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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dawdling Darling

Procrastination is something we all indulge in. Sometimes we do it to reward ourselves for a job well done. Sometimes we do it for a job, well, done. But ‘sometimes’ is ok only if it doesn’t stretch to ‘quite some time,’ which was the case with me until recently.

In the beginning, I enjoyed it. Then I got weary. Then I meekly tried to break the shackles. And then ….. I turned off the internet!

Yes. That was the first step I took when I realized I was wasting a lot of valuable time ‘netting internationally’, ‘accumulating’ knowledge ravenously, and reading ‘helpful’ articles on the craft of writing.

All this when I was supposed to be typing, not staring.

Are you tired of being relaxed? Here is what to do:

1. Pull the plug. 

Look at the right side of the Windows taskbar. You thought those two blinking monitors in notification area display how many megabytes (or gigabits) your computer has received while it actually shows how many tetra-moments you have wasted. Even while researching, one link can lead to another, then another, and then …..

There is a reason why it is called World Wide ‘Web’.


On a laptop, a button, on a desktop, an icon conveniently disconnects you from the internet. Do it so you will have to make an effort to check your mail or retweet an oh-so-interesting article.

If all else fails, you can always pull the plug on your wireless router (or unplug the cable).

2. Save it for later.

I love getting stuck on a fact or forgetting an important detail because that gives me an excuse to Google it. It won’t hurt if I meanwhile update my facebook status and check if Avatar has been released on Bluray in 3D, right?

Yeah, right.


Make a list, highlight the missing part, take notes, leave blanks. Do whatever is necessary to postpone the urge to go ‘click’ happy. You will edit your work later, no? If you save the time, the time will save you: research and recheck when you revise.

Speaking of time, you can always fill in the blanks but you can never fill in the voids.

3. Get Crayons.

Typing (or writing on paper) can seem like a rut at times. Among other things that writers share (OD’ing on praise, daydreaming, dandruff) is the dread of a blank page. Our mission: to cover white with black. Our problem: too much white does not look right.

If the only words you can think of are ‘white as sheet,’ maybe it is a hint.


Children get happy when you hand them crayons and paper (they are happier when you offer them crayons and a wall but more on this some other time.) So, grab your colorful markers, walk towards your whiteboard (or the nearest store to get one, whichever is applicable) and start writing.

Free associative writing helps on paper but this is not what you are doing here: you are carefully creating descriptions, listing scene pointers, writing notes on possible outcomes or whatever you are working on currently. You are separating everything with color-codes and you are stepping back every few minutes to take in the details, look for gaps in development, and other problem areas.
From one of my work-in-progress serials

I have experienced that change of medium (from computer to paper or paper to whiteboard, especially whiteboard) can unleash a powerfully creative pied piper (or Sugar Plum Fairy, depending on your gender or preference) we all have inside.

The results of writing on a whiteboard can be startling (in a positive way). Perhaps it has something to do with the size of the board that unconsciously encourages us to think on a larger scale. Or maybe it feels like a mural on which we can paint our world in pieces until we see the big picture. Or it just helps excite our inner child.

Whatever the reason, try it and be pleasantly surprised.

As I said in the beginning, procrastinating sometimes is good. You can even enjoy it if you heed Marc Hack’s advice and utilize time outs to find out what is happening in our world from quality international news sources like BBC News and Reuters.

That’s one. He offers 28 more suggestions here.

Word of caution: his blog is highly inspiring, insightful (and addictive) and you can find yourself clicking on one entry after another.

Finally, extended periods of procrastination may signal that something is amiss; maybe an inspiration killer is hiding in the closet. Don’t troll for a shrink just yet because Candy Arrington is here for rescue. She points out that some writers put off writing and submitting because they fear rejection. Others fear success. Could you be having one of the problems she lists in her Writer's Digest article?

So, what do you do when you bump into Dawdling Darling?

1 comment:

VJ said... come you never offer ME a wall and crayons?! LOL!! =)