Battering Procrastination with a Big Club

By Emma Newman

There once was a writer.

She worked hard, earning enough silver from her words to keep a roof over her head and food on her family table. She spun long ribbons of words for the merchants of the land, words that made the merchants lots of gold.

But the writer had a secret. She preferred writing words from her own heart, words that existed for nothing else but pleasure and delight. She loved writing stories.

But months and months went by without her writing any stories at all. There were merchants to write for, silver to be earned and a house to look after.

There was always something else to do.

This made her so miserable she resolved to consult the wise woman. This was no small thing; everyone was scared of the wise woman. She lived in a cave, wore strange clothes and, it was rumoured, never went outside in the daytime.

The writer baked a nice cake, gathered up her courage and took both to the cave. The wise woman was pleased by the offering and invited her in to sit by the fire.

“Wise woman, I need advice,” the writer said.

“Speak, and I will help you if I can. But cut me a slice of cake first, a wise woman thinks best with a full stomach.”

Cake was cut and the writer told the woman about her misery.

“What’s the problem here?” asked the wise woman, wiping at the crumbs on her chin. “You can write. Write!”

“But I never seem to get around to my own words,” the writer sighed.

“Put yourself first for a change!” The wise woman said. “It’s easy.”

The writer sighed. “If only.”

The wise woman frowned. Her usual technique was failing. “You write for merchants every month?”  

At the writer’s nod, she continued. “You deliver on time? You write well for them?”

“Yes, I have high standards. I’m never late.”

The wise woman scratched her hairy chin. “When was the last time you wrote something for yourself?”

“A few months ago, for a competition,” the writer replied, her eyes sparkling at the memory. “My short story won. There was a prompt we had to write to and—”

The wise woman held up her hand. “I’ve heard enough, leave this with me. Return in the morning. I’ll have something for you then.”

The next morning the writer returned and the wise woman was waiting for her, holding a bottle shaped like a tear drop in her hand. She held it out to the writer.

“Drink this,” she said. “The solution will come to you.”

The writer looked at it nervously. “What’s in it?”

“The exact recipe is a secret,” the wise woman replied. “But it has essence of accountability, a sprig of inspiration, a good few dollops of commitment and a dash of bravery. And cinnamon. That makes all the difference.”

The writer kissed her on the cheek and promised to bring a cake again soon. She ran home, drank long and deep from the bottle and fell asleep.

She woke with the answer glowing in her heart. “I know!” she gasped, hurrying over to the blank page on her desk. “I’ll start a short story club! People can give me ideas, opening lines and titles every month and I’ll pick one and write a story from it. The person who gave the idea will read it first, and then the rest of the members of the club can read it. I’ll be as accountable to them as I am to the merchants, they’ll get a story to read every month and I will be writing!”

And the rest is history…

Thank you for indulging me. I’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales to my little boy lately, and it seems some of them have seeped in.

So this is what my inner wise woman came up with when I was struggling to get around to my own creative writing every month: Em’s Short Story club.

The end of the tale above describes it in a nutshell, but I wanted to share the benefits of doing something as crazy as committing to write a short story inspired by club members every month.

Here are the benefits:

Whenever my little procrastination demons get to work, running the club reminds me that there are people waiting to read the story. I have made a commitment and won’t let my readers down – and that is a powerful thing. At some point whatever is stopping me from writing becomes less important than the desire to keep my word.

A Pool of Inspiration
The club is now in its third month and I only pick one winning idea each month. Believe me when I tell you it can be hard! The people in the club are wonderfully creative, and I now have a pool of ideas to dip into any time I need them. I found that competitions with prompts always made it easier to write a story, and now I have many quirky and creative prompts there whenever I need them.

A Deadline
I don’t know about you, but it seems all too easy for a month to go by with no creative writing, especially when writing forms a large part of your job. I run a copywriting business, so I’m immersed in words all day long. The short story club has made me more mindful of time, and has ensured that whatever else I have done that month, I’ve written a story.

Know Thyself!
If you are good at working to deadlines in every other area of your life, find the thought of people waiting to read your stories to be motivating enough to beat the procrastination demon, but not so scary you get blocked.

Maybe you should make a terrifying commitment like I did, too.

If not, feel free to come and join in with mine!

About the Author: Emma Newman has a dual identity. By day, she writes B2B content for her business, Your Nisaba, and writes post-apocalyptic fiction and dark short stories by night at Post-Apocalyptic Publishing. Her debut YA post-apocalyptic novel, Twenty Years Later, will be released in October 2010. She is mostly made of tea and lives in Somerset, England.

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