Pure Time? Pure Nonsense

Lisa Davison is an editor by day and fiction writer/Kingston MA student by spare time. She is currently writing her first novel and was published in the 2012 edition of Kingston’s student anthology, Ripple. She blogs at www.thegreatepuzzle.co.uk and tweets as @LisaJaneDavison. She loves cats and paper.

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I have a confession. My name is Lisa Davison and I am leading a double life. By day, I am a mild-mannered (sort-of) professional copywriter and editor who meets deadlines, turns up for meetings on time and generally manages to sift through the ‘to do’ list in a sensible fashion. By night (and early mornings and weekends), though, I turn into THE PROCRASTINATOR.

My weakness? TIME MANAGEMENT.

Because it turns out the only superpower this title bestows upon me is an extraordinary ability to do the washing when I should be developing character, building plot, or – I don’t know – writing. I have a few theories on why I spend so much time avoiding the thing I love but I’ll save that for the therapist.

The thing is, I don’t know anyone who feels that they have enough time in their life to sit and write, and let’s face it the mild-mannered (sort of) copywriter/editor is paying the bills right now. I also realise I’m not the only one with pressures and deadlines; in many ways I have fewer than most friends since I don’t have kids. I know they’re capable of being distracted – I can see you on Facebook and Twitter so don’t pretend – but they appear to have mastered the art of balance. Or at least, they don’t moan about it as much as I do. I, on the other hand, appear to have created a whole series of convoluted, deeply-held beliefs about the way I should manage my time.

Example: I have a free Sunday coming up with hour upon glorious hour of free time with which to sit and write. Perfect. Because I have told myself I need hour upon glorious hour in order to be creative. The procrastinator likes to call it ‘pure’ time. Only, when Sunday arrives I quite unexpectedly discover I need to tidy my desk first, put the washing on first, hoover first (it’s pathetic how little has changed since I was last at university – although a lot more alcopops were involved) and once all that’s done I’m left with only one hour. And I can’t possibly sit down for an hour to write because the procrastinator has declared I’m out of pure time.

I’ve also wasted a lot energy asking other writers how they manage their minutes and hours, as if there is some Holy Grail of time management that I don’t yet know about. The answer is often terribly dull: planning helps, sitting down at your desk and doing it helps more.

So, as I enter the thirty-seventh year of my life I’ve decided 2013 will be the year of GETTING ON WITH IT. Like any problem, identification is half the battle. Now that I’ve spotted my insane pure time theory I can go about dismantling it. Already, I have spent a weekend away with writing friends doing nothing but story plan and character development. As it turns out, planning really does help. I’ve also started to identify – and more importantly use – the odd hour here, the spare fifteen minutes there to just put something, anything, down on paper. Award-winning it ain’t, but then that’s not the point. As Philip Pullman said in an interview with The Guardian in 2011: “if you only write when you want to, or when you feel like it, or when it’s easy, you’ll always be an amateur.”

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New Year: No procrastinating please (But if only I had the perfect desk….)

Catherine Gladstone is in her first year of her Creative Writing MFA. When she’s not at lectures, she’s spends most of her time running around after her 18 month old daughter. She also works part time & runs her own little PR agency – Candid Communications (www.candid-communications.co.uk).
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I’ve always wanted a writers bureau. So, I made it my job over the space of a few weeks to find one.
 
I took a tape measure and measured the space in my tiny loft room. I checked my measurements via a desk I’d seen on the Internet. We’ll call this procrastination part one.
 
Next up, procrastination part two, I spent my evenings tapping ‘writers bureau’ into eBay. I emailed sellers and discussed delivery charges with courier companies. I asked my husband “What you think?”
 
After a week or so, I moved on to procrastination part three: Dragging my toddler around second hand shops, trying to keep her flailing limbs straight-jacketed inside her pushchair. I finally found a desk and took it home.  
 
Now, I was ready to start writing my next novel. But NOT before, I had arranged my books about writing on it, along with a strategically placed candle, some notepapers and some hand cream.
 
HAND CREAM! Seriously?
 
I’m supposed to be writing a book, not arranging candles and hand cream, and of course it doesn’t matter where I write, only that I do.
 
It’s a new year and that means no more dawdling, pottering, pootling or staring out of the window for me. Unless I decide to write a Karl Knausgaard style novel about the banality of everyday life, then, surely that counts as research?
 
If you have a similar new years resolution you are struggling to keep, here are some quotes that might help:
 
Writers on ‘writers block’
 
“As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall.” Virginia Woolf
 
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway
 
Writers on ‘procrastination’ 
 
“I love deadlines – I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams
 
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King
 
Writers on ‘how to get over writers block’
 
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  Mark Twain
 
Writers on the experience of ‘writing’
 
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.“  George Orwell

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