The Art of Procrastinating

I’m having one of those days. It’s now past four o’clock in the afternoon, and while I have been busy at home all day, I have not been busy doing what I (thought I) wanted to do. While my latest YA novel is resting, waiting for me to return to edit it for draft two, I have picked up an older manuscript to start again. It is a chick lit/women’s fiction manuscript, and one for which I have created the most charming world in which my characters roam. (In my mind, anyway.) So why am I procrastinating?

I just haven’t been able to pick myself up today. I feel dopey and depressed and desperate to catch up on some sleep, but it’s too hot to do that. So I’m stuck in the lounge room with the air conditioner, trying to convince myself to start work on my chick lit/women’s fic manuscript.

It’s nothing new. All writers suffer from bouts of procrastination. And I’ve never quite been able to work out why. I feel better when I write, and writing inevitably begs me to write some more. (It’s a lot like exercise or, ahem, other sweaty activities.) So, I’ve washed the dishes, folded clothes, found my passport for an upcoming trip to New Zealand, found tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner, written a long list of everything that needs to be done before said trip to NZ, designed and ordered marketing materials for Charlie’s Angels Horse Rescue, fluffed around on Facebook and YouTube, and wrangled cats, dogs and horses.

And now I’m blogging…

I know that I am not constructively procrastinating. And that’s the real key. I believe that procrastination can be good–indeed, necessary–but only if we do it constructively. Over the years, I’ve worked out some good and bad procrastination activities.

Good procrastination activities (i.e. that actually move and develop me as a writer) include: reading books, reading writing magazines, editing my writing (because it seems easier to deconstruct things than it does to construct them, but it inevitably leads to me wanting to construct once more), going on an ‘artist’s date’ (to the theatre, dance class, festival, delicatessen… anywhere that feeds the senses), riding my horse (the combination of exercise and joy gives me a real boost), critiquing other writers’ work, and meeting other writers for fun/work purposes.

Bad procrastination activities include: housework, going to the post office, emailing, updating websites (such as blogging…), going grocery shopping, paying bills, bookkeeping, researching new appliances/computers/cars/food dehydraters, ebaying, ordering stuff online, organising, filing, and feeling guilty.

All of those ‘bad’ procrastination activities are all useful and worthwhile and need to be done. But not at the expense of writing.

So, here I am, signing off from my current ‘bad’ procrastination exercise to go onto some ‘good’ procrastinating.

Then again, it’s nearly time for Bold and the Beautiful….

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Bad Bad Bookclubber

I think I’m a bad bookclub member.

A few things suggest this to me:

  1. I am now in my fourth bookclub.
  2. Other bookclub members cringe at my comments.
  3. I hate just about everything that I read in bookclub.

Generally speaking I have little tolerance for (adult) literary fiction. And for some reason bookclubs tend to rely on literary fiction and especially that which has won a big prize like a Booker or Pulitzer. I won’t go into a long and involved discussion about my reasons for disliking most literary fiction novels so for the sake of avoiding the type of online arguments that I end up in during my bookclub meetings let’s just say it’s personal taste.

So why do I keep going to bookclubs?

  1. I like to hear the way people view books and what they like about them.
  2. I like that I am forced to read things that I otherwise wouldn’t read (even if I dislike them).  Occasionally I find a gem and I almost always learn something that will help my writing even if it is just showing me what I don’t want to do.
  3. I consider it part of my job as a writer. It’s a part that I don’t love but I feel it is an essential part.
  4. There’s always cups of tea and food and nice people and other general discussion involved that makes it worthwhile.

So I keep going. I’m getting something out of it but most of the time I feel that my generally antagonistic view of the books makes me a bad bad bookclubber. My sincerest apologies to all my fellow bookclub members–I’ll make sure you get extra nice cake when it’s time for you to come to my house.

[Note 1: I should qualify that I see the value and importance and cleverness of literary fiction (which is a slippery beast to define at any rate). I am talking here of my preference for writing that I go to for pleasure which mostly dosen’t include literary fiction.

Note 2. I am also referring to what I consider to be ‘hard core’ literary fiction. That is the type of fiction that you know is literary rather than borderline literary/genre.]