|Image description: Feet up on the couch.
by Rahnia Collins
I’ve had a visitor at my place, an unwelcome visitor. You might have met my visitor. She might even have come to stay with you in the past. I’ve had Procrastination staying with me. She’s been hanging out in the best spot on the couch, eating all the good snacks and watching Masterchef, which means that I have to watch Masterchef too (it’s only polite to watch what your visitor wants to watch). This would all be fine except that she is needy, and I mean NEEDY! So I can’t get to my writing because I have to hang out with Procrastination. And I swear she can read my mind because every time I even think about going to write in my very, rare and valuable spare time, she entices me into some time-sucking, unproductive activity. She’ll hand me my phone and somehow half an hour has gone by, the baby is awake and all I’ve done is browse bloody Facebook and read a couple of news articles.
Or she pats the sofa next to her and I find myself watching something fun but non-essential in the precious after-children’s-bed-time peace. It would be rude to refuse, after all she is our guest and the ancient laws of hospitality require that I give her what she wants, but I wish she’d go the hell away!
Of course all of this raises the question, how have I managed to write this blog post at all? Ahh, well, I got sneaky. I put my writing journal in my handbag when I was procrasti-tidying and Procrastination doesn’t like doing the school run with me so I’ve had the twenty minutes of waiting in the pick-up zone to get this done. Mind you, in its way, this very blog post is procrasti-blogging because it’s not my WIP, and it is my WIP which has really been suffering the neglect from Procrastination’s visit. But it is writing and I’ve extended my sneakiness further.
When Procrastination hands me the phone, I read writing articles. That’s how I started doing some morning writing in a modified version to accommodate small children who wake at o’death hundred hours. Yah boo sucks to you, Procrastination! I felt like I was winning. And then...she infiltrated my bedroom. I woke up when my alarm went off and there, in the early morning gloom of my bedroom, was Procrastination watching me sleep.
‘You don’t want to get out of bed do you? It’s cold and your bed is so warm and comfortable,’ she cooed, in her warmest, fuzziest voice.
I stared back at her and for a few long, long seconds, it was duelling gazes. Then, without breaking eye contact, I sat up and reached over to the bedside table for my notebook and pen and started writing. She stood there for a few minutes longer, waiting for me to look up at her but I just kept writing and she slunk out of the room. She was there again the next morning cooing at me. My husband rolled over and stared up at her groggily, ‘This is getting creepy!’ he muttered and pulled the blankets up over his head. And the next morning, and the next…and yet the morning free writing continues and it feels like cheating, which is maybe why it works, it just doesn’t feel like really writing, there’s no pressure to get the right word or to make a character believable and I can just have fun with it. I know that if I planned to do anything but freewriting (write this post or prod the WIP for instance) in that morning session, I’d fail, I’d pull up the covers and go back to sleep, but the freewriting is easy because if all else fails I can write, ‘I don’t know what to write.’ Maybe this is why it keeps slipping past Procrastination. And let’s face it she’s lazy by her nature so a lot of this just involves waiting her out. She’s stopped coming into the bedroom because she had to keep getting up early and that is really not her style.
Now I’ve started sneaking work on this blog post into small spaces in my day that I’d dismissed as not being good for anything. Ha, in your face, Procrastination! She didn’t want me to finish this post – apparently if I abandon it here she and I can still be friends and hang out. But I know that really it means she’ll have won another small victory in the war on writing. She knows this is a critical time and she’s there waiting when I’m tired, which is all the time these days, to whisper that all the things which stop me writing are so real and completely justified and totally understandable (‘After all, sweetie, you have three small children, and the littlie is only six months old, of course it’s hard to find time for writing’ and so on). But I’m not listening to her siren song of ‘Do Less’ and although these are small steps I’m taking, they are concrete and constructive. And you know what? I’ve got the interest back, that tingle in my fingers that means I’m just itching to write the first chance I get. Consequently, those chances present themselves more often.
And you know what else? Procrastination looks a bit less ensconced on the sofa these days. She has trouble meeting my eyes and she’s started making noises about feeling restless, about needing fresh horizons, greener pastures (naturally she talks in clichés). If I persist, one of these days I’ll come home from the school run and she’ll have taken off. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’ll stay away, she’s a bit like a vampire, once you invite her in she can come in any time she likes and probably will. But now I have some defences against her, and next time it will be easier to send her packing quickly. In the meantime, the writing is starting to flow more easily and I’m enjoying it all again. Hooray!
Rahnia Collins is an English teacher by profession, a writer by aspiration and a reader by addiction. She wishes there was some sort of grant that would fund her reading habit. Her other addictions are tea and cats. If her husband had not set a strict two cat limit she would already be a crazy cat lady.
If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have