tarry a moment

My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ’til a more convenient season.
Mary Todd Lincoln

Oh, Mary Todd, you were so right.  Procrastination is an evil genius. Once I procrastinated by looking up procrastination. It derives from the Latin, procrastinare, to delay until tomorrow. Synonyms: delay, put off doing, adjourn, be dilatory, cool, dally, dawdle, defer, drag, drag one’s feet, give the run around, goldbrick, hang fire, hesitate, hold off, lag, let slide, linger, loiter, pause, play a waiting game, play for time, poke, postpone, prolong, protract, retard, shilly-shally, stall, stay, suspend, tarry, temporize, wait…

I am actually not procrastinating today.  At least not right this minute. I’m writing this blog post just like I said I would, and then I’m going to work on revisions for chapters one and two of The Saltwater Twin. But sometimes I do.  Procrastinate.  It happens. And it comes in so many flavors. Here, for your delectation, or in case you are interested in procrastinating yourself, are some of my favorite interwebs spots to visit when I ought to be doing other things.

At the speech accent archive you can listen to people speaking English with almost any accent under the sun. Why do I love this so much?  I don’t know.  But I do.

Here are the sounds of so many kinds of animals.  Extra fun: turn up the volume if you have a dog (maybe even a cat) and watch him cock his head to the side. Also, here’s where to find out what people say in different languages to mimic animal sounds.

Watch the All Blacks rugby team doing the haka on youtube. This makes me very happy.







At freerice.com you can take quizzes and donate rice.  Genius.

Browse etsy.com to buy one of a kind things and support artisans and craftspeople all over the world.








Look at cute animals.  It raises your endorphins. So it’s actually good for you. And it will probably help you do a better job on whatever it is you finally intend to get around to doing.

I think a little procrastination is okay. Growing crops season after season without a break depletes the soil. Farmers let a field lie fallow to allow the land to renew itself. So I try not to be mad at myself when procrastination happens, and I try to build in some time for it so I don’t snap and go on a three-day bender.

How about you?  Favorite flavors of procrastinating?

good habits

We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.
John Dryden

150 minutes/day x 6 days = 15 hours/week

That’s my writing formula. I’m currently working on getting in 15 hours of writing a week. My goal is to get to 16, two full workdays worth.  It feels like a good number.

I started with 10 minutes a day.  This was a few years ago.  Sitting down to write was a challenge. It meant trudging through difficult drafts and fending off the barrage of nasty voices that said I was wasting my time, I’d never be any good, I was deluded if I thought I could write something anyone would ever want to read. So naturally, I dragged my heels.  But I wanted to write things.  I wanted to start them and finish them. And the ideas banging around my brain were quite rowdy and insistent.  So I started with a goal of writing for 10 minutes a day.  That felt doable.  Easy, even. 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week. Done and done. With this small change, something big shifted.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the distance between what I wanted to accomplish and where I was at any given moment, I started to feel competent and capable of even bigger things.

I had read somewhere that it takes three weeks for a new habit to take root.  So I decided that after 3 weeks of writing 10 minutes a day, I would graduate to 15 minutes, then 20 and so on until I made it to 160 minutes a day, 6 out of 7 days – in other words, 16 hours a week. Again, adding just 5 minutes every three weeks felt doable, easy even. Since then I’ve read that the 21-days-to-a-habit number is pretty arbitrary, and they think it’s more like 66. Nonetheless, I’ve made it to 15 hours a week, 3 weeks at a time. Sometimes it’s still tough to sit down and do the work, but sometimes I can’t wait to get cracking. Oh, also there are prizes for reaching a 3-week benchmark. I like prizes.

Kooky though it may seem, this strategy has made me smarter about how I use my time. As a freelance teaching artist, I have lots of unstructured time that I have to divvy up to accommodate the various tasks I need to accomplish. Too often, writing used to be last on the list, squeezed into whatever time was left over, after lessons were planned, bills paid, laundry washed.  Now it’s the first thing I find time for.  I look at my day and see, oh, I’m teaching two classes and I have to plan a lesson, so when can I write?  Or, I have a really full week ahead, so I’ll have to get in lots of writing hours this weekend.  Some days it’s just not possible to fit in 150 minutes (2 ½ hours for the arithmetically challenged), but the idea is to make sure my daily totals add up to my weekly goal. And I’m happy to say it’s become a habit.

Tell me how you carve out space and time for your work.  How do you make it a habit?

finding the trail


Friends, I love me some research.

It’s just so satisfying finding stuff out about stuff.

While writing this latest chapter, I’ve looked up the paleo-diet which recommends that you eat the way our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly did (my favorite proponent is this guy whose catchphrase is “Die biting the throat;” you can get it on a t-shirt!), Isaiah 11: 6-8 (The wolf shall lie down with the lamb and so on), Quakers, how long it takes to grill a rare steak, if fish are capable of feeling pain, evolution and natural selection and, as I wrote about in this space a couple weeks ago, predatory animals, especially the ones that sometimes eat humans.

I’ve come to think that even if it seems like procrastination at times, research is a fundamental part of my writing process.  I’m trying to emulate one those super wilderness scouts who can look at the-ever-so-slightly-bent twig or the barely-there footprint and gauge exactly how far off whatever you’re looking for is and what it had for lunch.

Admittedly, I do sometimes get a bit sidetracked.  The other day I was looking up Edward Hicks’ famous painting “The Peaceable Kingdom,” which my mom always used to take us to see at the National Gallery of Art in D.C., and which always fascinated me not only because of the animals’ really odd expressions but also because they were playing with those weird-looking, early American folk art babies…Image

and then I had to read about Quakers because Edward Hicks was a famous Quaker and then I started thinking, wow, I’ve always thought Quakers were really cool and maybe I should be a Quaker and then I started looking up Quaker meetings in Chicago —

that was maybe a tich off the beaten path.

So I try to balance research and writing.  But when I stumble across some semi-hidden sign, catch a trace scent in the air that leads me to a brand new thought or connection or story, it’s really kind of thrilling.  I don’t know if I’ll find exactly what I’m looking for (a thorough understanding of why and how everything in the world universe is what it is and does what it does) but at least I’ll have an account of the expedition.