PROCRASTINATION IS AN ART-FORM
Every writer has a process, a method, a way of turning the blank page into magic. I am a professional procrastinator when the ideas don’t flow. I’ll pin 50 images, tweet and retweet, join LinkedIn debates I don’t care about, search for the killer little black dress that always seems to evade me, revisit YouTube videos from decades past, and then I’ll get really serious and start organising.
Eventually, I’ll look at the clock, remember the painfully blank page and force myself to just go without thinking. Most of it is rambling nonsense at this stage, yet I keep on it with almost as much enthusiasm as my YouTube digressions. Eventually, something comes and then the floodgates open. Get out of my way. No interruptions. I am fully immersed where I can remain for hours, forgetting to eat or pee or do the other very important tasks I put off while delaying the creative process. Once my brain finally makes the connection, there is no turning it off, not even at 3:00 am. At least that is my process.
DISCIPLINE IS EQUALLY AN ART-FORM
Better, more disciplined writers have better, more effective tricks. Here are a few I keep in my head in case of emergency.
- Open the dictionary – yes, that dusty relic – choose a random word, now write a paragraph using that word at least 10 times. If you can personify that word, even better. Choose another random word and add it in.
- Think of a stranger who upset you (they were clearly wrong and you were right), remember what you wished you said. Write it.
- Take your dog or cat, even an annoying chirping bird or pesky squirrel and write a diary entry from his point of view.
- Describe your favourite shirt. The one only you love, but for unknown reasons. Give it a name. If this shirt were a person, what movies would he or she like? Better yet, what has this shirt seen or done?
- Your first kiss. Where was it? Who was it with? How did you feel? Was it cold or hot (the weather, not the kiss)? Where is that person now? If you don’t know, or if the truth is boring, make it up.
- If you could rewrite the on-hold message you hear repeatedly while being on hold with what is always a government service (the longest and most painful) or your bank (often full of dread) or your phone company (equally as bad because they try to be cheerful) what would it be?
- Take three random objects within sight from where you are sitting now. Make them a family. Give them names and ages. Where will they go on holiday?
- What if…? What if it snowed in June? What if the sun never set? What if it rained for 85 days straight, to the point cows got depressed (a true story from Wales in 2016)? What if you met an alien? What if you were a child again?
- Write a letter to your 80-year-old self, apologising for your teenage self.
- Write a letter to your son or daughter to open when you die. Sorry for the depressing, but it gets creative juices flowing better than happy thoughts.
- Name a new brand of nappies. What would they look like? Why would they be better or different? If you have no experience with nappies, not even a single event or comparison, then use adult diapers as your challenge.
- Think about your least favourite food. Write a proposal to the Prime Minister arguing why this food should be banned.
- Write a review for your favourite restaurant. This only counts if you actually post it.
- Write a complaint to the most annoying, obnoxious neighbour you’ve ever had. List specific grievances and appropriate fines or punishments.
- Imagine a day when you literally woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Would everything be backwards or mixed up? Would you play catch-up all day? Would you be late for absolutely everything? Would you lose track of time? Or would you turn yourself around, turn off your alarm and return to sleep?
- If you managed to make the train instead of the doors closing on your hand, what would have happened? Would you have been on-time for an important job interview and presented your most awesome self? Would your bus pull up the second you walked up to the stop? Would a handsome man or gorgeous woman open the door for you and flirt? Would your delivery order be early and with free naan? Would your bank statement reveal that your balance is much higher than you feared? Would you have skipped and smiled all day feeling like the luckiest person on earth?
- Now reverse that scenario. You missed your train. Then what?
- Your imaginary friend. What’s his or her name? What do you talk about? What is your favourite thing to do together?
- Plan a date with your imaginary friend.
- Your biggest, deepest secret. It’s confession time. Regret is evil, so dump it out now, on paper and then delete if you must. If you have a dark, sordid past full of lots of secrets, then you have just given yourself lots of writing prompts to keep yourself busy for lots of days.
- Your dream is to carry the Olympic Torch. How would you convince the nominating panel to select you. I know, this is old news for England, so set your mind for Rio.
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- Bring back your favourite doll or toy from childhood. Why did you love it? Where is it now? If reunited, what would be the first thing you do?
- Have you seen a ghost? Where was it and when? If you haven’t, then set the opening scene for a new horror movie.
- Best one…Don’t write. Close your computer, leave your office, walk somewhere without a plan. Just go and don’t think. Just be.
If you're not unstuck by now, watch some trash tv and forgive yourself. Tomorrow is another day.