Writing Tip: Kicking Procrastination to the Curb!

pro•cras•ti•nate – (prō-krăs′tə-nāt′); 1) To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness; 2) To postpone or delay needlessly.

I think the definitions should be reversed. I want to believe that more people are #2 than #1. Number 2 can happen to any of us at any time. It’s a fact. It’s reality. It could be a sick child. A sick spouse. Skinned knees. Parent/teacher conferences. Your friends invite you to lunch. Family and friends call. They come over unannounced. A faucet springs a leak or

Courtesy of hdwallpapers-3d.com
Courtesy of hdwallpapers-3d.com

the toilet overflows. Your dog swallows a child’s plastic golf ball. A tree limb falls on your house during a storm. You’ve gained new followers on Facebook and Twitter. And if you have a 9 to 5 job, that stress alone can drop a manhole cover on your well of creativity.

Life intrudes. It squeezes between good intentions, frays our nerves, and wrecks our plans. There’s no escape. Things pile up until we’re in over our heads. We’re in its clutches, and when that happens, we don’t know what to do. We can’t NOT address life’s challenges. Yet we freeze up. The more we think about it, the worse it gets. Pretty soon, our writing begins to suffer until the day comes when we realize it’s been weeks since we sat down for some serious writing.

So, how do we wear all the hats in our lives and still find time to write the next bestseller? Is there a miracle answer? No. And there’s no magic pill to set the minutes of our day on the course we want to go. If you’re having difficulties or know someone who is, I hope what I’m about to share will help you the way it helped me.

It’s time to kick procrastination to the curb! All of us have the power to put an end to the very thing that holds us back. Here are some things to think about:

1. How long can you devote to writing? Don’t think hours. Think minutes–10? 15?

2. Make an honest commitment to set aside time each day. Use a timer.

3. Stop thinking in terms of pages and word count. Think sentences.

Courtesy of Ulfbastel; commons.wikimedia.org
Courtesy of Ulfbastel; commons.wikimedia.org

You see, my grandson challenged me to a race. How many sentences could I write in an hour versus how many math problems he could solve. He usually has 25-28 math problems and he challenged me to write 35 sentences. I set the countdown timer and away we went. We got done about the same time. He did all his math problems and I had 35 sentences. When he asked me how many words I had, I was surprised to discover I had almost 400. Just for one hour! We’ve been doing it every day since then.

Select a time and a place. Use a timer. I can’t stress that enough. Be realistic in how many sentences you can complete in the time you’ve chosen. The number of sentences is based on an average sentence of narrative. If you’re writing dialogue, you’ll get more. Even the sentence “What?” counts. The following numbers are approximate:

• 1 hour = 30-35 sentences or 1 sentence every 2 minutes

• 30 minutes = 15-18 sentences

• 15 minutes = 7-8 sentences.

• Even a ten minute session can get you about 5-7 sentences.

Four hundred words a day doesn’t sound like much, but it is. If your plan is to write an 80,000 word novel, you can write the first draft (not counting the weekends) in about 200 days. For a 50,000 word novel, the first draft will take approximately 125 days. It’s doable.

Don’t worry if you have trouble. Last summer, when I was suffering with a bout of insomnia, I was lucky to get a few words a day, let alone a few sentences. In the six weeks it took to re-establish a regular sleeping pattern, I probably wrote about one page–not a page a day–just one page. I know what it’s like to sit there, staring at a blank page with the cursor blinking at me–mockingly.

Increase your time slowly. If you can consistently write for fifteen minutes, raise it by five minutes until you’re getting a full hour. After that you can decide if you want to increase the time more. Or, you may have to decrease it. But that’s okay. Writing is letting you inner muse out to play. It’s work, but it should be fun to create, too.

Courtesy of Ekko; commons.wikimedia.org
Courtesy of Ekko; commons.wikimedia.org

The whole idea is to get you back into the game gradually, without falling into the trap of beating yourself up for “failing.” There IS no fail. Repeat that! It’s all about taking the manhole cover off your well of creativity, not dropping it on your foot.

So, go ahead! Kick procrastination to the curb! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact, you might be writing a bestseller!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate each and every one of you. Please say hello, and if you’re interested in reading the original post about my grandson’s writing challenge, you’ll find The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge by following the link.

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A Game of Writing Tag

I offer a sincere apology to Melissa Barker-Simpson. When I initially published this post, I inadvertently got her first name wrong. I guess my fingers weren’t attached to my brain at the time. It’s a lesson well learned. Always, ALWAYS check the person’s name at least twice before you hit the button!

I follow Melissa Barker-Simpson’s blog and she posted this:

“I  know I’ve posted enough today, but as I was visiting a few of the contributors to Stream of Consciousness Saturday, I couldn’t resist a challenge posed by Doobster over at Mindful Digressions. In response to the prompt (the incorporation of scene or seen), Doobster wrote a piece of flash fiction. Readers of the story were curious about what happened next and the challenge is simple – continue where the story left off and either complete the tale or keep it going. I’ve posted the original story below, and added an installment beneath. If you would like to carry it on, please feel free. It’s the kind of ‘game’ I can never resist!”

I decided to take the challenge and wrote Part 3 of the ongoing story. Here is a link to the first two parts of I Seen It All as presented by Doobster and Melissa Barker-Simpson. Be sure to read those first. Then come back and read Part 3 below:

I Seen It All, Part 3

How much could a little boy have seen? “Over here, please,” Detective Morrisey said, encouraging them to walk as far away from the crowd as they could. “No one will hear us. What did you see?”

Ralph felt the tug of Henry’s hand as he refused to let go. He had finally caught his breath but was clearly agitated. “I seen them with her.”

Detective Morrisey’s eyebrows went up. “How many people?”

“Two men,” Henry replied confidently. “I seen them.”

Ralph’s gaze snapped around, and he peered into the crowd, looking for guilty faces or bloodied hands and shirts. Would the murderers hang around, or would they have disappeared down a quiet alley?

Henry pointed to the body lying on the ground where police were taking pictures and gathering evidence. “They were walking and talking. She yelled—” he leaned toward Ralph – “like Mom yells at Dad when he don’t take his muddy boots off.” He looked up at the detective. “They grabbed her arms.”

The detective was growing increasingly concerned. “What did they do to next?”

“They had a knife and she seen it.”

Ralph listened to Henry’s description and felt more than the prickling on the back of his neck. He was afraid, the first tendrils knotting in his stomach. He and Henry could be in real danger.

Detective Morrisey glanced at the crime scene and his brow lowered. “This is real important—what did you say your name was?”

“Henry,” he said proudly, his chin lifting. “He’s Ralphie.”

“Now, Henry,” the detective said with a gentle tone, “this is very important. Think real hard. Could you hear what they were saying? Any words at all?”

Thinking, Henry went quiet for a moment before shaking his head. “She got scared and tried to run away.”

“Did she ever call out for help? No?”

Henry swallowed hard. “They stabbed her. I seen it. Like this,” he said, demonstrating with his hand the path of the knife through the woman’s white blouse into her heart.

Ralph began to shiver. What if the men had seen Henry? They had to go home eventually. What if they were followed? Would the two men lie in wait and kill them, too? He suddenly felt the urge to run away and turned his back to the crowd, as if having no interest at all.

“If you saw the two men again, would you recognize them?”

Henry nodded and wiggled a hooked finger for the detective to come closer. “They’re over there.”

Goosebumps rushed over Detective Morrisey, and he found himself whispering, too, with urgency. “Where?”

Henry brought up his hand up to shield his mouth as if sharing a prized secret. “By the hardware store . . .”

———————————————————————————————————–

Join in the fun! Write Part 4. Tell us what happens to the two cousins after they speak to Detective Morrisey.

The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge

My dear grandson is nothing if not clever. He always tells me he doesn’t like school and he doesn’t like math. He’s 10 years old. He will dawdle and complain to the point where it takes him up to 3 hrs. to work 25 problems. So today, I tried something different. Our exchange went something like this:

“I don’t think you can get your math problems finished in an hour.”

He had started writing his name at the top of the sheet. He looked up and stuck out his chin. “Yes, I can.”

“All right,” I said, “I’ll do my work and you do yours and we’ll see if you can do it.”

Getting ready to do math problems.
Getting ready to do math problems.

Within thirty seconds, he stopped and looked at me, a silly grin on his face. “I will challenge you.”

“Really? How?” I was writing. How would a challenge even work? Leave it to him, he was plotting in that devious, little mind of his.

“You have to write a paragraph for each problem I do,” he suggested.

A paragraph? Holy cow! “Oh no,” I said. “Writing is hard work. I’m not sure I could even write one sentence for each problem you have to work.” He had 28 problems.

It went back and forth for a minute until we agreed to the one sentence per math problem. I had to wait until he finished the header on his paper. I noted the time, made the first letter in my scene bold and when he was ready he said, “GO!”

Wow, was the pressure on! I had started a new scene, and while I had a pretty good idea where I was headed, it was new material. I simply plunged in and started typing. After every couple of problems, he’d stop to ask me how many sentences I’d typed.

“Four.”

“Ha! I’m ahead of you!” he boasted. “I’m on number six.”

I doubled down. He was actually going to beat me and the clock was ticking down.

“I’m on number ten,” he announced. “Where are you?”

“Eight.”

“I’m going to beat you!” he cried.

Trying to catch up with the math wizard.
Trying to catch up with the math wizard.

Then I got stuck. There were too many possibilities for the path of the dialogue and I had to choose one. When he announced he was at fourteen (after thirty minutes), I was only at ten, and I could feel the end was near. The clock was still ticking down and for sure he would finish in under an hour.

At one point, I stopped typing and started running the filmstrip through my mind. He looked at me in glee. “Do you give up?”

“No. You know what I’m doing.”

“You’re typing in your head.”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. “You better get back to work. I’m right behind you.”

He dug in and continued. I began to catch up, closing the distance. Suddenly we were neck and neck. Then I edged ahead and he tried to change the challenge. He wanted me to write more sentences. First, he changed it to thirty, then thirty-two and, as we struggled toward the finish line, he upped it to thirty-five sentences.

Ultimately, we finished together. The contest was a draw. It took him fifty minutes to complete 28 math problems and the same time for me to write thirty-five sentences. Afterwards, I checked the word count and it was almost 400 words. Fifty minutes for 400 words. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much so quickly–ever! Was it good writing? Probably not, but I wrote, and that’s what’s important.

I have a strange feeling he’s going to challenge me again. And why not? It was a hoot!

UPDATE: Apparently, my grandson loves the challenge and now he wants to do it every day. Today, he had 27 problems to do and he challenged me to 40 sentences. He finished in 40 minutes and we pretty much finished together. My word count was 419. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give my writing a 3. What am I saying? It was crap. Rewrite, here I come!