I have great difficulty concentrating. In four years of university, I don’t think I did a stitch of work in the library, just wandered through it staring at industrious people before running outside and having to breathe slowly into a paper bag. I liked to work in the coffee shop, with a fag and a constant stream of coffee, chatter and people. I spend too much time in my head, so filling it with the sound of other things is infinitely nicer.
Fast forward eight years and I am still one of life’s perpetual knuckle-crackers, always warming up and never actually getting on with it. Last month, I booked myself into the Urban Writers Retreat in Shoreditch to guarantee a few hours with no internet just so I could get cracking. It’s amazing what shelling out £40 and eating cake and drinking almost constantly will do for you: I wrote three chapters! Admittedly, I had to ask my neighbour how long a chapter should be, and then guiltily sellotape chapters one and two together, but I felt like I’d achieved something and discovered, much to my surprise, that I really adored writing again.
On Bank Holiday Monday I went to the Ritzy’s cafe (home of the best flat white this side of anywhere) to try again. It was ok, about 3000 words of babble. Since then – nothing. Even when I have the time, I make any old excuse to avoid sitting down and writing.
Happily, so too does @MissCellany, who may well be my writing soul twin. I met Elizabeth at Literary Death Match a few months ago, after weeks of talking about our love of cleaning on Twitter. We both won LDM with the only story we’d finished since 2006 and were feeling the pinch of expectation and drastic unachievement. We’re ready to get on and do it. We just aren’t quite actually…well, doing it.
So we formed Write Club. This is basically Fight Club but with laptops: write something to a deadline, otherwise the other one punches you in the face. I missed our first deadline by three weeks, and Elizabeth kindly refused to punch me, instead delivering the death by a thousand cuts of a really, really good 3,000 words for the book she’s been working out in her head for years.
“Writing is really hard,” I complained to my boyfriend back in November.
“Yes,” he replied. “Um. It is.”
The sketch group he’s in sit around a Google doc and write in it for days. They are committed and organised and Get On With Things. I write wispy bits down in my iPhone notes, get over-excited, send unedited first drafts to my writing group and then spend entire weeks in slough of despond when they reasonably point out that some of it could be clearer or just a bit less shit.
I am the queen of procrastination. Sitting down and writing, just plain getting on with it, when there are a million trivial distractions to claim your time, is difficult. It is inviting the possibility of failure into a dream that has previously consisted of “I will write the book, everyone will love it, I will buy a boat and live on it wearing a turban.” To not write, to just keep putting it off, is to keep that delicious little pipedream alive.
But fuck it. I might not finish this book this year, but I will at least get something done this weekend. And my chapters will be exactly the right length for what they are saying.
Buy Elizabeth’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon
Buy Kat’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon. Read the write-up of Kat’s Literary Death Match. Tell Kat to stop fucking talking about herself in the third person like a colossal spanner.