The Settling of the Writer’s Mind

It would be ridiculous to say I don’t delay and dawdle before writing something, anything. Sometimes –

like now – I use writing as a distraction before I truly start writing.

It’s a mad tactic that has worked to keep me from writing even as I write and sometimes, once the words start flowing, I find it easier to settle into a meatier project.

It’s always good to know that I’m not terribly alone in my role as a procrastinator. In an interview with The Paris Review, E.B. White – co-author of The Elements of Style, contributor to The New Yorker, and author of Charlotte’s Web – says, “Delay is natural to a writer.” Phew, so I’m not all the way abnormal. That’s good.

The rest of White’s quote:

He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along. I have no warm-up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink. I am apt to let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around, straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor—as though not until everything in the world was lined up and perfectly true could anybody reasonably expect me to set a word down on paper.

In my quest to become a better writer, I’ve found many delays. Writing, as mentioned, has become a useful delay before I truly begin writing. Other delays have included meditation, exercise, walking, listening to music, video games, sleeping, staring into the social media void, and panicking about what the hell I’m going to write.

How many of those distractions are useful is another story altogether. I figure at least a few are incredibly handy for finding my way while others would be better served going into the trash pile, namely the sense of panic that sets in upon seeing the white background of a blank page, which I consider to be the ultimate writer’s distraction.

What’s your main distraction as a writer? Are there any distractions you’ve found to be useful? Any you’ve found you be destructive? Let me know in the comments below.

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