We have all had those days. Those ones where you have time to get things done; when you have hours to spend writing, crafting characters, creating worlds, and then…
You get out of bed as planned, you boil the kettle, settle down in your favourite writing spot, and you get stuff done. For about an hour you are productive and everything is going great. And then…
Oh…the ‘and then’.
To the world of literature the term ‘and then’ is absolutely soul crushing. It is the equivalent of saying ‘but’ before something offensive, it is the deep breath before the plunge, the harrowing silence before a jump scare.
So how does it happen? It creeps up on you; you do not notice it until it is too late. Maybe the alarm went off offensively, or your coffee burned the roof of your mouth, perhaps the weather outside is bipolar and your muses all went away for the weekend. Before you know it – you’re procrastinating. Procrasti-baking, procrasti-napping, binge watching Game of Thrones, online shopping, surfing the web…and doing everything and anything that is not productive, constructive, or in any way paramount for your story.
This is problematic for your writing, but it does not actually have to be a problem. When you are a procrastinator you need to learn how to PROcrastinate. This is not about being a pro at procrastination, it is about learning how to embrace every little ‘and then’ moment and use them to your advantage. So in a weird little way embracing your procrastination helps you break the habit.
Let us start early. You woke up late/You got home late. You have less time than expected and it sucks. There are a tonne of things to do including washing your hair, vacuuming the floor, Facebook stalking your ex…SO MUCH TO DO. You know there is a lot to do. You see it and it freaks you out. Then, because you are freaking out, you worry about how little time you will have to write and you get frustrated. Then you procrastinate and you do nothing except eat dry toast and pull stray threads from your socks. It is not at all how you wanted to spend your time.
Time is the trick here. Embrace it – there is so little. You know you need to write, so hop in the shower and wash your hair, put in a deep conditioner, and then go settle down with your notepad or computer and write until you have to head back to the shower. You have to vacuum. Do so with music that inspires your writing, or do it while thinking about that tricky plot point you’re perpetually stuck on. This may actually help your writing process by offering a fresh angle – one that isn’t brooding in front of a blank page. Facebook stalking your ex is not recommended. Just don’t do it.
Slowly but surely you are turning your ‘and then’ moments from: “And then I had to vacuum so I didn’t have time to write” to “and then I had to vacuum so I had plenty of time to think about character development”.
Look at you procrastinating and getting stuff done at the same time.
You are a writer – so write. Let your world create other worlds no matter how much, or how little, time you have.
Another dilemma. The HANGRY dilemma. Hangry is a term that refers to the mood you’re in when you’re so hungry that you get angry. This does not necessarily mean that you are hungry for food, but maybe you’re hungry for a sunny day, or you are angry that you broke your favourite shoes and desperately need a new pair. Either way – there is a void in you that needs to be filled and it’s made you grumpy and unproductive. The easy way out is to sit on the sofa and pull at the threads on your socks. Again.
But you are a writer and if that has taught you anything it is that great moments are very rarely easy. So what do you do?
Step 1 – Take a breath. Your shoes are broken and that’s okay. Its raining but you can’t do anything about it. Your stomach is growling but there is food in the fridge.
Step 2 – Make your ‘and then’ a positive experience. You did not wake up late ‘and then’ break your shoes. You woke up late, broke your shoe, ‘and then’ you channeled all of that frustration into writing.
Step 3: Aim. Aim to utilise your ‘Hangry’ mood for good and not evil. If you’re hungry, eat something. If you’re grumpy, write a grumpy scene. Skip ahead, look back, and put your passionate loathing and frustration into your story. Talk to your characters, argue with them, attack that frustrating little chapter that is always getting you down. Eat something, look after yourself, and then get down to business.
Welcome to the internet. If you write on a computer then you know all about the distracting nature of Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…etc. It is a vortex, it is a trap. You find yourself saying “I was being so productive – I wrote 20 pages of story! And then…”
And then you found a cat video. That cat video became a video about a cat singing Beyonce. Then you’re watching interviews with Beyonce. Now you’re on her Instagram. It is an endless cycle and you let the ‘and then’ murder the time you had to write.
You were going to be productive today and instead you ended up watching someone’s tabby cat meow to the tune of ‘Single Ladies’. It’s frustrating and frustratingly inevitable some days. Yet you have more power than that. Utilize the internet as a break. Write for ten minutes and then watch a video. Write for another ten minutes before checking Twitter. Your writing time may feel like it goes on and on forever, but soon you’ll get into it. You’ll find your rhythm and your swing and you won’t need the break. Two pages become twenty, your prologue seamlessly fits into chapter 1, and the plot points of your story have never been clearer.
“I started writing ‘and then’ I could not stop.”
It is so easy to become distracted. It is even easier to procrastinate intentionally; to push things aside until you’ve done this and that. You are a writer and that is both a beautiful and difficult thing. You are going to have days where you want to accomplish the world but it just isnt going your way. You got up early…and then you remembered that you had not vacuumed in days. You felt a surge of inspiration…and then, ten minutes later you find yourself engrossed with Netflix.
Now though, now you know how to change it. You know how to turn the negativity of procrastination into positivity. You know how to take care of everything that needs to be done whilst also making progress with your story. You know how to turn a bad moment/hour/day into a step forward. You even know how to utilize a cat video as part of the writing process.
But do you know what the most important thing is? You know you can do it. You know that you can be a PROcrastinator and make your own distraction a force of productive power.
So start writing. Just get on it and get going, and when you hit a slump, continue to find another way forward. You are your own plot device and unless you breathe life into your stories on a daily basis they will remain still and untouched. Wash your hair and think about it. Vacuum and develop it. Reward yourself for every milestone.