For my 2020 monthly writing prompt, I normally use the game PITCH STORM (by the makers of Final Draft screenwriting software) to write a crazy pitch, but I’m taking a break this month.
13 Ways To NOT Finish Your Novel (or Script)
I’ve been polishing the final revision of my sequel, BLUE WILLOW WITCH, but I keep finding myself unfocused and doing many, many other activities. I’m blaming the quarantine. In the spirit of PROCRASTINATION, I’m sharing a list of ways to avoid writing. Enjoy!
1. Bake Cookies
The more labor intensive, the better. And don’t make them from refrigerated, pre-made dough. Go all out. Make those delicious bites of procrastination from scratch and strive for perfection with a melon baller or small icecream scoop. While each batch is baking, you’ll be scooping and before you know it the afternoon will be gone.
Writer’s tip: brownies or zucchini bread. You’ll get up to an hour to write and you still get yummy treats. Just don’t forget to set the oven timer!
2. Make an Elaborate Meal
Make a complicated, gourmet recipe that requires lots of stirring, measuring, chopping, and paying close attention to the cookbook. Better yet, one that requires a trip to three different specialty markets for unusual ingredients*. Guaranteed to take up a whole day and, if your family is like mine, you’ll enjoy eating that procrastination stew by yourself when no one else wants to try it. (*If you’re quarantined, search the pantry for a bunch of ingredients and then search your cookbooks or online for something that incorporates all of it.)
Writer’s tip: slow-cooker. There are endless choices that can transform your life. I mean it. Plus it’s like inviting your grandma over to cook all day while you’re writing.
Yes, this is important, especially if you can’t work around the mess. Thorough decluttering can turn into hours or even days of sorting, organizing, rearranging, potentially getting out the labeling thingy, and maybe even binge-watching Marie Kondo. Definitely do not delegate any of this to other people you live with who may have contributed to the sink of dishes, outgrown clothes, and outdated magazines. This could take a week if you’re really committed.
Writer’s tip: balance. If you were leaving the house to go to work, you’d get fired if you stayed home to deep clean your closets. Make a short list of daily must-dos so you won’t need to take hours to catch up and miss days of writing. Write during set hours and designate cleaning time for breaks or when you can enlist help.
4. Perfect Your Coffee Skills
Use only your favorite mug, which can turn into searching for where you left it last (in the microwave) or washing the dishes. Grind the beans fresh just before you brew. Froth the milk or cream. Add flavors and spank it with some homemade whipped cream. Don’t forget the freshly ground nutmeg or shaved chocolate ribbons. Offer to customize everyone else’s in the house too.
Writer’s tip: Okay, I admit, this is my weakness. But I do most of my steps before bed and set the timer so it’s ready in the morning. Extra whip or chocolate ribbons are saved as rewards for reaching word count goals.
5. WTH is that?
Spend several minutes fishing some weird thing out of your perfect coffee. Disregard that there is still half a pot on the warmer.
Writer’s tip: Guilty. Just dump the dang thing out and get a fresh cup.
Search the internet for something, anything. While you’re at it, definitely check the bestseller lists and allow yourself to get sidetracked by shopping or reviewing books. Be sure to just take a sec to check your email too. Chances are you won’t remember why you started in the first place.
Writer’s tip: No. Just NO. Disconnect the internet if you have to, but don’t do it during writing time. It is a creativity and productivity killer. Trust me.
7. Check social media constantly
It’s a guaranteed time-waster. Make sure to watch your bff’s cat video, like your sister’s vacation photos, and comment on at least three heated political debates. Oh, and don’t forget to watch a few cooking videos, so you can repeat number 2.
Writer’s tip: social media is an important part of your author platform because it helps you connect with readers. Schedule time for it, and stick to it. During that time, schedule your posts and tweets a week or more at a time. Be sure to retweet and reply to supportive writer friends and readers, and then STOP.
Or bead, paint, cross stitch, crossword, color, or scrapbook. Basically enjoy any other creative outlet that is time consuming and somewhat fills your need to create something.
Writer’s tip: Hobbies are wonderful, but not if they take the place of writing. Set a timer for 20, 30, or 60 minutes. Write. When the timer goes off, have fun for 15 minutes. Repeat.
9. Say Yes to Everything
Say yes whenever anyone assumes that you’re not really working at a real job with set hours because you’re a writer. Kids’ carpool? No problem. PTA? Sure. Charitable causes? You betcha. Lunch with a friend on her day off? Okie dokie.
Writer’s tip: People and causes are important, but don’t over commit. If it fits into your work schedule, sure. But don’t let well meaning people derail your progress. You’ll end up resenting them or yourself. Exception: if volunteering can count as research for something a character is doing in your book.
10. Visit A Bookstore
Alone. You need books for research, right? You definitely need to check your genre section to see what other authors are doing, right? Be sure to stop at the adjacent coffee shop too. Writer’s tip: Yes, but no. Do develop a professional connection with the person in charge of deciding if your book will someday be on those shelves. Don’t torture yourself by checking what others are publishing. Take a friend or family member who can get you out of there in ten minutes or less. Use the library instead when possible.
11. Create Playlists
Organize music playlists into various writing moods. Take your time. Listen to song after song until you’re emotionally spent and you need to make cookies to recover.
Writing tip: Yes, this can be inspiring, but don’t let it take over.
12. Make an Inspirational Collage
This is one that can really suck you in and send you in every direction except for writing. Use outdated magazines and newspapers, which you will need to spend hours reading to see if they need to be recycled—see number 3. Type up your favorite quotes, which you will search the internet to find—see number 8. Test out a stray recipe from a back issue of Procrastination Weekly—see numbers 1 and 2. Run to the craft store for scissors, glue sticks, posterboard, glitter, and discover a new hobby while you’re there—see number 8. Stop at the bookstore, and coffee shop on the way home—see numbers 4 and 10. Oh, and be sure to “check-in” at each stop so everyone will know you’re available—see number 7 and 9. (The quarantine and/or virtual version of this is Pinterest, of course.)
Writer’s tip: Collages are great planning and plotting tools when you’re at the beginning of the writing process. This can count toward writing hours, but watch yourself on this glittery, slippery slope.
13. Write a List of 13 Ways to NOT Finish Your Novel or Script
Writer’s tip: OMG. What am I doing?!
The time I was trapped under a piano: social distancing gone wrong