Showing posts with label procrastinating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label procrastinating. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Taking Care of Business - Ciaran Murtagh

People always think it must be brilliant working from home, and as I sit in my freezing shed with frost on the inside of the windows waiting for the heater to come out of hibernation long enough to stop my breath steaming, I have to agree.

Sure it has it's problems, like wondering if you're going to make enough money  to justify turning on the heaters in the first place, but it also has lots of benefits. You're your own boss. You can work when you like and you can fit working hours around other things you might need to do in the day, like picking fluff out of your belly button, nursing that Bargain Hunt addiction and wondering what you're going to wear for dress down Friday, even though every day is technically dress down Friday. Truth be told, I sometimes have a 'can't be bothered to get dressed at all' Thursday...

But work does still need to be done. You can't just sit in your shed inhaling the sweet fumes of your a-ha themed scented candle (true fact) and dream of being JK. So how can you make a success of working from home? As Elvis said - you gotta Take Care of Business.

1) Routine

There is something about a commute to work that gets you out of home space and into work space. I'm not saying I want to sit on an overcrowded, overpriced train in order to be more effective, but I find I have to do something. When your commute is literally 'walk to the shed' or in previous incarnations 'walk to the spare room' then there's little time to transition.

This morning I've got myself up (big tick there), got two kids up, dispatched them to two different schools and nurseries, did the bins, tidied bedrooms and now it's time to work. Trouble is I don't really feel like it. I need to do something to kick myself into gear.  For me it's a blast at the gym, for you it might be a walk, a swim, reading the paper, something that kicks you into a different place. It may seem like you're wasting your time - the kids'll be back before you know it, there's stuff to be done. But as Billy Bragg said:

'I know it looks like I'm just reading the paper, 
but these ideas I'll turn to gold dust later
'Cause I'm a writer not a decorator...' 

2) Planning

I like to know what I'm doing in a day. Some people like to plan the night before, that's never been my bag. It's also impossible sometimes. I have book deadlines that might be a month or two in advance, I have TV deadlines which are literally 'by lunchtime' and I have the joys of working with Australia and the US who work through the night to give me work I didn't know existed in the morning.

Regardless, each morning I try and make a plan for myself. It doesn't have to be colour coded and covered in sticky notes, literally a numbered list - I am going to do these things in this order and then I'm going to stop, unless Australia wakes up early. It gives my day structure, and while it might not go according to plan, at least I know what I'm diverting from so I can come back to it in due course.

3) Breaks

Take breaks. You are not a loser for taking breaks. Procrastinating is not the same as taking a break. Recognise when you've hit a wall. I can spend an hour staring at a screen getting nowhere, I go and make a cup of tea and the thing clicks into place like a magic eye puzzle (ask your parents). Breaks are important.

4) Writing is not the only work

My job is a writer, therefore you might think the only time I'm doing my job properly is when I'm putting words on a page. It's not true. We're not coal miners, we're not paid by the tonne. Research is work. Answering emails is work. Sorting out your receipts is work. Invoicing is work. Sometimes - and don't tell my wife - sitting in a bath with a notepad and pen at two in the afternoon, is work. Don't beat yourself up too much about targets and word counts. If you are doing something that contributes to making the core business of what you do easier and more successful, you are working.

5) Don't eat the biscuit

That is literally it. In an office, you eat all the biscuits people judge you. When you're your own boss you can eat all the biscuits, go out and buy a new packet so nobody knows, eat them too and then only get blamed for eating one packet of biscuits. That has never EVER happened by the way.

What I mean is, fight your urges and your temptations. There are lots of things you could be doing and no one is going to know if you do them instead of work apart from yourself. Know what your distractions are and try and break the habit of going to them. You'll get more done, and in my case, stay slimmer.

That's it. Merry Christmas. Keep on trucking and may all your notebook pages be white.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Going quiet - Linda Strachan

It occurred to me recently that writers are to be found all over the place these days.

Spending time on social media, attending conferences, book signings and festivals.

Writers are blogging, tweeting, working on their own websites, writing guest blogs and chatting on facebook.

We travel to schools to meet our readers, teach creative writing,  attend all manner of book-related events,

...many of them delightful and interesting.

But it was reading one writer's post on Facebook about GOING QUIET for a while because of a deadline, that made me stop and think about it.  All this activity takes up a lot of time and energy.

Exactly how much time (that could or perhaps should be devoted to our craft) do we spend on talking about what we do, and writing about our working and personal lives.

 Yes, there are some of us lucky enough to have sheds or hideaways to escape to but we still have to make time go in there and shut the door on the world.

Let's face it procrastination has always been part of a writer's life for most of us, especially if there is not a looming deadline, and sometimes even when there is!

So,  I have a question for you....

How much more writing do you think you would do if there was suddenly no internet at all, no blogs or social media, if you were forced to stay close to home, with only snail-mail and the telephone as contact with those outside the family?

Would you be more or less productive?

Or is it an essential part of your life that powers your creative thought process?

Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children.

Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins

blog:  Bookwords 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Bird by Bird - Heather Dyer

© nao-cha

“Bird by bird, son,” says Mr. Lamott, when his son is overwhelmed by a school project on birds and doesn’t know where to begin: “Just take it bird by bird.”

'Bird by bird,' is also what I tell myself when I’m facing the immensity of writing a new book. Often a new creative endeavour is a journey into the unknown. We advance paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene – often without being entirely sure where we’re headed. We keep our heads down, measuring our progress word by word.
But sometimes it's helpful to measure our progress not by word count, but by time spent writing. Therefore, 'bird by bird' could also mean ‘moment by moment’.

In October, Nicola Morgan set up an October ‘NanoWrimo’ (Novel Writing Group) for authors in the Scattered Authors’ Society. All those who signed up agreed to declare our writing goals at the beginning of the month and encourage each other to keep on track daily via Facebook.

I signed up for the group to help motivate myself to write. But I didn’t declare a daily word count. My goal was simply to open one of my two writing projects – one fiction, one non-fiction – and work on it for an unspecified time first thing every morning. Only after this could I start my other work: editorial report writing, lesson planning, admin, errands…
I used to clear the decks of all this 'other stuff' before tackling my creative writing. But last year other work built up to such an extent that the decks were never clear. I ended up batting off one ‘urgent’ task after another, just to keep up. If I did get to pause I found myself panting and out of breath – not a conducive state of mind for creativity. I realized one day that it had been nearly a year since I’d properly given some attention to the sort of writing that all my other work was meant to support.

And what did I discover during the October Wrimo? I discovered that even fiddling ineffectually with my writing projects tended to produce at least a sentence or an idea that I could build on the following day.
Also, dipping into the worlds of my books – even for just half an hour – allowed these worlds to develop bit by bit in my unconscious. Then, in quiet or preoccupied moments (like walking to work or showering or meditating) lines of dialogue or new ideas tended to arise in my consciousness like bubbles in a pot of porridge on a low heat.
Bird by bird my projects grew, so that at the end of the week I was undeniably further on than I had been at the beginning.
But best of all, I no longer felt the guilt associated with not having been 'creative’. It was only once this guilt was lifted that I realized that I had been struggling to work through a low-level stress caused by the knowledge that I had neglected something that was important but not shouting for attention; something hovering in the background, waiting. I found that by attending to my creative work first, this stress disappeared.
And in the end, I still got as much 'other' work done. If anything, I became more efficient, more patient,  and worked with a greater focus – because I have already satisfied that ‘thing’ hovering in the background.

This way of working is not new to me – in fact, I advise all my students to try working this way. But somehow I had let my priorities slide. The October NanoWrimo group prompted me to remember my priorities. I feel better for it – and so does my writing.

 Bird by bird,” is the title of Anne Lamott’s book about writing and about being a writer.
Heather Dyer's latest book is The Flying Bedroom.


Friday, 10 January 2014

Determination, Organisation and Procrastination – Damian Harvey

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions because, as everyone knows, they famously never stand for more than a couple of days. I am, however, consciously determined to be more organised from now on. We’re ten days into the year and so far it’s going well – Hey! it’s a start. All of my paperwork, barring the imminent tax return, is done and up to date, as is my diary and calendar. I have a few writing deadlines stretching out before me but there are no worries there as everything is coming along nicely.

I love writing and being a writer and can’t think of anything I would rather do. I love being able to work from home creating stories, poems and rhymes. I love seeing rough illustrations and final artwork and the way it all comes together as a finished book. I love visiting schools and libraries to share stories and to work with children on their own writing. Making a living at this writing business can be tricky though - there’s lots of things that need to be balanced in order to make it work. In terms of the work itself I need to balance writing and school visits – both essential to me if I want to make some sort of living and avoid the need to “get a proper job”. It can be tempting to fill the diary with school and library work to bring in some money but that means there’s not much time left for the writing.

At the moment I’m working on a little series of short, non-fiction books. The first couple of books have been written, a draft of the third is almost ready to send off, research is underway for the fourth, the contract has been signed and part payment will be coming soon. It’s all exciting stuff and very comforting knowing that I’m actually getting paid for the work I’m doing as opposed to the more usual ‘writing and hoping’. I’m really enjoying writing the books and doing the research for them but I’m also very conscious of a problem.  A problem that can be summed up with one word – procrastination. I am very aware that I have a inclination  to procrastinate, or monkey around doing things that could, and invariably should, be done later – emails, tweets, website tweaks, sorting out my sock drawer and just about anything else. Hence the determination to be more organised, focused, and on target.

Before undertaking this non-fiction project I was working on a couple of picture books and a novel for older readers. The novel was coming along nicely but I had to set it to one side so I could concentrate on meeting the deadlines for the non-fiction texts. At first I worried that the novel might wither and die without me there to nurture it, but that concern has all but gone… The characters are flitting around in my head like butterflies trapped in a jar. The problem is that they’ve been joined by other fluttering ideas too – some bright and exciting, and all vying for my immediate attention. For now though I’m placating them all by jotting down notes and I’m determinedly avoiding the urge to take the lid of the jar and go chasing after every idea that catches my interest – another picture book, a pop-up book, a book of poems, a young reader book and lots more. Sadly, I know only too well what will happen if I succumb to the temptation of these enticing creatures – lots of unfinished stories, nothing to show for it and the ever frightening need to ‘get a proper job’.

So, no resolutions from me this year – just a little focus.

Damian Harvey
Damian can be found procrastinating on twitter @damianjharvey

His latest book (an OUP Treetops Chuckler)
Smelly Socks and Terrible Tangles comes out today.