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Random Thoughts to Fill the Time Before Writing (But Not Too Much Time Or Today Will Be Just LIke Yesterday And No Writing Will Be Done At All)

March 22, 2007, 4:30 pm

One of my favorite writing books is Ann LaMott’s “Bird By Bird: Random Thoughts on Writing and Life.” I like it in part because she is so forgiving of the many things we all do to avoid writing that she actually incorporates them into the writing process. For example, cleaning your desk and eating lunch. I also like it because it is clear from reading the book that she procrastinates mightily and yet still publishes a great deal. She doesn’t publish as much as Robert B. Parker or Stephen Ambrose, but she finishes enough books and articles on a regular enough basis that she actually has a lunch to eat from money she earned writing. Of course, part of what allows academics to procrastinate is that we get paid whether we write or not, and I at least am constantly being served lunch at the various meetings I attend. OK, maybe the free lunch stops that you procrastinate right into the sixth or seventh year of your appointment as an assistant professor, but *you know what I mean.*

As part of today’s writing, therefore, I have compiled a list of additional activities that can, in my experience, usefully be worked into the writing routine.

1. Paying the bills. How can you write if you fear that the telephone company might cancel your account any minute?

2. Sorting accumulated mail. There might be bills to pay in there, and all the unsolicited offers for credit cards and home equity loans have to be shredded to avoid identity theft. You don’t want identity theft, do you? I thought not.

3. Drive to Staples and buy shredder. Win brownie points by sticking head in door of partner’s office and asking if *she* could use anything at Staples.

4. Sort books waiting to be read that are sitting in piles in the study. Which books are for a project you wanted to do five or six years ago, but which never panned out? Get rid of them, either by selling at the handy-dandy used book store downtown or returning to the library, whichever seems appropriate.

5. Spend money earned from books on a nice lunch.

6. Do the five things your accountant needs you to do in order to file your taxes on time. You do want to file your taxes on time, since if you don’t the whole house of cards might crumble. It’s too awful to think about.

7. Go through email inbox to discard messages already answered or messages so old even you can’t imagine answering them at this point.

8. Go to this procrastination website.

9. Send check from the Village Voice to Vanguard Roth IRA account, and calculate compound interest so that you know this modest check will actually be worth six times as much when you draw it out at age seventy.

10. Read this month’s Women’s Review of Books, paying particular attention to a fabulous cartoon about blogging, in which the blogger loses her job because she can’t stop blogging…………..

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