Elizabeth McGivern offers her advice for staying productive as a writer.
The irony of writing about procrastination a few hours before this article is due, is not lost on me. Since I was at school I could never really sit down and do the work I was meant to without the added pressure of a fast-approaching deadline.
My days as a journalist did little to stop this way of writing, but at least it wasn’t a new experience for me when I joined the newsroom. With that said, I will write about the dangers of procrastination in the hope that you, dear reader, can learn from my terrible ways and be a much more productive writer.
DO: Outline what you have to write and how long you have.
DON’T: Stare at the blank content request, convince yourself you’ll definitely come up with something really clever in a few weeks and then realise you’ve got two hours to come up with something, write it and hope to God it makes sense.
DO: Research your chosen topic and make sure it’s relevant.
DON’T: Decide to write about your worst habit in the hope that the reader will take pity on you and find your pathetic attempts to write as ‘endearing’ therefore securing a much-needed book sale in order for you to buy shoes for your children (imagine said kids as Victorian-era street urchins if that helps with this point).
DO: Make insightful and well thought-out arguments to promote yourself as an expert on your chosen topic.
DON’T: Get labelled as a flaky procrastinator by writing an article outlining your flaws as a writer in intimate detail – it doesn’t make you sound professional in any way.
DO: Enjoy the writing experience. It’s an art and your time spent doing it should be protected.
DON’T: Agree to do literally anything else than sit down and commit to the two hours you promised yourself you would do this morning. Before I sat down to write this I decided it was extremely important to re-paint the skirting boards in the bathroom and reorganise the office.
DO: Have a realistic goal and timeframe for your next writing project.
DON’T: Wonder why you’re not a billionaire, thirty seconds after the publication of your blog/book. By all means, aim for the stars and all that jazz but don’t spend time (especially time you should be using to write) looking up famous writers, binge eating ‘comfort’ chocolate and wondering where it all went wrong. As a rule just don’t compare yourself to strangers – famous or not – on the internet; this one piece of advice will save you a fortune in therapy.
DO: Connect with other writers on social media, they are not your competition. You should only be in competition with yourself.
DON’T: Spend eight hours a day on social media then emerge, bleary-eyed, from your office and wonder why that next chapter hasn’t written itself.
So, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you take this advice as it was intended – with a gallon of salt. I don’t mind being a procrastinator, it works for me. Find your own writing style and method and just roll with it, it’s the only way you can stay sane in a very isolating profession (unless you count the characters you talk to in your head!)
Now that this is done I can get back to my skirting boards, that next chapter can be done tomorrow…
(Photo credit:Jess Lowe)
Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge. After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.
Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not. After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.
Elizabeth McGivern lives in Northern Ireland and is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal. In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.