websites, and wasting my time.

    I’ve had a good day today, and finally amalgamated my two collections of short stories, and published them to Lulu for a larger print book. So that’s a task ticked off, that I don’t need to fret about any more.

    So, tonight and tomorrow, I can concentrate on my next novel.

  4. Madison Johns

    I so can identify with what you’re saying. I work 7p-7a shift at the hospital, only three days a week. I wish I had the focus to write in the morning when I get home. The fact is we’re all busy and I found it difficult to keep on my current novel. I took my time and finished it in a year (rough draft). I allowed myself to be delayed by self doubt, and more bullshit than you’d care to hear about. Truth is I could have finished my novel in half the time. Going online definitely sidelines you, but at the same time you don’t want to be one of those people that only post something when you have something interesting happening. Maybe I don’t have anything good happening, but I feel I need to try and connect with facebook friends. I can see this also as a downfall. All everyone pays attention to is when you have something out there, and we all need to writer more novels, and forget about everything else.

  5. geraldhornsby Post author

    Hi Madison
    Thanks for your comments. My solution, as I see it, is to split my time into smaller sections. I’m never going to be able to find six hours to spend thrashing out my writing in one hit, which I think is what it needs, sometimes. What I need to do is to write in smaller ‘chunks’. So, if I write for half an hour, or maybe a whole hour, then ‘do’ something else (housework, making food, walking the dog, or even wandering around online). If I can restrict that to a fixed amount of time (say, 10-15 minutes, or maybe half an hour), and then go back to writing.

    I think we all have images in our heads of a struggling writer, beavering away in their tiny room at their magnum opus. Things have changed, and more of us can be successful at both writing and marketing, but the danger is we get so carried away with the marketing (i.e. getting out name out there through forums and Facebook and Twitter), we forget what we’re here for – and that’s writing.

    Interesting points though. Thanks to taking time to stop by.


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