Friday, January 22, 2010

Come On Over to My New Site!

This blog is no longer being updated. Sorry!

However there is a whole new sparkly site right here.

Do pop over and say hi.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010: Astrologically Speaking

I don’t believe in horoscopes.

I’m prevented from doing so due to my status as a proud, rational Atheist, the constraints of logic and Derren Brown’s claims that it’s all a lot of poppycock. So, despite several unnerving run-ins with Yahoo! Daily Horoscopes of frightening accuracy, I remain unconvinced.

I do, however, read them from time to time. I’m especially interested in these ‘Your Stars for the Year Ahead’ features that pop up in tabloid newspapers around this time of year, and I’m especially especially interested when they tell me what I want to hear.

For example today Russell Grant, via Cork’s Evening Echo, told me I have all this ahead of me:

#1: “The first few weeks of the year are ideal for getting engaged or married.”

Well, I’m sure they are. More suitably romantic than Christmastime? Probably not. However I don’t have a boyfriend or plans to get one so that prediction can be filed under ‘Are You F-king Joking Me?’

#2: “A loan, grant or scholarship could be awarded to you in the opening weeks of 2010.”

Now this made my ears prick up. I am applying for a small Arts Council grant which I am extremely unlikely to get ; the application deadline is January 21st. Hmm… We shall see, Russell. We shall see.

#3: “You may decide to write a book [during] January and June.”

Well, I hope so. Not much point in writing just the one, is there?

#4: “The summer months find you basking in the spotlight… exhibiting your creative work will bring you positive publicity between June and September.”

As I type this I’m a week away from submitting the completed manuscript of my first novel to an agent who after seeing the first 3 chapters and a synopsis hasn’t taken out a restraining order against me, so clearly I’m interpreting this as six-figure three-book deal and a sit-down with Oprah. I mean, obviously.

#5: “The last four months of the year invite you to expand your horizons…seize this opportunity to visit a country that has always fascinated you.”

Can I just say for the record that I have always found the Maldives utterly fascinating? Especially the Starwood resort there that has those beach huts on stilts right in the water?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Twitter Challenge

About a month ago I said to myself, 'Didn't you sign up for Twitter a while back? Were you ever planning on actually using it?' So I started using it - and 'using' is a frighteningly apt word, because I am now certifiably addicted. It's a wonder I have any followers, because I tweet so much and when I do, they're invariably about one of five topics:

1. Coffee
2. Me saying I shouldn't be on Twitter
3. Me saying I haven't got anything done yesterday/today/in my lifetime because of No. 2
4. Space stuff
5. Self promotion. (See here and here.)

On Friday, the following exchange occurred after a particularly ferocious day of tweeting on my part, and so the challenge was set by Brian, AKA The New Author.

I wondered how I could possibly get through my weekend without informing two hundred or so relative strangers about my every move. How could it be done? Would I survive? Would they survive? Would I be missed in the Twitterverse? I said to myself that mental notes on things of importance that occurred over this 48 hour No Twitter period could be made and then tweeted about Monday morning, if need be. But with more than a few seconds of hindsight, I've realized that I'm really quite boring. It's 1.45pm on Sunday afternoon and my mental notepad is blank, except for a messy scrawl near the end that says, 'Oly to win.'

What I really have missed is being able to retweet the interesting tidbits the people I follow tweet. (If you're not on Twitter, I apologize for that sentence.) And before you all start saying, 'But how do you know what they're tweeting if you're not on Twitter?', the challenge was not tweeting - whether or not I could quietly lurk was never specified. So I lurked. And here are some of the retweeting opportunities that I've missed:

- An inspirational quote (that could be for aspiring published authors) from Michael Flatley, "Whenever I hear 'it can't be done' I know I'm close to success" tweeted by @PositiveDoing
- More bad Walt Disney World monorail news: A power outage leaves guests stranded on the monorail system for two hours. (Tweeted by @MintMickey)
- Really good editing tips from Blood Red Pencil, tweeted by @InkWellHQ
- Bubble Cow have set up a Facebook fan page (@BubbleCow).

Phew. I feel SO MUCH better now.

Anyways, my big hope for this Twitter-free weekend was that I'd make some significant progress with my rewriting of my novel's first draft which, right now, is supposed to be on an agent's To Read pile gathering dust. I'm on the home stretch, technically speaking, hurtling towards the third act, but I'm just not going as quick as I have been in the past. (The quickness was undoubtedly induced by going to a little cottage by the sea for two months, but whatever.) So today I've taken the entire first draft out of its lever arch cage, shuffled it a bit, had a flick through and now I intend to make two piles: the already revised pile and the yet to be done pile. Hopefully the size of one will spur me on to make my way through the other.

That's the plan, anyway. Coffee anyone?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

10 Steps to Perfecting Procrastination

Recently I noticed that all the procrastination-related tweets/blog posts/motivational CDs of questionable legality costing just five easy installments of $199.99 are all aimed at solving our habits of doing anything at all that we can think of except the thing we're supposed to be doing, which for many of us is writing another chunk of words.

But what if we want to procrastinate? What if we need to? What if we've never finished a novel before and are happy to stay here for a while (just before the end) and enjoy the view for a few minutes, before we send our double-spaced baby out into the world and the waiting game begins? What if we'd rather finish a few weeks behind and prolong the dream, delaying that inevitable day when someone will tell us that our characters are two dimensional stereotypes, our scenes lack conflict, our plot is confusing and one of our characters is pregnant for eleven months?

I figure I've spotted a gap in the blog post market. So here is (drum roll, please):

Catherine's Not So Patented 10 Steps to Perfecting Procrastination Today: Everything You Need to Know and Do To Never EVER Finish That Novel!

1. Only Work With Wi-fi

It is imperative that you only work in areas with wireless connectivity and with your computer set to receive it, so that you have the constant temptation to check for new e-mail messages, Facebook notifications and the latest on Tiger Woods. Mac Users: don't even THINK about using this.

2. Use Twitter to Bookend Every Task

Twitter can be the ultimate procrastination facilitator but only if you know how to maximize its potential. The simplest way is to bookend every task/action/bodily function with what we like to call the TwitterCheck. For example: you are writing and decide to make a cup of coffee (see step 7). While this alone will waste a good 5-10 minutes of your time, the TwitterCheck method can push that to a minimum of 30 minutes. Yes, really! All you need to do is check Twitter BEFORE you go to make the coffee and AFTER you get back, i.e. 'bookending' the coffee making with TwitterChecks. It's just that simple!

3. Become a Neat Freak

Refuse to work in any space that isn't clean, dusted, organized, colour-coded, alphabetized, arranged for optimum feng shui and has 'a good energy.'

4. Don't Use Sky+ or Online iPlayers

Services like Sky+ and online 'catch up' players will be the death of procrastination - stick with live TV. If you want to watch something at 8pm and you set it to record, you could find yourself working as late as ten or eleven o'clock safe in the knowledge that you can watch that program at your leisure. However if you give yourself no option but to watch it live, you are far more likely to stop working at six-ish (to have your dinner), spend the intervening two hours watching TV you're not even interested in (because what's the point of going back to work? It'll be on in a minute) and doing nothing for the rest of the night (well, you're here now so you may as well watch 'celebrities' you don't recognize camping/dancing/figure skating).

5. Invent a Need for Time Swallowing Tasks

Learn from this example from my own not-so-creative life: I have a self-published book-like thingy coming out in March and am trying to not finish a novel to submit to an agent at the beginning of January. (It was supposed to be this week, incidentally, that I was to originally submit it - see how effective this procrastination plan is?) But instead of finishing the novel first and then working on publicity for the self-published book (which is called, FYI, Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida and is about, FYI, one girl's (i.e. this one) search for happiness in the happiest place on Earth and has, FYI, several funny bits), I took three days - THREE DAYS! - off from the novel to make the video at the end of this post and to make this Facebook page, which you looking at for a couple of minutes and then clicking the 'Become a Fan' button will help your procrastination! Don't say I never give you anything.

6. Two O'Clock is the New Seven

As I'm at home writing full-time at the moment (I believe "unemployed" is the common term), I find myself with ample opportunity to finish my book. In fact, on some days I've got as much as five or six thousands words done. Disaster! To combat this productivity, I initiated the 'Two O'Clock is the New Seven' Rule, which works like this: if I haven't started by two then I won't start at all, because what's the point? The day is practically OVER. To help yourself not start by two, see steps 3 and 9.

7. Develop a Caffeine Addiction

If you never want to finish your book, this step is non-negotiable. Not only will making endless cups of coffee waste an hour or so every day, but the Caffeine Depleted Syndrome (also known as 'The Jitters') that sets in about 3pm - symptoms include nausea, clouded thinking, headaches, shaky hands and an overwhelming urge to dance to Britney Spears' songs - will prevent you from writing anything of note in the afternoon.

8. Chart Your (Lack of) Progress

This may surprise you but your unfinished book is a wealth of procrastination in itself! It has lots of confusing things like plots, characters, scenes, timelines, words, sequences - all of which can be charted, graphed and listed, wasting hours upon hours of your time (and paper)! To maximize the procrastination, alternate between hand-drawn charts (rulers, pencils) and Excel spreadsheets, colour-code, cross-reference and refuse to use any on which you've made a mistake. Happy graphing!

9. Sleep

Sleeping can be a procrastinator's best friend. For maximum results, utilize naps and throw out your alarm clocks.

10. Write Random Blog Posts

Finally, the Number 1 Step to Perfecting Procrastination and making sure that novel of yours never gets written is to write numerous random blog posts - like this one.

Here are your 3 FREE BONUS Procrastination Tips:

- Leave comments on blog posts (well, you're already here so...)
- Follow people who have nothing of import to say on Twitter (well, you already know me so...)
- Unlearn how to touch type and/or break a couple of fingers.