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Writing procrastination elevated to an art form.

I left the work-a-day world, 40 hours a week's worth, 13 years ago to do what I'd always wanted to do: write.

After a career in newspapers and another one in marketing when I needed to make real money to pay for my three children's college educations, I was finally, finally, going to put pen to paper and see what happened.

I've written a novella, a volume of poetry, a memoir, a mystery, a women's fiction, a children's book, and a historical fiction. (Not to mention more than a hundred articles like this one!) I'm starting a sequel to the historical fiction - my eighth book. (It's actually my ninth, but the first one was a trashy romance that will never see the light of day!) I guess that's not bad for 676 weeks of work, but if you added in all the time devoted to procrastination, by now I would have had time to write "War and Peace" plus all the Nora Roberts novels.

You can always tell when I'm working on a book. My garden is weed-free. My house is clean. I mean scrubbed, polished, rearranged, and redecorated to the extent the budget will allow. But with extra money to spend or not, the hours spent shopping for nothing more than new shower curtains accomplishes one important purpose. It postpones writing.

Don't misunderstand. I love to write. I've been doing it in one form or another since I was in high school. And I think I'm not half bad at it (if I do say so myself). But I swear to all that is holy, nothing terrifies me more than a blank computer screen. You know, if I don't put anything on it, it can't suck.

And that damned blinking cursor. Is there anything on earth more irritating? It blinks. It never misses a beat. And with every blink, time goes by. Time I could spend writing, except I can hear it saying with the same persistence of its blink: "So you think you can write, huh? Well, we'll just see about that."

So, I start to pound the keys - just to shut it up. I use the Stephen King method of writing. The first draft is unedited, stream of consciousness, just get it out, writing. If I think it, I type it, and I don't stop for at least two thousand words. Child's play. As a reporter for a weekly, small-town newspaper, I used to knock out four or five stories a day at a minimum of five hundred words a pop. Two thousand words is a walk in the park. And I feel so good after I've churned out this drivel, I don't write another word for days or weeks.

I'm an avid reader. I go through three or four books a month, and that's not a bad track record for someone who only reads before going to sleep at night. It's self-discipline. If I let myself read during the day, I'd really never get any writing done, or anything else for that matter. Many of the books I read, in all humility, are not any better than the books I've written. I tend to read the complete repertoire of an author primarily to see the writer's progression and development. Even the authors that I don't think are any better than me (not the many who are far superior to me) have written ten, twenty, thirty or more books. How do they accomplish that? Oh yeah. They write. I shop for shower curtains.

In the past few years both my parents have passed away. I'm as aware as anybody that I don't have an infinite amount of time to accomplish what I'm going to accomplish in my lifetime. I said before that I use the Stephen King method of writing. What I should have said is that I use part of his method. Stephen King writes every day. Two thousand words every day. If he finishes a book after writing one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight words, he starts another. He says, "Why would anyone who likes to write stop writing just because he's finished a book?"

Why indeed.

Don Dilillo said, "A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it."

William Gibson said, " I sit down and try to write. If absolutely nothing is happening, I'll give myself permission to mow the lawn. But, generally, just sitting down and really trying is enough to get it started."

E.B. White said, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

I should really take the wisdom of these famous authors to heart.

But I still hate that blinking cursor.

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