Most writers probably know the battle with procrastination, and those who succeed – whatever your definition of success – eventually develop all sorts of coping strategies. Writing is damned hard work, and our work ethic has taught us that we need to to earn our leisure, and our pleasures, by sweat, even if it’s sweat which you can’t collect in those proverbial buckets. So how can procrastination possibly be productive?

No, I’m not advocating a hammock in the sun, an iPod, and a tall glass of lemonade which does the sweating for you while you wait for Inspiration – at least not till you’ve written those 500 or 1000 or x words you’ve set yourself. But I do want to enter a modest plea for the strange and wonderful, the subversive gold dust you find in silt, online or off. The last week or ten days, for example, I haven’t been able to push myself beyond a certain point in rewriting Corvus, mostly because 1) I couldn’t find a way forward; 2) I’ve come to realise that the entire novel ought to be rewritten from the ground up to work the way it should; and 3) I’m not sure there’s any point in continuing when all I’ll ever be, at best, is third-rate. So lately I’ve been doing a lot of procrastinating (in tandem with a mild concussion after a fight I lost with my metal garage door).

You’re expecting an epiphany, aren’t you? Forget it, I don’t believe in them. And mine would be more like a glimmer, not a brilliant flash, barely golden and almost invisible. A speck of dust: in this instance, doodling with some coloured gel pens, which reminded me of a maze book on my shelf, which fell open to an old Holiday Inn postcard-cum-bookmark from South Africa with a whites-only restaurant photo (though if you look very closely you can see a white-uniformed black waiter hovering in the background), which nudged forth a particular guilty memory, which has me back at my desk this morning, rewriting a scene . . . 

Don’t always sweat it.

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