Friday Five: Random Recommendations

Random picture to go with random recs. Mmm... Vintage!
Random picture to go with random recommendations. Isn’t it beautiful?

Hello, hello! Hope you’ve all had a good/productive/positive week!

My aim to finish draft two by the end of May has been going pretty well, but it does have the knock-on effect of everything else going to hell in a hand basket. Is that the phrase? I have no idea and I can’t Google it as I’m using the ‘stay focused’ app and it locks me out of Google (and Twitter and Facebook and many other interesting and enlivening things) until five pm. See? I *am* working hard!

Without further waffle (stop cheering in the back, there), here are five random recommendations.

(I know, it’s not much of a blog post, but wait until the end of the month: I’ll have lost the power of language all together by then and will simply post ‘burble burble blarg’.)

1. Superdrug shampoo and conditioner. I haven’t tried all of them, of course, but I am THRILLED to discover that all of Superdrug’s own brand stuff is BUAV approved (not tested on animals), which makes cruelty-free shopping super-easy. I’m currently using the Pro Vitamin Thermal defense stuff and I love it. I also got the coconut and almond shampoo for the kids, which has the added bonus of smelling like cake.

annpatchett2. Ann Patchett is one of my favourite novelists and her non-fiction stuff is fabulous, too. Have you read Truth and Beauty? Just wonderful. Anyway, last week I finished her latest book, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a collection of essays and articles (including The Getaway Car, which is about writing) and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

3. The aforementioned ‘Stay Focused’ app. It’s a free extension for Chrome and is customisable so you can block certain sites for certain hours in the day. You can also set a timer for your access to those sites (ten minutes is the default) so when you’re faffing about on Twitter it tells you ‘five minutes until you’re locked out’ and counts down. Once you’ve used your minutes for the day, it displays a cheery ‘shouldn’t you be working?’ if you attempt to access any of your banned sites.

4. Struggling to get started on your book or other creative project? Like playing video games? Felicia Day has made a video-game-themed vlog packed with tips for getting started, staying motivated and finishing creative work.

5. Tumblr. Yes, I realise this is unlikely to be news, but Tumblr is full of funny/awesome/creative/crazy stuff. And cat gifs. While we’re on the subject, why not follow my tumblr? Advanced Procrastination.  Thank you!




Monday Motivation: Community

Procrastination-Mug-SmallLast week I shared my new colouring-in method for recording word count and, I’m happy to report, it has continued to work well for me. Even on bad-writing days, I would say to myself that I only had to write a sentence or two and I could colour in my chart.

This month, I have written Every Single Day, which makes me very happy!

I mentioned that there was another tactic in my fight-against-procrastination and I shall reveal it now… Community.

Wonderful (and very lovely) author Stephanie Burgis ran a ‘March Madness’ challenge on FB. I’ve joined writing challenges before and found them helpful but this one was particularly good. I think the daily check-ins were key. There is something about writing down your goal for the day (in public!) which really focuses the mind.

Plus, they’re an incredibly kind and supportive group – thanks again, guys!


Making Friends With Procrastination

7-secrets (1)I’ve read a lot about procrastination over the last eight years. Some might even say that I’ve turned researching productivity and procrastination into a form of procrastination, but they would be deeply unfair and must be ignored… Ah-hem.

I’ve tried lots of techniques and many of them have been helpful. Some of my more successful experiments include setting a timer for 20 minutes, using Freedom to shut off the internet, and making a lovely chart with crosses on every day I hit my word count.

I’ve written about tools for beating procrastination on Novelicious, and have had countless conversations with my writer friends about how we need to ‘just get on with it’, or how we’ve discovered that writing in the morning, or in the evening, or in a cafe, or while using headphones or whatever, is the solution.

However, this weekend, while gearing up to get back to work after a week off, I started reading this book by Hillary Rettig. In it, she suggests something that I hadn’t ever really considered. That my tendency to procrastinate wasn’t some terrible flaw in my personality. That it wasn’t a symptom of my inherent laziness, but more a reasonable response to fear.

I’ve known for a long time that writing fiction goes hand in hand with anxiety. I’ve read enough to know that this fear is a perfectly normal side effect of doing creative work. After all, when we write, we reveal parts of ourselves: Of course we’re afraid!

If you’re like me, you will also be able to add fear of failure (perfectionism), fear of success (exposure, getting ‘above myself’, not being liked, upsetting other people), fear of letting other people down or of not ‘fulfilling my potential’.

Hilary explains that our tendency to procrastinate is a way of protecting ourselves from that fear. Then, because we do really want to write (or have a deadline), our procrastination increases that fear. We respond by berating ourselves (‘why are you being so lazy? I can’t believe you’ve wasted all morning reading blogs AGAIN, you’re so useless, you’ll never make it as a writer’ etc etc). Which, and this was the light bulb moment for me, INCREASES THE ANXIETY! *slaps self in forehead*

Yes, you need to be self-disciplined in order to get stuff done, but Hilary suggests that bullying yourself, being this nasty, is not the best way. Who knew?! Plus, she makes the very excellent point that your procrastination is part of you, so it’s not helpful to demonise it.

Rather than automatically heading into a shame spiral when you find yourself procrastinating or ‘not in the mood’ to write, she suggests treating it as a problem to be solved. These kinds of techniques (skipping ahead to another scene or chapter, writing around the problem in a separate document) are things that I’d already discovered and use, but I realised that I do so with a sense of desperation and panic. A sense of ‘if I don’t get something done, I’ll have failed again and I’m so rubbish  and lazy etc etc’.

The big change I’m going to make (or try to make, I don’t expect it to be easy to break the habit), is to be kinder to myself. To stop using bullying tactics to get my word count done. To say ‘it’s okay that you don’t feel like facing the blank page and that you really want to watch Supernatural/browse eBay for three hours/take a nap, that’s because what you’re trying to do is scary and difficult.’

In short, I want to speak more kindly to myself. If nothing else, it’ll make my working hours more pleasant…

How about you, dear reader? Do you suffer from procrastination when you’re trying to write? Do you ever bully or berate yourself and do you think it’s necessary?

Friday Five: The ‘huh?’ edition

[Image credit: Terry Lightfoot}

I’m so close to finishing the book and am unable to think of anything else. Or at all. These links may amuse you or they may make you go ‘huh?’ – I am currently unable to make value judgements of any kind.*

1. These handmade leather wings from ThinkGeek are undeniably brilliant, but I think I like the customer warning even more: ‘Wings Do Not Enable User To Fly’. Heh.

2. I’ve just set this as my desktop background. Van Gogh’s Starry Night with added TARDIS.

3. More Doctor Who; a preview for the next installment of is available here. Yay!

4. Word nerd? There’s a wealth of information on the meaning and origin of words and phrases over at Mark Forsyth’s (The Etymologicon) Inky Fool.

5. A great piece on writerly procrastination by Emma Darwin. Getting through the door in the wall.

* Except those involving snacks.**

**And, yes. I’m aware it’s Monday. This is just the way I roll at the moment.

Internet-free Tuesdays?

This wasn’t taken yesterday; it’s from sunny Saturday. Yesterday, you would have had a photo of me in front of the computer. Less… Symbolic.

After Keris’ Simplify/Focus post struck such a loud chord in me, I decided to take a day off from the internet. The very fact that this was Quite A Big Deal told me how necessary an experiment it was. Ah-hem.

I was ‘allowed’ to check my email first thing and at the end of the working day (five o’clock), but the browser was to remain strictly closed. I’m actually quite embarrassed to admit how nervous (and excited) I was by this prospect. While I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to the internet, I definitely have an ingrained habit and I was truly uncertain as to whether I’d manage it. Especially when you consider I sit right in front of the delivery system all freaking day.

Well, I’m happy (and relieved – God, I would hate to discover an uncontrollable addiction that required internet cold-turkey. That would suck.) to report that my day went swimmingly.

It did feel odd and holiday-like. There were moments when I absent-mindedly clicked on Outlook or Firefox (I had Freedom set for eight hours though, so no cheating occurred) and I did feel a bit sad at about four o’clock when I realised I had another hour to go before I could check my email.

But, mainly, it was ace. My morning lasted a lot longer than usual. I felt calmer. I felt more focused and in control. I wrote lists and I wrote in my diary and I brainstormed ideas for articles and blog posts. I wrote 1200 words on the zero draft and thought about the structure of the story.

I also; cleaned the kitchen, went to the post office, spoke to my mother-in-law on the phone, listened to a StoryWonk podcast, and read a book for an hour.

In other words, I demonstrated just how much time I’ve been spending faffing online.

It also brought home the difference between enjoying and engaging with the bountiful online world and this:

[Image by the incomparable Hyperbole and a Half]

I’ve decided to have one internet-free weekday (and I’m aiming to build up to avoiding it on the weekends, too).

I love the internet. I love blogs and vlogs and and pretty pictures and chatting on Twitter, but I love reading books, knitting and sewing, making lists with a pencil, day-dreaming, and writing, too.

It boils down to this: I need to spend less time consuming and more time creating. Who’s with me?

Penguin procrastination

We’re all pretty keen on penguins in the this house, but my son is especially enamoured. If I were a first-rate mother I would whip up one of these adorable stuffed-toy penguins.

Purl Bee not only offers comprehensive instructions, but also sells the perfect fabric pack for the project, so there’s really very little excuse not to…

Except for the rewrite. Oh yes. That.