As a writer, there's nothing better than actually wanting to write: to have a thought or a direction, to sit down at your computer (or typewriter if you're going to be that guy), and start typing furiously, the words spilling onto the page with a grace and finesse even Kate Middleton would envy.
But, if we're being honest here, that almost never happens. Instead, you end up staring at a blank screen for several minutes until you remember that you should probably alphabetize your books because they're getting out of order. And you only have a few apples left so you should most definitely run out to the store to pick up a couple more.
I think everyone who writes anything has those moments of feeling uninspired, tired, or just plain over it. Unfortunately when you're up against an impending deadline the whole waiting-to-write-until-you're-in-the-zone thing isn't always possible, and learning to write when you just really don't feel like it is really quite a struggle.
In the perfect example of seemingly-productive procrastination, while trying to write a screenplay this past weekend I, instead, came up with a list of dos and don'ts for writing up against a deadline. From someone who is wonderful at coming up with well-timed excuses, here you go:
Dos and Don'ts for the Procastinating Writer (An Autobiography):
- Just do it (I realize this isn't super helpful, but it's probably the #1 rule of writing things). I know how terrible it is to spend an hour writing something and only have several clunky, awkward phrases to show for it. But just get through that and you're on track to actually coming up with those interesting thoughts we all know are in there somewhere.
- Don't watch an episode of The Office (or read New Yorker magazine, or watch Manhattan for the third time this week, etc.). "But I'm researching!" you might proclaim. "I'm studying this film so that I can have a better understanding of story structure, character development, and dramatic irony." That's all well and good, but by episode 12 of The Office that's a much more difficult case to make. You're fooling no one with your Netflix binge, get back to work.
- You don't need to clean your apartment, you and I both know that. You did the dishes this morning and took out the trash after lunch. Since when do you scrub the toilet anyway? Since you had a deadline coming up in Screenwriting class...
- We know you love Grandma, but now's not the time to give her a call. It's 3am for goodness sake, the woman's asleep. I'm absolutely an advocate for keeping in touch with your wonderful family but using your older sibling or your father as a form of procrastination? How dare you.
- Do drink lots of water. I'm no scientist, but in my experience of attempting to pull all-nighters or sit still for 6 hours to finish an assignment, water has always been there for me (how sentimental). Coffee won't keep you awake any more than someone standing behind your desk shaking you for a few hours will, and energy drinks just make you crave Bugels or Corn Nuts or some other strange snack from the only open convenience store. Water is your friend (and if you want to look extra cool drop a few lemon halves and fresh raspberries into your Nalgene and everyone will think you're on some kind of trendy Beyonce detox diet).
Also don't write a blog post...I'm getting back to work now, I promise.