How not to write

There are innumerable ways to avoid getting your writing done for the day. Most writers are geniuses at the art of procrastination, and I am no exception.  Here are a few of the techniques I’ve used so far this morning…

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me," C.S. Lewis

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me," C.S. Lewis

I woke up at 6:45 a.m.  Tea.  Can’t think without it.

Call a friend.  He left a message yesterday.  I’m sure it’s important and couldn’t possibly wait until after I’ve done my work. Luckily, he’s an early riser. Lovely commiserating conversation about the creative process.  Doesn’t help a bit.

Laundry.  Well, it has to get done.

Tidy the room.  I’m not one of those people who can work in a messy room. So, spend 20 minutes cleaning up.

I’ve cleaned the room and deserve more tea.

Check my email — this one’s fatal.  For once I start looking at the stuff in my inbox, a good hour will pass without me getting any useful work done at all.  Do I really need to shop for the newest spring bra styles?  Will that tantalizing offer from an on-line bookstore really disappear if I don’t look at it right now?  Hm, a friend has sent a link to an interesting article on Depression’s Upside.  Just my cup of tea, so to speak. And it’s nice and long.

Thinking of procrastination, I go to an old article on about this very thing.  They had  a whole issue on procrastination.  How thoughtful of them.  I discover there is even a 12-step program for procrastinators.  That doesn’t take up much time.  I don’t need another 12-step program.

Truman, not writing

Truman, not writing

However, there’s another article about Truman Capote and Ralph Ellison. That’s better.  That might almost be called research.  Amidst discussion of alcoholism, perfectionism and depression, it says this:  “Neurologist Alice Flaherty attempts a working distinction between procrastination and block—the fearsome Orthrus of the creative process—in her 2004 book The Midnight Disease: The Drive To Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain: “A blocked writer has the discipline to stay at the desk but cannot write. A procrastinator, on the other hand, cannot bring himself to sit down at the desk; yet if something forces him to sit down he may write quite fluently.” Well, that sounds intriguing.  Maybe I have writer’s block.  Or maybe not.  I can write, just not The Book.

Perhaps a walk would help.  Weather’s filthy.  All the better.  Huge waves, biting wind, no one else mad enough to be out. Bracing.  Invigorating.

Half and hour later, I return freezing and wet.  I need a shower.

Clean and warm again, I need more tea.

Perhaps I’ll begin (?) the writing day by reading some poetry.  That should loosen up the creative synapses.  First, over to The Writer’s Almanac, then Poetry Daily. Good, but it makes me want Mary Oliver.  I have her book, Owls and Other Fantasies on my desk.  An owl figures rather prominently in the book I’m working on, after all.  I read, “In the night, when the owl is less than exquisitely swift and perfect, the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl, which is not of pain and hopelessness and the fear of being plucked out of the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still.” Rollicking glory of the death-bringer.  That’s rather good —

Larus marinus

Larus marinus

— Oh, look!  A Great Black-Backed Gull hovering outside the window.  I should know that latin name.  I look it up.  (Larus marinus).

Heavens, is that the time? (12:00) Well, it’s tea time again, which is lucky, since I’m feeling a bit drained from all this ‘research.”

When I get back to my desk, I’ll have to write this blog… you know, before I start my ‘real’ writing…  Unless I have lunch first…


  1. Karen on March 3, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    This is so amusing! And so true. I have a day job. And a knotty problem to figure out in terms of the plot for the mystery novel I’m writing. And a book out to a sadly dwindling number of agents for consideration. And a blog on words, writing, and other topics that can be stretched to fit (such as a pending post on the movie Shutter Island). But still, I find it’s more important to watch American Idol, brush the dogs, and wander over to my email. And now, look. I’m commenting on your blog. It’s hopeless.

    • Lauren B. Davis on March 3, 2010 at 9:54 pm

      Don’t give up hope, Karen… believe it or not, all this ‘moodling’ is part of the process, or so I tell myself. We’re like dogs circling, circling before we actually lie down. And as for agents, well, it’s a grueling process, just as hard as finding a publisher. Persevere. Have faith in your work. Your blog, by the way, is lovely. Keep going.

  2. red-handed on March 4, 2010 at 8:22 am

    A close second in the procrastination race is editing. Oh, how the unedited, unsubmitted pile of short stories at my desk (nicely tucked away in a plastic bin) can make me weep. p.s — I once ran over an owl on the highway, because he lighted down right in front of me, and I didn’t have a choice, and I still feel bad about it to this day.

    • Lauren B. Davis on March 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

      Hey red-handed… I’m with you. Revision! Editing! Dorothy Parker once said, “I don’t write five words, but that I change seven.” Oy. And awfully sorry about the owl. God, that would haunt me, too.

  3. Lynne Spreen on March 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I use a timer. Yep, the clunky old kitchen wind-up thing. I use it for
    anything I can’t stand the thought of working on, and sometimes that
    describes my book. I set it for a ridiculously short period of time
    (20 minutes?) and force myself to work until it rings. Usually I get
    to a place where I am now happy to keep going. If not, what the hey,
    I’ve done 20 minutes! I wrote about this at

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