Tag Archive for: procrastination

Welcome to My Living Room

I read somewhere that clutter is a physical manifestation of unmade decisions, and what creates our clutter is procrastination. I know. There’s proof of it right inside my front door.

 Welcome to my living room.

There’s a reason why it resembles the loading dock at your neighborhood Goodwill.

After months on the market, I received an offer to buy my mother’s place, but only if I handed it over within days, which meant clearing out everything: all the furniture, art, clothes, books, tchotchkes, and mementos from Mom’s life and from generations before her.

I sprang into action and gave away furniture to anyone who would haul it off, toted dozens of boxes and bags full of clothing and household items to local charities, lugged a couple of lawn bags heavy with decades of paper receipts to the shredder, and offloaded books (Mom owned hundreds of them) to various collectors. By the closing date, everything was out of there. Whew!

The rest of the stuff landed at my place. Most of the mess is in the living room, but there’s more in almost every previously unoccupied space in our home.

During the move-out frenzy, I had to pause my writing schedule. But as soon as I could make a walking path between the boxes, I returned to my desk to finish the third Samantha Newman Mystery. I had to, for my own sanity, and for my wonderful readers who were expecting it months ago. The writing is going well, except for times when the chaos in the living room starts cluttering my mind.

What to do with the 17 pair of gloves that Mom wore to all her fancy lady events? I’ll keep a pair or two for sentimental reasons, but my heart won’t let me trash the rest. And what about her golf cleats and bowling shoes, and the elegant chandelier that’s now crated up and needs a new home? I could go on, and on, and on, and on, but there’s no point cluttering this post with the rest of it.

There’s a time and a place for everything, or so the saying goes. I hope so. Like Book 3 of my mystery series, the clearing-out is still a work in progress. For now, I’m going to concentrate on finishing the book, except for the occasional bagging and boxing and carting off. Eventually, the mess in the living room will sort itself out. Until then, procrastination can take a seat, if he can find one.

Are you okay with the clutter in your life?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries including The Body Business and The Body Next Door. Book 3 is set for release in 2022.

How to Cook Dinner and Start a Book–T. K. Thorne


Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        new places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.



My husband recently had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff.  He is the chef in the house; I, the consumer. In fact, I’m not normally even allowed in the kitchen (a survival thing, so I don’t burn down the house or poison him). But he would be out of action for a while, so I . . . panicked.

My anxiety centered not around the actual cooking, but  coming up with something to fix for dinner for several weeks. I think that can correlate to worrying about writing a book. The task seems enormous, requiring a large amount of creative energy.  Where do you start?  How do you make all those decisions?  I needed a plan for at least a week with a list of ingredients and grocery shopping (which husband has been doing since 2020).

I freaked out and employed my best strategy, finely honed over the years—Procrastination.

People who would like to write a book, but are overwhelmed with the idea sometimes ask me  —“Where/how do you start?”

My honest reply is “with the first word.”  

I have started a book based on an image, a phrase that popped into my mind, a vague sense of who my character is, a statement from a character, or a random idea. Sometimes, I know where I want to end up, especially if it is already a story, like the biblical tales that loosely formed the basis for Noah’s Wife or Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). With the nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice (about the 1963 16th Street Church bombing case), I knew I would end up with the trials and convictions of the Ku Klux Klan members who planted the bomb.  

It is very handy to know where you will end up (like having meals in mind when grocery shopping.) But even if I do, I have no idea how to get there. I need to create and feel out the characters, make sure they are interesting enough to intrigue me and make me want to live with them for the many months or years we will be working together. I say working together, because it is a partnership. Once a character is conceived, it’s my job to figure out what to throw at her and her job to react as appropriate to who she is.

I’m sure many other authors feel this way, as if their characters are alive in some intangible but real way. At some point, I daydream as far ahead as I can and work toward that, but sometimes everything comes to a halt and I don’t have a clue what’s next.  

At that point, I pull out my well-honed strategy and go clean the kitchen, read a book, or talk to a friend.  Eventually, my character subtilely tickles my fancy, politely knocks on the door of my mind, or hits me over the head with an idea and I a back to it.

The End

Postscript: My fears were ill-founded. Husband knew what was in the freezer and what he wanted, so he just ordered dinner menu and then stood over me, “guiding” every step.  Piece of cake. 

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

Creative Procrastination

by Linda Rodriguez
People have been known to ask me how I get so many different
things done. After I do a double-take, trying to see who they were talking to
(because it certainly couldn’t be me with the huge, never-finished to-do list),
I reply that I do it by not doing what I was supposed to do.
My house was never so clean as when I was in graduate school
facing studying for finals and writing long papers on the literary critical
theory of Jacques Lacan—Désir! Désir
is all!
I have knitted innumerable pairs of socks and mittens, purses and
even rugs, while delaying work on a tricky sweater promised to my husband. I wrote
one whole novel while avoiding finishing one that was under contract. I get
things done by doing things that aren’t the top priority on my list instead of
doing that top priority. I call it Creative Procrastination.
I’m thinking about this because one of my students just sent
me an abject email, beating herself up because she hadn’t been doing the work
for my class, couldn’t bring herself to do the assignments, had written 2,000
words about how awful she was and how ashamed she felt for not doing them. I
had to tell her that I knew exactly what she was going through, that most
writers did at one time or another.
There’s this thing called resistance. It means that, even when we love our work and want more
than anything to do our work, something inside us drags our feet, pulls us
away, and the beloved work doesn’t get done. It’s especially a problem for
artists—and even if we write commercial novels, that’s what we are. (Look in
the mirror and say ten times, “You are a writer. You are an artist.”)
I don’t try to fight it anymore. I make that nasty resistance
work for me. After cleaning house for a day or two, I’d get up with plans to do
some more cleaning/organizing and end up working on my Lacan paper to keep from
doing the cleaning I’d planned on. Halfway through the rug, I started sneaking
in a row or two on the husband’s sweater as a rebellion against it. Just before
finishing the last chapters of the uncontracted novel, I started being
unfaithful to it with the novel under contract (and deadline). There is a
method in my madness.
Along the way, I end up getting an awful lot of things
finally finished—usually while rebelling against something else that I’ve set
for myself to do. It may sound crazy, but it works for this aging hippy
radical. For example, I was procrastinating writing this blog post, so I gave
myself the assignment of writing a special handout for my class on how to
motivate yourself to write and find time to do it. Sure enough, I sat down
instead and wrote this post.

Now, what can I assign myself to do, so I can procrastinate
by writing that class handout?

Time Flies When You’re Having fun

By Evelyn David

I love Mark Twain. I was thinking of writing a blog on
procrastination and found his thoughts on the matter: Never put off until
tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Of course, finding clever quotations is one of my favorite
forms of procrastination, so there you have it.

When we first began The Stiletto Gang (five years next
January!), I wrote a blog about playing Free Cell, http://tinyurl.com/freecellblog. It
was all about procrastination, guilt, and the writer’s spirit.

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t played Free Cell in at
least three years.

But have you ever played Lexulous? It’s a Scrabble-type game
and I justify playing it by saying it improves my vocabulary. The problem is I
now know a plethora of new words (and by the way I knew the word plethora
before playing Lexulous) – but I have no idea what they mean. Za? Wo? Xi?

Anyway, I was feeling guilty again (and we all, by all I mean family,
friends, and even complete strangers, agree that Guilt is Marian’s middle name).
Tempus Fugit, etc.

But then I had this conversation with a friend which
suddenly made my playing Lexulous not only perfectly acceptable, but in fact,
part of the creative process. She explained that when she confronted her husband about his playing Backgammon online (and I do think that is a classier game than Lexulous), he said that while he plays, it may look like he’s wasting time, but actually it frees his mind to wander and see things in new, creative ways. She assured me that since I was a “creator,” I too had permission to play Lexulous for hours at a time.
Okay, she didn’t actually suggest that I could play for hours at a time — but it did give me the permission I needed to indulge in a little wordplay. It’s probably how War and Peace got written.
I then got to thinking about the larger issue. Why did I need permission in order to procrastinate? Was I worried that people would think I was a goof off? (And the answer is yes, I was worried about that). But generally speaking I’m not frustrated by the pace of my life. I get the important things done. Sure I’d like to write a new mystery in four weeks, but to a certain extent, I can’t push my whodunnit muse until she’s ready to move. Yes, sometimes it helps to put something down on paper, anything, and then revise. Sometimes it’s just the spark you need to get things underway. But often, you need time, uninterrupted time, to let your mind explore new, exciting ways to create devilish murder and mayhem.
So if you see me tapping away at my computer, it may indeed be the next Brianna or Maggie or Mac mystery — or it could be me letting my mind wander.
What’s your favorite form of procrastination?
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David 

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Tempus Fugit

I had coffee last week with Todd Strasser, a prolific author of a gazillion wonderful books that kids of all ages adore. Like any two authors who meet, we swapped war stories (writers block survival tips, reviews that pierce the soul, clever ideas for how to commit [fictional] murder without being caught — frogs are involved). We then talked a little about how hard it is to remain focused and how to fight those distractions that take us out of the stories we’re writing.

Knowing that admitting a problem is the first step to dealing with it, I then made a confession. Checking to be sure that I wasn’t overheard, I mumbled my dirty little secret. “I’m a free cell addict.”

For those unfamiliar with the games feature on their computers, it’s an ostensibly straightforward solitaire game that sucks you in with its simplicity until you realize you’ve just played 12 games in a row and nobody has been fictionally killed in at least an hour.

His face lit up in recognition of a fellow traveler. He checked my credentials. Did I let the computer randomly pick the games or did I hand select which ones I took on?

Here was a real pro. He promised to send me a list of the 100 toughest games; he’d found a web site that ranked them. I was set for life – or at least three books!

The seventeenth century English poet Edward Young warned “Procrastination is the thief of time.” On the other hand, Young was just penning rhymes about the execution of Lady Jane Grey. He wasn’t trying to figure out a method for Queen Mary to murder Ms. Jane without detection – or how Mac Sullivan and Rachel Brenner could trip up Mary before she killed again. Of course, another fabulous procrastination technique is Wikipedia where you learn incredibly useful information that you never previously knew – like who the heck is Edward Young and what did he have against an innocent game of free cell.

Frankly, I suspect that if Ed Young felt the need to make grand pronouncements about the folly of procrastination, then he probably had quite a few secret vices of his own to kill time when the iambic pentameter wasn’t flowing like water.

I always marvel at the author who explains, in her New York Times bestseller interview, that she got this inspiration for a book and the words just seemed to appear in full paragraphs on her computer screen. She wrote the entire draft in a single sitting of 67 days and never even checked a thesaurus because each word was perfect the first time around.

But I always identify with the writer who confesses that it took her three years and seven drafts to finish the stupid book and every word was like pulling teeth without Novocain.

Which is why I play Free Cell. I make little deals with myself when I’m working on a book: If I write two paragraphs, then I can take a break and play a quick game. Ask me how many games I’ve played since starting this blog.

I know there are other fine ways to procrastinate. Believe me, when I’m really looking to kill time instead of victims, I’ve been known to take down all the curtains in the house and wash them. My husband can tell from the bare windows as he pulls into the driveway that I’ve hit a brick wall in the plot. But it could have been worse. I know one author who surfs E-bay to avoid writing. He recently bought himself a bison head instead of finishing chapter three.

Tempus fugit indeed.

Evelyn David