A Brief Experiment

Procrastination is probably the writer’s greatest hidden enemy. Most of us unconsciously employ strategies designed to stop us putting pen to paper and getting on with the job. This is so even if we actively enjoy the process of writing. Something in us is almost self-destructive in its desire to stop us expressing ourselves in words.

At least, that seems to be my experience: I can’t honestly speak for others, though I’ve noticed there’s a good deal of chat online about writers and procrastination!

This morning I awoke early, determined initially to deal with a non-writing issue involved with some planning applications I’m making on behalf of a charitable trust I currently chair. That took me a good 30 minutes of investigation. I was then intending to do some creative writing; nothing specific planned, but the idea was to explore a poem, or maybe start a new short story.

But I was online for the investigation. I glanced at my Google tabs and decided to deal with emails. Then I ventured onto Twitter to see whether there was anything needing my attention. Big mistake. 47 minutes later, I realised how long I’d been there, retweeting, commenting, and generally getting involved in the process. But what does it achieve? Probably very little, if the truth is faced. It’s an outlet for our various frustrations if we’re passionate about injustice, cruelty, corruption or any other social ill. But I doubt we can change minds via this social media outlet.

What else might I have managed in those 47 minutes? What might I have created?

It occurred to me (I’m a bit slow sometimes) that this particular social platform has become almost addictive for me: I go there intending to respond only to those tweets that require a response, and maybe to indulge in a quick promotional post. Invariably, I discover some time later I’m still mired in the mix of garbage and wisdom, inanity and hope, callousness and inspiration that is the substance of Twitter. I probably spend (for which I should honestly translate ‘waste’) as much as an hour and a half a day there.

So, once I’ve posted this piece and dealt with its spread over the net, which will include a link on Twitter, I intend to stay away from the site completely for a whole week. I leave the site with 23,125 people I’m following and 22,706 people following me: it’ll be interesting to see whether the break affects these figures, as I intend to place a statement about the break as my ‘pinned’ tweet, once I’m ready.

I’ll let you know, next Sunday, what has been the outcome of this self-imposed prohibition, and whether I actually managed to keep to my intention!

17 thoughts on “A Brief Experiment

  1. I try to do these breaks once in a while, as well, because I need to do ‘deep work’ pick up a task and keep hammering away at it until it is done. The job of a writer becomes harder with all these distractions.

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    1. Yes, Damyanti, sometimes focus is our most urgent need as writers. I find that’s the case particularly as I create a work. When I’m in the editing phase, I can afford the odd distraction to take me out of that demanding role so I can return to the piece in question with a fresh outlook.


  2. I really wish you a good break and trust you will see clearly after which is right for you. It is important to be ‘ at the helm’ – rather then feeling hijacked by the medias.
    All the best


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  3. Ahhhhhh. A week without wading through screens of notifications, not reading so-and-so’s opinions about Brexit, or frowning about whatever May and Trump are scheming. Hey, you could write a few chapters!

    Can you do it? You feel the pull, don’t you … tugging … niggling … nagging?

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    1. Fortunately, Kathy, my Twitter feed is on a separate tab from my search engine and I switched off email notifications to it a long time ago, so I can leave Google on hand for enquiries without being faced with that temptation to forage through Twitter. So far, today, it’s worked. And, of course, I can still do the odd bit of sharing of other people’s work via those Twitter buttons without actually going to the site. Useful!

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  4. Hi there Stuart-
    I’d recently read somewhere to either work on a computer with no internet connection or simply shut the net down if you can’t stay away from surfing…
    I’m learning to allow a small bloc of surf/read online time each day and that’s it –
    does seem to help
    I think often about the many accomplished writers who used nothing but a pen or typewriter – this thought helps too
    And write on!

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    1. Thanks, AnnMarie. You’re right about those who wrote with pen and paper – so few distractions. I’ve tried keeping away from the internet but my problem is that I write as a pantster, which sometimes means I have to investigate an idea/term/or some location whilst I’m creating, and the internet is the most immediate source! But there are undoubtedly times I could absent myself and just check on emails, etc at the end of the day. I tgried this previously, and it worked. Then I forgot I’d used it and went back to old habits: it’s largely because I’m not too bright, you see?

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