I have spent a lot of time recently (and not so recently) faffing about instead of just getting on with my writing. When I was 18 and doing A levels, I would lock myself in my bedroom for hours on end ‘revising’. My parents were amazed and proud of my ability to work so hard. Except that – ooo, at least half of those hours were spent faffing and distracting myself from the task in hand. I seem to remember my desk drawers always needed tidying, my nails were often in need of filing, and my old diaries made fascinating and essential reading. I still did ok in my A levels, but oh the A*s that could have been mine if I’d only stopped faffing!
Twenty plus years on, humankind’s apparent need to faff has been taken to professional levels. We don’t need to look for distractions any more – they find us. Children, and the metaphorical (and literal) detritus that surrounds them, Facebook, Twitter and email are my principal downfalls. And this blog. A friend asked me if it was the equivalent of filing nails when you should be doing history homework. My affronted answer was ‘No! It’s for my professional profile!’ The honest answer is – ‘um, erm, ahem’ and a muttered ‘kind of’.
So hurrah for the Guardian’s supplement ‘How to write a book in 30 days‘ which appeared in my paper the other day. Obviously the title is a bit of poetic licence (unless you’re a future Jonathan Franzen), but it has made me reconsider my faffiness. ‘Got an idea that just won’t go away?’ it asks. Well, yes, I have. It refuses to go away in fact, however much I try not to think about it. The Guardian is telling me to do something about it. It is my writer’s conscience.
I ran my first half marathon last weekend. I started training for it in July, running for 20 short minutes at a time, puffing up Northumbrian hills, gradually building my strength and training my muscles so that three months later I could run for 2 hours (ahem – 2.03.37 to be precise) without stopping. I did it because I had a great training programme which I stuck to, more or less. Interestingly, I never faffed over running, even when it was pouring with rain. So I’ve decided to treat my idea as my next half marathon, and ‘How to write a book in 30 days’ as the training programme. Perhaps the same psychology that stopped me faffing over running will stop me faffing over writing.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress. And if you have any top anti-faffing tips, they will be gratefully received!