Journalistic reports on matters of interest to writers, often practical, from a broad perspective.
Monday, 27 March 2017 17:14

Letter from London #27

Written by Edwin Riddell
How to Put the Pro in  Procrastinate How to Put the Pro in Procrastinate

Surveying recent discussions about different approaches to writing, I spied a glaring gap. Little, if anything, has been said about the essential avoidance strategies available to the seasoned writer embarking on a new project.

For instance, the meticulous lining-up of pens, pencils and paperclips along an arbitrarily ruled straight line on the desk (if using the old-fashioned, pre-computer approach). Even before that, deciding whether a cup of tea, or should it be coffee, is the better way to kick off the working day? And should that beverage go with a chocolate biscuit, or is a slice or two of toast with honey or preserves called for?

For some, the answer to undertaking a really rewarding day's work may involve preparation of what's known as a 'Full English' – various breakfast combinations of egg, bacon, toast, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread, orange juice, etc. Which can take up to the best part of an hour.

Or should one instead adopt the 'muscular aesthete' kind of pre-writing routine that entails a vigorous gymnastic workout to get the circulation of blood flowing, especially in cranial regions? Yet again, a more holistic, yoga-type experience may be just the thing to get you in a Zen frame of mind. And what if summoning the creative Zeitgeist actually involves a nice, long walk, with or without a dog, or perhaps a spot of double-digging in the garden.

Whatever your particular approach, a really successful avoidance strategy should aim at taking the day in question to the point where it is no longer a viable entity for doing any work at all. One where you would be better off shopping for (and then lovingly preparing) a particularly complex dinner - if need be preceded by a round of golf, game of tennis, tea with friends, or challenging DIY project.

If said dinner were to be something like authentic bouillabaisse made from scratch, it's not inconceivable that sourcing ingredients, grinding shells, etc, could take the whole thing into a really productive run of several consecutive days of absence from the keyboard.


Modern technology has made available a whole new range of enhanced avoidance strategies. From dealing with essential emails or text messages, in which one exchanges jokes and banter with like-minded idiots, to reading the morning papers online, arguing the toss in the comments sections, or even finishing that game of internet chess. For today’s author, the world is a digital oyster.

It could be profitable, for instance, to determine the weather forecast not just for this day but for the whole week ahead. If sunshine is predicated, who would argue that the sensible will make hay while they can, and save the nerdy stuff for a rainy day?


A word of warning. Advanced avoidance strategies are not for beginners, nor the faint-hearted. For each individual, it will be important to define the particular avoidance routines that suits them best. These can often be a matter of trial and error. On occasion – whisper it not in Gath - you may even find yourself experimenting with an avoidance strategy that actually is not preferable to sitting down and writing.

On the whole, this is unlikely.

- Edwin Riddell


  • Comment Link David Battler Sunday, 03 December 2017 11:03 posted by David Battler

    I enjoyed reading this very much. Very well done. I liked the way you illustrated the "excuses." Made me laugh in recognition, and is that not how we want readers to resonate with our writings?

  • Comment Link David Battler Sunday, 03 December 2017 11:03 posted by David Battler

    I enjoyed reading this very much. Very well done. I liked the way you illustrated the "excuses." Made me laugh in recognition, and is that not how we want readers to resonate with our writings?

  • Comment Link Pam Ainsworth Saturday, 01 July 2017 22:50 posted by Pam Ainsworth

    first let me say I LOVE, LOVE, the chalk board message, it says it all, and reminds me lol. I think this article was very well written and good to go.

  • Comment Link SafiaSimmons Saturday, 03 June 2017 08:08 posted by SafiaSimmons

    Wow....I have used all these excuses and thought of them as preparations. Now realizing I haven't written a thing but used the day as preparation of what is to come..the greatness, the novel....when nothing came at all. Now years later I realize I must really begin. Today, not trying to make excuses, I said I will find a great help center. I did not want to fog my mind so I just drank water over and over again. For clarity and hydration. Then I found this site and feel inspired. I will write everyday is my pledge. Please help and keep me encouraged and accountable.

  • Comment Link Edwin Riddell Friday, 31 March 2017 23:19 posted by Edwin Riddell

    Gary has thrown down a challenge here. Is it betterr to have pre-prepared 'Excuses of the Day' for not getting on with stuff, or is it a more imaginative challenge to make them up as one goes along?

    A bit of a chin-scratcher.

  • Comment Link Gary Fields Friday, 31 March 2017 11:30 posted by Gary Fields

    Funny and pointed. I happen to be the King of Procrastination. I avoid writing by imagining all kinds of excuses. When that part is finished, then I use the Excuse of the Day. It's really pathetic.

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