The Guide for the Procrastinating Writer: Tip #3

Stash pens everywhere around your house, your place of business, your commute, and daily rounds.

They come in handy for both writing stuff down quickly and also in case you are attacked and have nothing with which you can defend yourself.

When I hide the pens, and you may or may not choose to adopt the same disposition, I like to imagine myself a sort of Easter Bunny of pens, depositing them hither and thither with the practices aplomb of a master of disappearing.
“Will I ever be struck by the spark of inspiration whilst I hack away at a bagel, its stubborn crust unwilling to give up the (hopefully) soft innards? Better chuck a pen in the knife drawer, just in case.”
“My best ideas come in the shower, better tape a pen to the wall beside the towel rack. And better stock towels on which I can jot notes, which will sell for millions when I die.”
And that thought will bring you to one of those home goods stores, scouring the aisles for good writing towels, which, surprisingly, there really aren’t any. So you head off to buy a trough and a wood chipper. (This Internet search, by the way, will bring an interruption of FBI agents to your door for a brief but ultimately unfruitful chat.)
At home, clear a room to allow yourself plenty of space to chip your wood almost directly into the trough, which should be three quarters full with a water and sugar solution. Choose a nice pine or that damned tree in your front yard that has rendered the paint on your car spotty and patchy thanks to its prolific sweating of sap.
I would also recommend ear muffs to muffle the roar of the wood chipper, unless you’ve got the Ninja series that run so whisper quiet.
Chip the wood, and slosh it around for a day or two, keeping the wood chips moving in the solution to soften up the pieces until they begin to feel an affinity for one another like gentle drunks after midnight at a party they hadn’t intended on staying at for too long, but there they are, feeling good, both with lips, drawn to the salty residue of margaritas on the other’s.
On the second day, towards the end, press down on the primordial soup as if you were trying to drown it. Press it down uniformly until the paste begins to stick to the bottom. At this point, you will need to run out to get a collection of heat lamps. Perhaps there’s a fast food restaurant going out of business near you.
Place the heat lamps, still smelling of fries, grease, and disappointment over your trough of wood chip mud. Turn them on medium high, NOT high, otherwise you’ll be putting out a wood pulp fire, which, from experience, is one of the worst kind to try and put out.
After four days, your paste will be a hideous, somewhat serviceable giant trough-shaped piece of paper. Using a straight razor, cut this monstrosity into towel-sized chunks and hang them in your bathroom from the towel rack.
One thing to note: after a few showers you may notice your new towels dissolving in a disgusting glop onto your bathroom floor from the humidity in the bathroom.

Hide a pen in your new wood chipper. If you forget about it before you begin making your next batch of writing towels you’ll have a lovely ink splotch spewed all over your wall, which you can then dip your fingers into to take notes.

The Guide for the Procrastinating Writer: Tip #2

Read a lot. To further inform your writing, you must, per many wizened writers who pitch this sort of advice, including yours truly, read a lot.

If your rich patron starts giving out to you because you’ve been sitting around all day, reading, tell them it’s all in the service of advancing your writing. Tell them it would be more effective if you had a fainting couch, while you’re on the topic of your excessive reading. And someone to feed you grapes. Tell them you had that idea because you read it in a book once, so see? Reading does help improve the mind. It introduces you to all sorts of things you might never have experienced. Or perhaps it was a movie. If it was a movie, maybe watch some television, which is like movies, only smaller. But if your rich patron would buy a larger TV, then it would be nearly just like being in the movies, which, as we’ve discussed, is like reading, and therefore aiding your craft.

Point out that you need this stuff fairly sharpish, as publishers are nearly done. As your patron would see, if he or she had time to follow the news, especially on the nice new flat screen television, book stores are closing because we, as a civilization, are just about ready to close up shop. So you’ve got to run down to the book store immediately to pick up some books before they’re all done. It would be more helpful if your patron would pop out for you, so as to not interrupt your reading time, and at this point it helps to have a list written out. Typed, preferably, because another sign of the impending apocalypse is that you couldn’t write legibly to save your life.

If, after a frantic dash two towns over to the nearest Barnes & Noble, your patron returns with the news that there is a treasure trove of classic literature for you to read, even should the publishing industry shut down, you need to be ready. She or he may look angry, sweaty, and be flailing their appendages. This isn’t going to end well for the bags of books they’re carrying, because shaking a book and then attempting to read it immediately is a little like drinking soda out of a shaken bottle. Make sure you have a table cleared and handy to your position on the couch, as getting up may constitute a threatening posture, and the last thing you want to do is threaten (or appear to) your patron.

Actually, the last thing you want to do is gargle with muscle rub cream. But second to last is: don’t anger the patron.

With your patron insisting they know more than you about your chosen field with their snide comments about classic literature, you can feel free to throw a few tidbits right back at them.

Did you know that there are over 10 million books classed as classics? Did you also know that many of them have been translated from their original language? To get an author’s true gist, you would be best served reading the true classics in the original language. So if you don’t know Greek, Latin, French, Aramaic, Belgian, German, Russian, olde Englishe, and Spanish, I suggest you begin learning.

If your rich patron begins to complain that all this money going to the Rosetta Stone seems to be piling up, helpfully suggest you get tutors in each of the various languages. If you do get tutors, be sure to have fainting couches brought in for each of them, as you don’t want a tutor to feel like you feel you’re above him or her. This may involve getting a bigger room, or, indeed, a bigger house/office in which you do your writing. Because as practical as it might seem, you can’t stack fainting couches. Especially if there are people lounging on them. To help out your rich patron, surf the various realty sites during the course of the day and make pilgrimages to suitable locations for your new writing space. If your patron really believes in your talent they will buy you an office that will suit you without hesitation.

What I find helpful is bringing a book along while I wait for the real estate agent. In fact, if your patron has sprung for a car to support your property search for the ideal writing office, ask for one with plenty of space for books, so that you’d never be out, should you find yourself in a longish grocery line, a waiting room, a bar, the chicken coop, wherever.

With all this reading time your writing is bound to sparkle with homage, allusions, and depth!

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.

The Guide for the Procrastinating Writer: The Intro

This is the start of a series of helpful tips for that writer in your life, possibly yourself, who finds him or herself bogged down in a spaghetti plate of procrastination, with a side of writer’s block meatballs, a sprinkling of self-doubt Parmesan cheese, and armed only with a fork made out of horsehair. But, obviously, if this writer in your life is suffering from procrastination you shouldn’t give him or her these tips at all. No. You should be encouraging them to get going, start on that writing, and buckle down, for Pete’s sake.