East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Making changes (still writing -related)

After the bout of bad health I suffered through early this year, I decided to make a few changes. After all, my life has changed: I was a researcher working in a lab, a teacher moving between universities, now I am a writer spending most of his time sitting in the dark in a room full of books, typing.
So, different life, different problems, time to make some changes.

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Procrastination: a five-weeks plan

I’m trying new things this summer. Nothing particularly momentous, but I am convinced we need to keep our brain working: I saw the effects of ennui and apathy and they fill me with dread.
So in the last two years I’ve been keeping an eye out: learn new things, explore new ideas, and what else. Keep the neurons firing.
After all, one of the first explorations of new topics I undertook was a course called Aging Gracefully, and they made it very clear that to age gracefully you need to keep the brainbox clicking (and live long enough, of course).

So this summer I’m taking on three new – or not so new – projects:

  • I’m trying to refresh my Japanese (target: be able to understand a movie or a song)
  • I’m planning my first microadventure (next week!)
  • I’m taking a five-weeks plan about time management and procrastination

I already talked about the other two projects, let’s talk about the third.

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Killing procrastination

One thing we learned, or a suspicion we confirmed, during our experiment last night, is that writing in public (or editing) forces us to be focused, and work fast.
It kills procrastination.

What I mean is, I have a story to write.
I fire up Scrivener. Then I go fetch a bottle of water.
I read what I wrote in the last session. The trick is always stop when you’re hot, mid-sentence, so it will be easier to pick up speed when you start again.
I make some adjustments.
I drink a gulp of water.
I get an email notification.
I check the mail.
Write some more.
Browse my mp3 collection for a suitable soundtrack.
Delete what I wrote previously and re-write.
What about some tea? And maybe a biscuit?

And time gets wasted.

But not when your writing file is public, and you have people looking at the page over your shoulder. You don’t want to look like a lazy slob, right?
The sort that wastes time and writes and deletes the same sentence five times over one hour.
You want to show off.
You want to be the Man with the Red-Hot Typewriter, like John D. MacDonald.
Fast and focused, like Harlan Ellison.

This morning Hell said to me (I paraphrase)

Man, 4000 words and a full edit in five hours! Were we to keep that sort of rhythm, I could edit a novel in fifteen hours, and you could write one in thirty.

And that’s true.
Who knows, maybe this is the reason why some people write in pubs and other crowded places.


Now the question is, could I keep it going for thirty hours without crashing and burning midway through?
There’s only one way to know, of course.

But before I set myself up for thirty solid hours of writing on a public file, I think I’ll do a few other experiments.
This morning my friend Angelo posted me two open calls for two anthologies that are looking for 2000-4000-words stories.
My genres, professional rates, close deadline.
But I know I can do a short in that range in one evening.
So tonight I’ll give it a try.
I’ll post the link at the bottom of this post after dinner, and I’ll spend the evening writing the first of my submissions.
I’ll just make sure I lock out unrequited contributors.


[started at 9.15, ended at 11.15 – 2000+ good words and a complete first draft]