The Guide for the Procrastinating Writer: Tip #1

Get a time clock. One of those cool old time clocks they’d use in factories that gave a satisfying clunk when you put in your timesheet like it could bite your hand off if it wanted. The kind that was bolted high on the wall, but near enough a desk, under which a stool for the children who would come in and work the loom was surreptitiously kept.

The best place to pick one up is in an antique shop, somewhere in Concord, Massachusetts. It doesn’t matter where you live, get yourself to Concord. Make sure it’s got that satisfying bite to it. Preferably bring your own paper with which you can try this out, because otherwise you’ll be in the nearby hospital, which is a pleasant one, nursing a puncture wound to the flap between your forefinger and thumb. The same will be true if you use low-grade paper, as most time clocks worth your time will buck and snort at thin paper, leaping off the antique table on which they sit and, in a dreadful arc, come crashing into your right knee.

Do not attempt to engage the shop owner in conversation about time clocks. That will only waste time, and you will find they encourage loose talk about the vast and somewhat shocking number of time clock-related accidents they have in these parts.

Once you’ve picked your time clock, clear away a section of the wall near your desk. Go out to the shop and buy a stud finder, if you don’t have one. Resist all urges to engage in conversation or even ask where you might find a stud finder, lest you get pulled into a painful conversation with lots of innuendo. Aisle 8. Under the steel wool pads and a large package of plastic sheeting someone has mis-filed.

With the stud finder, find the stud in your wall nearest your desk. If one isn’t within a few feet, you may wish to go back to the hardware store and pick up a large 2×4 piece of wood, a claw hammer, some plaster, and maybe a slim piece of wallpaper. Upon your return home, open up the wall near-ish your desk where a time clock would look good. Jam the 2×4 in the empty space, looking in first to ensure that it is, in fact, empty. Most often you will find rats, mice, vagabonds, and once I found a hawk, living within the walls. Give them a few minutes to get their stuff and go, if they haven’t tried to leave already, with your peeking face still in the way. Otherwise you may find yourself en route to the hospital again. The one in Concord is lovely, so you may find yourself making a long journey to return to some old friends.

Once the 2×4 is jammed in there, plaster over the hole in the wall. If you didn’t pick up a plaster spreader thing at the hardware store because I forgot to mention it, return to the store and grab one of those. Also grab a candy bar, while you’re at it, because they’re right by the counter and will taste good just before you settle down to write.

With some industrial-strength nails, nail the time clock to the wall. It is best to do this sitting down at your desk, so you can see the ideal place to set it for easy access during the writing process.

Make sure the time clock is in solidly in place on your wall — you can test this by putting your full weight on it, lifting yourself like an Olympic gymnast on the pommel horse. Do not attempt the move in which the gymnast spins themselves around in a circle. Because, as you’ll have noted, you have just nailed the thing to the wall, which presents an obstacle to spinning around. Even if you hired a very tiny gymnast it is very unlikely that they could perform the spinning move on your newly installed time clock. And, if they could, it still wouldn’t be testing the true mettle of your time clock-mounting skills.

You’ll want the clock attached to the wall well because you don’t want the thing falling down in the middle of writing a sentence, disrupting your entire train of thought and scuppering the work in progress. And, as you’ve bought a hefty one on my recommendation, they can do quite a bit of damage to your floors, be they wood or carpeted.

Once the time clock is up on your wall have a seat at your desk. Give it a good, long stare. Time may appear to stand still, if your staring is particularly intense. There is also a good chance you’ve forgotten to plug in the clock. Get up from your desk and plug it in. Don’t risk remaining seated and trying to plug in the clock, especially if the plug is under the desk, because heaven forbid anyone should walk in on you at that very moment, and you know it’ll happen the day you’re wearing the peppermint-striped thong.

Set the clock to an appropriate time at this stage. Grabbing an index card from a nearby stack, chu-chunk it into the time clock. Thrill at the meaty crunch of the teeth stamping the paper! Now that’s getting down to work!

Start scribbling out to your heart’s content. Resist the temptation to make sure the time clock is still working and hasn’t broken after that mighty clunk of a punch in. Keep your fingers and that meaty part of your hand away from the time clock’s gaping maw. Keep writing. Keep writing. That’s it… You’re not procrastinating! You’re really writing! Sure, you’re occasionally staring at the time clock, implacable on the wall. You’re probably thinking about child labor, and how you might be able to get the kids down the street to write a few pages for you. You could even provide them with their own time cards. Give them lunch breaks. A discount on… well, you’re not making anything, but a free pass at the fridge, at any rate.

If you’ve been really smart, you’ve gotten the model on which the hands, themselves, clunk, every minute on the minute. *Chick-chunk*. You may pause in your writing, as each 60 seconds passes, to observe the noise like it’s a message from above. *Chick-chunk* What could it mean?

The heavy glass from of the clock looks durable enough to withstand mortar attacks, and probably did. But will it withstand the nubby end of a pencil? Experiment by throwing a pencil, end over end, at the time clock. It will take a good deal of practice to get it just right, the eraser making a satisfying poinging noise as it rubs against the glass, kisses it hard, and then ricochets off into the gloom. At this point, you notice the gloom, since you hadn’t bothered to turn on lights, and realize it’s rather difficult to see the time clock, let alone the stuff you’re writing on. You also seem to have no more pencils at hand. So rise, Dear Writer. Grab that index card, if you can see it, with which you so gloriously punched in.

And then, with your feet set and head held high, punch out. Punch out like you’ve never punched out before! You, yes you, were working.


If the time you punched out is the same as the time you punched in you may not have plugged the time clock in.