Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Four Virtues of Expert Procrastinaters

Virtue 1. Cats. Thai does not approve of typing. It's okay if she's lying down in front of the monitor and behind the keyboard (though the way I keep pushing her paw off the top row of buttons can be annoying), but when she's in my lap, one hand is supposed to be available for tummy rubbing at all times. Have you ever tried to type with one hand rubbing a tummy? It's exponentially harder. Bruce doesn't care if I'm typing or not - he just doesn't want me to be at the computer at all if there's a bidding of his I'm supposed to be figuring out. So he'll walk up and down on the keyboard, headbutt me, meow fretfully, and so on, until I get up and try out all the possible things he might be wanting me to do.

So if you need an excuse not to get your writing quota done, by all means, let the cat into the room and spoil her rotten. (The funny thing is - if you spoil fruits or vegetables, they get nasty. The more we spoil our cats, the sweeter they get.)

Virtue 2. Neatness and order. There is always something that needs organizing, straightening, dusting, recording, filing, or throwing away. If you start your writing time by taking care of all those things, odds are good you won't have to write at all.

Virtue 3. Communication. People who always answer the phone on the second ring, answer e-mail as soon as it comes in, tweet promptly, and meticulously maintain their websites, blogs, and social networking sites can be busy as bees all day and never get one thing done.

Virtue 4. Generosity. If everybody knows that you are There For Them, they will have all sorts of occasions to call on you. You can't write and deal with a crisis at the same time unless you already have a committed work ethic and sufficient discipline that writing poetry in hospital rooms is second nature to you.

These are all good things in themselves - especially the cats. But the thing they have in common is: that if they are allowed to overlap with your writing time, they will eat it all up. When Virginia Woolf said we needed money and a room of our own in order to write, this is what she meant. Time and space, dedicated to the writing (or whatever it is you do), which everyone understands is dedicated to the writing, during which nothing else gets done.

Nothing else does the trick.

Communicate. Be there for your loved ones. Maintain your tax records and keep your house sanitary. And by all means rub your cat's tummy.

But not during the fifteen minutes, or hour, or two-hour block of time that is set aside for your writing. That's for writing. Only. Not for talking about writing, not for thinking about writing, not for writing business. Butt in chair, hands on writing implements, just writing.

You've heard this before. You'll keep hearing it till you start doing it.

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