Tuesday 9 July 2013

The 3 P's of writing - Persistence, Prioritising and Procrastination

Up until now I have only used my blog as a place to showcase my writing, and a place to link to other writing blogs, but I have decided it is time to actually write something about the art itself, and some of the things I have learnt.

I have been writing for many years, off and on – more off than on, although in my head it’s constant. Some ten years ago I did a couple of writing correspondence courses though the Writing Magazine (a UK based magazine filled with advice on writing and information on everything writing based going on in the UK, such as events, festivals, groups, conferences, competitions etc.) and started to feel more confident about my actual writing. 

But confidence in itself is not all you need to write, other skills are necessary too.

Persistence is one. You need to keep persisting with your writing, and learning the craft of writing. Never become complacent, or believe you have done enough, or know enough. Keep tapping all the sources to stay on track. 

And keep writing forward; don’t worry if you aren’t happy with what you have written, just keep going with it until you have finished it, and then go back and read it through – or leave it for a few days and read it through. You can always change it – or scrap it. But with each time you will learn something new, and understand more and see more. And with each time you will learn how to become more disciplined and focused with doing it, and find ways that work for you in the planning, editing, writing and time management.

With novels I make a list of ‘scenes’ showing where I want the story or plot to go and what the characters will be doing. It can be very loose. And then as I write, I list what I want in each scene – again one liners – underneath what I am writing, deleting them as I write them. It also gives me a start point whenever I open up the document to look at before I continue. Set it up in my head. With Flash fiction I simply find an opening line and go with it (usually from a photo or line prompt – or, as of late, song prompt). Although while writing flash as soon as ‘the whole’ story appears, I then focus on how I can put it concisely into whatever the word count demands, saying everything I want to say.

I still struggle with time management, but word sprints, or word mongering sessions, where I try and write a chunk in a short space of time like half an hour, work well for me once I get going.

Persistence also applies to submitting your writing. Make sure you follow through. I recently had an experience where I submitted a piece just before the deadline, but the email bounced back saying undeliverable. I then tried all the email addresses I could find and tweeted about it copying in those concerned. In the end it paid off. They got in touch, liked my piece and I got it published on their site. I didn’t give up, I was persistent with it. And on those low days that is what will keep you going, that and prioritising your writing.

Prioritising your writing is vital, and will be what moves your writing from being just a ‘hobby’ to being a serious, daily, and possibly published writer. 

I realised that my writing took a back seat to everything else in my life and was the last thing I did after everything else, which usually meant it got shelved. When I changed that attitude, after deciding I wanted my writing to be more productive than that, I moved it up the list. It makes it hard with a young family and means I see little of my husband, as well as my eldest child telling me I spend too much time at the computer and not enough time with him, but hopefully when they understand what you are trying to achieve they will be supportive, and you can share it with them.

As everyone says, writing is a very solitary business, (although to those of us busy getting on with it we find we are far from alone with all the characters in our heads!) and sometimes it can be hard to get yourself going and ‘get into the zone’ with writing. Often I find myself doing anything BUT the actual writing, like housework or filing all the tons of papers on my desk, any excuse not to actually sit down and zone in. And even when I do sit down, I tend to find myself wasting time on all the social networks and on email. I am not sure why that is, but the best term for it is procrastination.

Procrastination takes many forms, but basically causes the delay of the actual writing and is the constant enemy of the writer - except for those very well disciplined and focused writers. 

And that is the key really; the only way to overcome procrastination is to train yourself. I find having tight schedules or short deadlines work for me, even if I have to set them up for myself. I tried to use the National November/June Writing Month competition (write 50,000 words in a month) to help me become more disciplined and write on a daily basis, and at the beginning of each of my two attempts I was successful. But that is where persistence comes in, as well as being able to prioritise your writing and allocate time (work keep eating up mine), otherwise procrastination sets in, which is what happened with me, and I simply gave up.

So as you see, the topic of the blog post comes round full circle. Unfortunately they are not three things I have managed to conquer, but three things that I keep a constant eye on and try and be vigilant with – well on my good days! 


  1. I can completely relate to this post. Procrastination is a big issue with me and my writing. Great post! :)
    ~Becky Fyfe

  2. I am a queen of procrastination! But NaNoWriMo was soo good last year and I kept up religiously, planning to continue with the same routine thereafter...um, didn't quite work, but I am better at planning my time now. I do less flash fiction, choosing up to two or three pieces a week (after all they help greatly with motivation and are great writing challenges) and concentrate more on my editing/rewriting. There's no point having written drafts if I'm not going to edit and persue them is there?
    Really enjoying my writing at the moment!