This can take two forms. One’s fairly innocuous and often does have the intended effect; I quickly read over what I wrote yesterday to get me in the zone/get me into my protagonist’s/antagonist’s headspace. The other is fatal. I go back and read something I wrote months ago, discover it’s terrible (everything I write is always terrible when I reread it months later)/full of errors/how-did-I-ever-think-this-nonsense-was-good. I then spend a large amount of time editing it. Sometimes it’s almost a rewrite. And when I say a large amount of time, I mean weeks. I then go back to my current project – which is now also terrible since it’s so long since I last looked at it – and I start editing that.
I do this A LOT. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Clearly I need to think about what I’m going to write. And if I do it in otherwise occupied time – such as walking the dog – it can even be productive. But quite often I forget what I have thought, even though I can recall it was positively brilliant, and that is frustrating. I’ve invested in a notebook (pocket-sized) to prevent this, but I keep forgetting to take the notebook with me …
3.WALKING THE DOG
Also the dog needs walking, that’s a given. And the fresh air will do me good, clear my head, help clarify my ideas. But, especially if it’s a beautiful day, I can spend hours clarifying and then not remember any of it.
Pretty much the same as dog walking.
Much the same as gardening except indoors. I’ll include most housework in this category although I do enjoy ironing more than, say, hoovering. I get more satisfaction out of the empty ironing basket, and I haven’t sat at the computer all day not writing anything because I’m thinking about the massive pile of ironing that needs attention.
I loathe paperwork. Much like the ironing, however, if I don’t do it, it niggles away at me. So it’s time well spent because otherwise I’d be distracted from my writing by the pile of bank statements and invoices and tax returns that are sitting there, threatening to topple over because the stack is so tall.
7.CLEANING (and clearing out)MY DIARY
Yes, this is a thing. I have one of those fancy ones that you buy new inserts for. It is bright pink, fairly shiny, and somewhat elderly (sounds like me…) so it needs a lot of upkeep. I wipe it vigorously, trim off any dangly bits and go through the pages to remove anything irrelevant. Generally I get distracted by diary entries that remind me of people I haven’t spoken to in ages/days out I want to recall/stuff I wrote down but still forgot to do.
I love researching. I trained as a historian so research is more or less programmed into me. It can lead me into a whole bunch of new articles for my blog or ideas I want to pitch to an editor. But I love it for its own sake – not just for the writing benefits – so it can tempt me dangerously far away from any actual writing. Instead I’ll find myself drawing maps, or making timelines, or arranging stuff on a spreadsheet so that I can find it when I need it (this never works, by the way)
9.REARRANGING MY WORKSPACE
This one is also fatal. It takes hours – it’s never just moving a couple of boxes of books – and it’s exhausting. This is the one that prompted me to write this list. On Thursday I had the great idea that if I dug out my old laptop, I could maybe do some work at the sitting-room table. But I didn’t like where the table was (it meant staring at a blank wall when I looked up reflectively) so I decided to switch it with the television stand. Three hours later my many hundreds of books are on the floor, I’ve moved every piece of furniture in the room, and my back feels like I spent the day harvesting a cornfield by hand. I am still dealing with the fall-out.
Okay, no. Just no. I am a notable procrastinator, but I hate cooking. I would much rather write.