Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Most writers I know have a lot of experience with procrastination. It’s a habit in the profession that seems all too common, and is often reinforced by hearing other writers talk about why and how they put things off.
This week, a couple of articles looked at how to stop procrastinating, or if you choose to embrace distraction, some of the best ways to do it.
Also, how David Foster Wallace approached grammar and how to stay in writing shape.
Let go of procrastination:
Procrastination seems to affect writers disproportionately, which is why this piece from Fast Company
seemed worth sharing. Leo Babauta writes about amount of work he thought he was doing when, in reality, distractions and false work were taking up valuable time.
He outlines his simple, step-by-step process on how he let go of the distractions, which includes such sage advice as:
I could be in discomfort and nothing bad would happen. In fact, the best things happen when I’m in discomfort.
That’s sometimes difficult to remember when you’re on deadline and the answer to a useless trivia question suddenly seems important. But according to Babauta, cutting off a few comforts may help you finally give up procrastination.
Or procrastinate on Twitter:
For the people who love it, there is no bigger distraction than Twitter. Whether it’s getting lost in links to some of your favorite web sites, trying to cram a thought into 140 characters, or discovering follow-worthy accounts, there’s plenty to keep you busy at the exact time you’re supposed to be productive. Susan Orlean, a staff writer for The New Yorker
, put it this way:
It is a wonderful, wonderful way of procrastinating. It’s important … part of being a writer is good distraction.
Orlean has tweeted over 25,000 times, but she told the All Write Already podcast that blogs are not necessarily the place for writers to get started:
It’s not the thing that I tell people to do. I don’t say, number one, start a blog. And the reason for that is very specific, which is, it’s not only that you don’t get paid, it’s that you have no editor and no opportunity to have your work filtered through a critical eye.
Getting in writing shape:
It’s often said, usually by people who write, that you’re either a writer or you’re not. There’s a point at which someone who doesn’t have “it” can’t will themselves to be a good writer, or so the thinking goes. But even naturally talented writers need practice. In this piece for The Huffington Post
, professor and novelist Julie Tetel Andresen writes about the relationship between writing practice and writer’s block. If you do the former, the latter doesn’t exist. Her approach is to treat it as you would a job that requires physical exercise:
I live by Fred Astaire's motto: "If I don't dance one day, I notice it. If I don't dance two days in a row, my audience notices it. If I don't dance three days in a row, I should get another job." Fred Astaire was in great dancing shape.
DFW and grammar:
Whether or not you’re a fan of David Foster Wallace’s novels or essays, if you’re a writer, you may find a new sub-genre devoted to interviews with Wallace worth exploring. The latest is the text of a 2006 interview
conducted by grammarian Bryan Garner, in which the men talk at length about the role and meaning of language and grammar. When it comes to the great language and usage debate, Wallace was a prescriptivist who sometimes questioned his positions on language’s place in society.
[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]
Garner is also the author of “Modern American Usage
,” someone who Wallace once called a genius in an essay , and someone who occasionally corrected the late author’s usage. He told The New Yorker
for this piece, “That’s the thing about usage... When you write copiously, we are all fallible.”
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.