October 27, 2014 | By | 26 Replies More

12322796_10154229205330934_4530497123530850560_oI’m just over halfway through writing my novel and the whole process reminds me of the one time I went on a diet. I started it on the Monday morning, which is of course the Law of Diets, and by Tuesday lunchtime I was feeling a little bit thinner and very virtuous.

Look at me, I thought, I’m a proper woman now, I pluck my eyebrows, I own a clutch bag and I am on a diet; where’s my badge? In my head I was all svelte and lovely.

Great, I thought, I can eat normally again now as I’ll just have a little bit of crap and then do a bit more of that dieting thing that I’m obviously so good at tomorrow and it’ll all be fine.
Except I didn’t.

And so it is with writing. I write a few thousand words and then feel very accomplished and virtuous. Look at me, I think, I’m a proper writer now. I have a word count, a fully developed plot in my head and I can picture it all. I know who I want to play the main character in the film, I know the song they’ll play over the film trailer and I have my acceptance speech planned for when I win shed loads of book awards.

I’ve done so much writing I can afford to look at some internet fluff for a little while, to let my brain rest, like a finely-tuned athlete stopping for an isotonic drink and a wee at the side of the road during a marathon.

Then two months go by. Like a failed dieter sat amongst a pile of crispy crème crumbs I look up from the laptop and realise that watching kittens on the internet throwing buckets of cold water over themselves while doing quizzes to find out what Simpsons character they should have been in a past life, isn’t really writing.

But over the last 6 months I’ve learnt a lot about how I write and it seems that procrastination is a major part of it, it’s how I am and the more I fight it, the worse I’ll be. I’ve read so many different writing tips, all highly recommended by other proper writers, but all they do is make me feel bad. I don’t get up at 5am to write before my children get up. I don’t make myself hit a certain word count target every day. I don’t have a special routine or pen or shed. I think of things to write, I write, I don’t think of things to write, I don’t write. Everyone has their own writing rhythm. Mine involves quite a lot of nothing.

Times when I go for a walk for half an hour just listening to music. Times when I’m sat in the car daydreaming, times when I sit and read for a whole afternoon, times when I wander round the internet watching nonsense. All of these times aren’t wasted, they’re when the ideas come. I need to re-set my brain and empty it, delete a few things and then let it fill up again slowly.

And then I start again. I open up the file, re-read the last chapter and manically flail about on the keyboard for a few hours, afterwards staring at what I’ve written and wondering where the hell all that came from. This is how I write and as much as I admire you, Stephen King, you’re just going to have to deal with that.

I also think that in my case, procrastination is a little bit of a defence mechanism. While this novel is yet to be completed there’s every chance that it will be great. It can be whatever my imagination wants it to be, the possibilities are endless. But once it’s finished, that’s when reality kicks in and maybe I’m not ready for that yet. Maybe I’ll find that I can’t write fiction after all, that the thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 12 is not the thing I was meant to do.

I should maybe point out that I’m only writing this blog post because I got stuck on a tricky bit of dialogue in the middle of a chapter. And I only sat down to write that chapter because I’m avoiding tidying my desk. So you see, to conclude, procrastination is a good thing. Discuss.

Tracy Kuhn is a freelance linguist and writer who lives in York, England, with her husband and two daughters. She has had several short stories published in a variety of magazines, and has a flash fiction story in an anthology: ‘100 RPM – One Hundred Stories Inspired By Music’. She has always written in a variety of genres and is currently working on a YA novel.  You can follow Tracy on twitter @Tracy_Kuhn or visit her blog volvodiaries.



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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

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  1. Procrastination | Pamela Turton | December 1, 2015
  1. Jo says:

    Love this – I feel exactly the same Tracy. I’m still wrestling with guilt over not being ‘productive’ yet today, but working on allowing myself this time to reflect, review, read and process – learning to be a better writer by engaging with the world. (even though it feels like blatant skiving off!).

    thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Randy Kraft says:

    Love your acceptance. No formula and one size definitely does not fit all writers. I need the day to day to stay on point, and makes me happy, but now and then, a break, not procrastination, rather thought. We work how we work. Cheers.

  3. Lorrie B says:

    Well said, fellow writer… there is no right or wrong way to be an artist. It has to be organic. Some of us write in our head until it explodes, some of us require the discipline, others are happy to sprout a poem once a year. Whatever makes your heart dance is where you want to be…

  4. Antonia says:

    I totally understand! I just posted something to this effect on twitter a few days ago. I have reset periods myself and often find that when I come back to what I’m writing, it’s like going out doors when you’re at a party, taking a few deep breaths then going back in and partying more. I love it. Don’t change. If this is what it takes to write something incredible by all means, have at it.

  5. Tracy, obviously you’ve struck a chord here. Thanks for sharing what so many of us are feeling. I think the writing process is unique for everyone, but clearly most of us need some time to clear our thoughts so the good stuff can rush in. I absolutely love that heady feeling of “Where did THAT come from?”

  6. Love this post, Tracy! Funny and relatable.

  7. Yes, yes, and yes, down the point about Stephen King having to deal with it! LOL! I was nodding my head in agreement throughout the entire blog post, although I do tend to limit my online time. I installed Mac Freedom and am really enjoying it. But I just can’t write every day. As much as I’ve tried, and tried, and tried–when I force myself to, I end up totally drained and then might not write for weeks. It just doesn’t work. I need that time in-between to recharge. That’s just the way it is for me and I’ve stopped beating myself up over it and have come to realize that it’s okay. 🙂

  8. Pam says:

    So glad you got stuck and wrote this. I relate to so much of it. I don’t enforce word counts or get up at 5 am. I have a 3,000 word day followed by a 500 word week. I blame it on the stress of my day job. But what it really is that I need that time to empty and fill my brain, to live and to PLAY. I write less because I do need playtime, but I truly believe that what I write comes out better because of it.

  9. Thank you for this article. I spent a week getting up before the children to write – I wanted to sleep again 9am. To write, you just need to find the rhythm that works for you. Nice to hear someone else say that.

  10. Angela Zemp says:

    I think that what you are calling procrastination, I prefer to call “creative charging’. I find that all the non-writing activities help the ideas flow…and then when I feel the need, I translate those ideas into stories. If I was regimented with my writing, I think I would be sitting looking at a blank screen most of the time. That’s just not the way my brain works!

    Do I get a badge too? 😀

  11. gill rossini says:

    Great article! I totally agree that many apparently “inspirational” and fearsomely disciplined writers just frighten those of us who do procastinate. I adhere to the precept of Winston Churchill’s that “masterly inactivity” can be a most valuable tactic. Thanks!

  12. lonestarsky says:

    Love all of this! I constantly feel that I’m not a ‘proper’ writer because I don’t do all these things I should be doing – get up early, write every day, only work on one novel at a time etc etc etc – but this is a great reminder that we all have our own ways of writing and of dealing with writing. I too procrastinate a LOT (at least, it seems like a lot) but I find it refreshes me. Writing becomes a chore if I force myself when I really don’t want to, and I end up resentful, blocked and not writing at all.

  13. I am an emerging writer. This means I am disguised as an accountant and then I write when I have time/energy/muse help/inspiration. I procrastinate by making sure my desk is cleared of clutter, the house is vacuumed, the dishes are done, and I have taken my walk for the day. But the walk for the day and the vacuuming and the warm suds of the water aren’t all bad. Today, while walking, I rewrote the ending to the short story I’m writing. I invented a chapter for the novel I’m also working on regarding a compulsive character while I vacuumed. Is it procrastination? I think not. I probably could have done without honing my skills cooking candied walnuts, however. Thanks for the great writing!

  14. This is very much the way I “write” as well. I am constantly moving from one project or another, all of the involving writing and a whole lot of nothing in between. What warms my heart more is seeing other stepping out of the woodwork to admit the same, making me feel as though I’m not alone in my crazy version of the title “author”. GREAT post!

  15. Linda says:

    Oh wow,what a comforting read. I can so identify with those comments. You speak for a lot of people and inspire me to carry on writing in my way. Procrastination, you are my friend.

  16. Caroline de Lange says:

    Oh this is me!!!! I seem to need a certain amount of time pressure to do anything. It feels good to know I might actually be normal!!

    • Tracy Kuhn says:

      I was like that at school too, and as an adult when I went back to college, I’d wait until the last minute and then whip up an essay just in time.
      I’m sure there’s probably a very impressive sounding, scientific, technical name for this. We should fine it out (or make one up) and have badges made 🙂

      • I refer to it as being “motivated by deadlines.” Just heard a great quote from another writer “I like to write for a thing that’s due on a day.” The big wide open possibility of time and blank space is daunting…the tight window of a due date for an essay is identifiable. I’d like a badge, please, as soon as they’re ordered 🙂

  17. This is brilliant. And this is just what it feels like. And you’re right, when you say, “While this novel is yet to be completed there’s every chance that it will be great.” So . . . is that the *real* truth behind the procrastination? Since I have yet to identify why I write everything else under the sun except my novel, I’m searching . . .

  18. You’re describing me, except I live in India. 🙂

  19. Fran says:

    I always feel intimidated when I hear writers saying, ‘Writing is like breathing to me. I write every spare second I have. If I didn’t write, I’d die.’ It makes me think I’m not a proper writer. What you’re saying is much more like reality!

    • Tracy Kuhn says:

      Yes! Exactly that. You wouldn’t expect every musician to work the same way and yet there are so many writer’s tips out there, most of which make me think that I’m not doing it right.

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