Category Archives: Practical Procrastination

Writing Life: The Secret Project

Last week I wrote about going through SPLAT, but before I could face my own personal splat, I had a few questions for it. Like why were my procrastination and resistance so hard core around the rewriting of Book Three?

The answer came to me Sunday morning. Expectations. My own high expectations and the expectations of my publisher, my friends, my family, and my fans. Writing the next book in a series isn’t easier, at least not to me, and for some reason I thought it would be. It’s much harder. There’s an absence of freedom around it due not only to all the expectations, but also the pressure deadlines.

by Gizem Vural

I compared my lack of enthusiasm while writing Book Three to the complete joy I experienced working on my new book Intergalactic. No one, not even myself, had any expectation around Intergalactic. It was a complete experiment. A NaNo even. There were no deadlines but my own, no eyes waiting to tear into it, or tear it apart, it was a secret from the entire world.

I’m not a fan of working on more than one novel at a time, especially in this case. I know Intergalactic could easily steal my attention away from my Book Three rewrite. But I decided to try a little experiment. What if I worked on another kind of writing as a warm-up each day? A creative essay? A poem? A song? A short story? Write for the sheer joy and pleasure of writing, with no strings attached, to get me into my writing mode.

And you know what? It worked! Over the past three days I’ve dabbled in a “secret” creative project, worked on some songs, and drafted a creative essay and was so elated to be doing so that when I turned to my Book Three rewrite, I was in a much happier space.

From that space I knew I could tell this story. I was still creative. I did not forget how to write overnight.

Perhaps you, too, are procrastinating to the page because of your own expectations. Maybe you’re afraid of imperfection, maybe you have a lack of confidence. Whatever the reason, perhaps this little experiment will work for you as well. When you’re up against splat, try warming up by writing creatively in another form just for pleasure, to remember why you write in the first place.

The trick is not to use the “secret project” as an excuse not to work on your novel or to procrastinate even more. What I do is set my timer for 20-40 minutes to warm up with this new idea. If it’s a poem, I might be able to crank out a first draft. If it’s a song, I can jot notes, sing and record the melody on my computer. If it’s a short story or essay, I can make an outline or jump on in with a cannonball splash.

With no expectations, it’s been a great way to start each writing day.

How do you get yourself to the page when you’re up against your own SPLAT?


Filed under Practical Procrastination, writing life

NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Down the Other Side (aka Tips, Tricks, Inspiration to Get Through the 2nd Half of NaNo)

Today’s Goal: 2,000 words
Actual Words: 2,568 words
Total Words to Date: 36,142

I have two NaNo friends who chose to quit last week because they were too far behind. I’m not going to give them a hard time b/c I know life gets in the way, we all have different priorities and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s not the right time. That doesn’t mean it was in vain, though, because 6 or 8 or 10,000 words on a new novel is a great start.

If you are on the cusp of deciding whether to continue or not, I encourage you to stick with it. If you’re having procrastination issues, time management issues, focus issues, perhaps there’s a tip or word of encouragement in here to see you through.

Tip #1) Your Timer is Your Friend

I have had my Pillsbury Dough-boy Timer for almost 15 years. I use it in my writing classes for timed writing exercises and to keep my classes running according to my agenda for the day. I also use it as an anti-procrastination device and a way to stay focused.

Here are some of my own personal timer tricks.

+ If I’m feeling really unmotivated, I give myself a timed writing warm-up to get my mind going.

+ If I’m really dragging myself to the page/computer, I tell myself to just write for 20 or 30 minutes and see how it goes. I set my timer and GO. (usually after 20 or 30 minutes I’m so into the story I don’t want to stop). Setting the timer helps me to start and focus. I have no idea how PBD tricks me into writing every time. I must be very gullible.

+ Even if I’m totally motivated to get to the page, I set it for 30 minutes anyway so I’ll remember to get up and stretch or do some yoga sun salutations.

+ If I really feel like checking my Facebook or email after breakfast, I give myself permission to do so, but set my timer for 20 minutes and when the time is up, I stop. That way it’s a conscious choice and I don’t feel guilty afterwards.

+ Say my daily goals are to work on my novel, clean the kitchen, do some marketing, and write a blog post – I set my timer for each task. I can take 60 minutes to clean the kitchen if I’m not timing it. 20 minutes if I am. It makes a huge difference.

IMPORTANT: USE A TIMER and not a clock. Clock-watching is distracting. Timers go off when you tell them to. Do not use the one on your cell phone. I keep all phones away from my cottage when writing.

Tip #2) Don’t watch your word count

I’m typing my NaNo into a Word Doc. At the bottom of the page is the Word Count. It’s so easy to get obsessed with those little numbers down there, so I always scoot my Doc down enough so that the word count is off screen. I find that I go faster when I can’t see it and usually by the time I do check it, I’ve surpassed my goal.

Tip #3 ) Go for a WALK

If you are stuck, frustrated, foggy, unfocused then reread your last several pages and take a walk. Think about what just happened, what needs to happen in the next sequence, and where you want to go. Play out different scenarios in your mind. Run through some “what ifs.” It’s so safe when it’s all happening in your head.

Tip #4) Put Another Obstacle in the Way

At 20,000 words I panicked a little because I thought I was almost done with my story. What? I know I’m an economic writer, but that’s not even a novelette. But idoLL and Jettison had already reached their final destination, where I had imagined my profound climax. Oops. What did I do? I figured out a reason they had to leave the planet, then threw a new monkey wrench into their plans.

When you’re looking to make your story more interesting, throw something else in the MC’s way. Make their goal harder to attain. Never make it easy for them.

Tip #5) The Final Quarter Beat Sheet

When I’m about 2/3 or 3/4 into the story and closing in on the climax, I write a new beat sheet. Generally by this time my old one is useless anyway, b/c the story has taken a left turn at Albuquerque.

This is a great way to see what’s left to do and gets you out of overwhelm. It puts the end in sight and a map to get there.

I will go into this more on my Friday Weekend Workout (and guess what your weekend workout will be?)


If you haven’t noticed it yet, there are writers out there who have published their NaNo novels. Some of them give pep talks on the NaNo website.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, which she wrote, yes, for NaNoWriMo, gave this little pep talk I enjoyed.

Author Deb Olin Unferth adds THESE TIPS.

Lastly, even though I know I’m in danger of giving you too many tips as to distract you from your writing, one of my favourite YA authors, Scott Westerfeld, reposted his NaNo Tips from 2009 if you’d like to check them out.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, Practical Procrastination, writing life

Backing Into the Flow [unclogging writer’s block]

I was recently watching an interview with Lou Reed on Spectacle – the Elvis Costello show (a brilliant tv show, btw, if you’ve never seen it).

Lou Reed told Elvis that he’s not a prolific writer. That he doesn’t have a novel in him. That he writes when he’s in the grip of “it” but that it comes and goes. He has had long periods of not writing. Lou Reed.

When asked if during those dry times he ever thought he’d never get “it” back, he said as he’s gotten older, he’s learned that it always eventually comes back. So he doesn’t torture himself about it. Although, he said, he sometimes still asks the universe (my interpretation, he looked up at “the above” when he said this), “So . . . is that it?”

This was a timely message for me, as I’ve been in the middle of a, “So . . . is that it?” for the past month. If Lou Reed can be cool about those longer-than-comfortable creative silences, well then . . .

What I’ve learned for myself, when I’ve left the flow for an extended period of time, is that I’ve got to just be with it for a little while. It’s like sitting and watching a stream go by that has priceless treasures floating in it – and being OKAY that priceless treasures are floating by! Being OKAY with just sitting, because the treasure stream is always there.

Then, at some point in a day where I feel slightly more capable, I reach out after “it.” Even if it’s a weak grasping after, it’s a trigger, and sometimes it’s all the trigger I need.

One little trick I recommend is to do something creative that is out of your current element. Perhaps something you’ve always wanted to try, or something you used to do fondly. I find I have less attachment to these things. I feel less pressure around doing them. If I’m writing a novel, perhaps I’ll work on writing a song. If I’m writing poetry, perhaps I’ll try a one act play.

Something I used to do several years ago, something I’ve always enjoyed and admired, is collage art. Words, images, or both. I’ve never done them to make a living or put in a show. I’ve only made them for friends – sometimes framed, sometimes sent as postcards.

I love the act of collage and the originality of it. It’s like thrift shopping for a new wardrobe – you can get an idea in your mind of what you want to create, but you only have the images you come across to work with.

This time, I decided to do a few holiday-themed pieces and use old photographs. I’ve got boxes of photographs I never look at, so it was the perfect kind of activity for a dark, cloudy, Vancouver December.

I liked these two so much they became my holiday cards for 2010.

If you’ve found yourself in a writing black hole, why not pull out some finger paints, coloured sand, or old photographs and try your hand at something else? Surprise your muse.


Filed under Collaged, Practical Procrastination, weekend workout, writing life

The Inner Sanctum (a work in progress)

Okay, so if you were thinking to yourself, that’s not so bad, Danika. Doesn’t look too packed or out of control in your office. That shouldn’t take three weeks!

Well, that’s because I haven’t shown you what’s hiding inside The Shed. My soon-to-be-Inner Sanctum. The place where unpacked boxes have been hibernating for almost 3 years. I’m converting it to my new office. Ta-da!


My first task is to move everything out of The Shed so I can soup up the inside.

It’s all going to have to be piled into the main garage, without blocking access to Victor’s private Kitty Lounge, the laundry machine, and all Baby’s man-gadgets.

Oh, THAT's where I left my file cabinet.

Drywall repair? No problem! Since our reno, I know more about drywall than any poet has a right to know.

How are your summer projects progressing?


Filed under domestic poop, Practical Procrastination

Practical Procrastination Techniques #3 – Research Random Things on the Internet

Because, hey, you never know when a clever turn of phrase, an insignificant fact, or a fleeting moment of genius could help you out of a tight situation. Like an awkward silence at an industry networking party, for instance!

As poet Bernadette Mayer says, if it’s not writing, it’s research.

~  ~  ~

A friend of mine’s facebook status stated that she might be Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobic. Since I absolutely have to know what every word I run across means, I dutifully looked it up (see Practical Procrastination Techniques #2). It means fear of the number 666 (fear that it is related to satan and the anti-christ).

Well, me being the cheeky monkey that I am (and not even stopping to consider that this may be a serious phobia of hers), I attempted to cure her ailment with a bit of Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobic humour. I found most of these online HERE (I didn’t make these up, I stole them with glee).

670 Approximated Number of the Beast

DCLXVI Roman Numeral of the Beast

333 Number of the Semi-Beast

66 Number of the Downsized Beast

0.666 Number of the Millibeast

-666 Opposite of the Beast

25.8069758… Square Root of the Beast

1010011010 Binary Number of the Beast

00666 Zip Code of the Beast Website of the Beast

1-666-666-6666 Phone or FAX Number of the Beast

(1-888-666-6666 Toll Free Number of the Beast)

1-900-666-6666 Live Beasts, available now! One-on-one pacts! Only $6.66 per minute! [Must be over 18!]

666-66-6666 Social Security Number of the Beast

Form 10666 Special IRS Tax Form for the Beast

66.6% Tax Rate of the Beast

6.66% 6-Year CD Interest Rate at First Beast Bank of Hell ($666 minimum deposit, $666 early withdrawal fee)

$665.95 Retail Price of the Beast

$769.95 Price of the Beast with accessories and replacement soul

$656.66 Wal-Mart Price of the Beast (next week $646.66!)

$55.50 Monthly Payments for Beast, in 12 easy installments

666o F Oven Temperature for Cooking “Roast Beast”

666 mg Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast

Word 6.66 Word Processor of the Beast

#666666 Font Color of the Beast (the gray in this table!)

IAM 666 License Plate Number of the Beast

66.6 MHz FM Radio Station of the Beast

666 KHz AM Radio Station of the Beast

okay, now, back to work!


Filed under funny poop, Practical Procrastination, random poop