Monday, December 1, 2008

The First of Rhys's Pieces!

"Procrastination is the thief of time."
"I'm busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, Trying to find lots of things not to do!"
The photo is one of my favorite ways of procrastinating (whoops, I mean doing research for my next book): holding a formal afternoon tea party with my friends.

This is my first post with the Jungle Red Babes. I'm excited to be joining them.Of course I needed another online time consumer like a hole in the head. I'm already writing two books a year, one of which requires tons of research. And then I glibly promise short stories to magazines and anthologies, which have to be squeezed in somewhere. Of course I love doing all these things, or I wouldn't do them.

But like many writers, when it comes down to it, I would do anything rather than actually sit down and write. Which makes this whole internet thing so enticing. I started off with DorothyL, the online mystery discussion group, and with reading my emails. Then I was invited to join various other Yahoo groups, all of which send me a daily digest to be read, digested and answered. That was bad enough,but then came blogs, and Twitter, and Goodreads, and Crimespace and Book Place and Blogbooktours...eek! What with all of those and checking my Amazon stats to see if it's a day of gladness or despair, and checking the forum on my website to see if anyone's chatting there, it's a wonder I find any time to write at all.

The sad truth is that I was good at procrastination even before the days of the internet. In those days it was throwing a load in the washer, or walking around the garden pulling the dead heads off roses. I still do those things when the writing is not going smoothly. I find that sometimes ideas need time to percolate in my head before they can be put down on paper. And I justify my internet time by arguing that I used to write everything long hand, so it took me twice as long. Many times as long, actually, as the handwriting had to be deciphered and then typed neatly and I was the world's worst typist on those old machines. Much swearing and muttering ensued as I reached for the White Out.

Supposedly we do all these online activities because they help promote our books and get our name out there. But in reality it's more than that. I enjoy the company of the friends I hang out with online. Being stuck in a little room writing is lonely. I am a social being and I love being able to chat with friends every morning. One of the most amazing things about being a mystery writer is the closeness and warmth of the mystery community. When I started writing mysteries I didn't expect to make so many true friends--not just social contacts but people with whom I share my secrets and worries.

So I welcome this new diversion and new chance to make friends, and I'm asking my fellow Jungle Reds--do you think procrastination is a disease that strikes all writers? Would we all do anything rather than write? What ways do you find to procrastinate?

(here I am procrastinating,escaping,relaxing in another of my favorite ways--hiking with friends. This was in Sedona)

JAN: Well Rhys, I'm the first one to see we had a new blog file and contribute, so I'm pretty sure I'm the number#1 procrastinator. At the moment, though, I'm procrastinating from promotion rather than writing, which only goes to prove, I'll procrastinate whenever there's a task at hand.
But I agree with you, the Internet is an especially enticing procrastination tool for a writer because it's all about writing. You can write in a fun, undisciplined way that doesn't require any real problem solving and if you're good enough, you can even convince yourself you are working! On days when I really have to write, I won't let myself check my mail until AFTER I've finished. I find once I start, I can't stop!! Off to sign up for Twitter....

HANK: Hey Rhys! So delighted to have you as a blog sister. And as for procrastination--well, I have to admit, I'm not much of a procrastinator.

(I know RO is hooting now, I can just hear her.)

I have a chart of how many words a day I have to write, and how many total for the week. When I sit down in the chair, if I'm tempted to read my email, or do some on-line shopping, or change the shelf paper in the kitchen (right), I just say to myself fine, do it, go ahead. But I say to myself, you're going to do your words for the day now, or you're going to do them later, and it's your call. And as a result, I generally just do it. (And I only let myself check my email on the hour.)

The key is, I plan when I'm going to worry. I try to do away with free-floating anxiety. Let's say I have a speech to write, for an event a month away. I'm not going to write the speech now, that's much too soon. So I say--on the Tuesday before the speech, that's when I'm going to make an appointment with myself to write it. And before that, I'm not going to worry about it one bit. (Of course, I mull over the topic, but in a relaxed and no-pressure way). It works!
I had just realized I was spending too much time worrying about how I had too much to do. So I just deleted the worry time!

RHYS: Scheduling time to worry! Why didn't I think of that, instead of waking at three a.m, staring at the ceiling and letting all those woulda, shoula,coulda thoughts fly around my head. Okay, from now on Monday mornings will be dedicated to worry, the rest of the week is worry-free.And I do give myself a number of pages to be completed each day so I always make my deadlines, one way or another!

ROBERTA: Rhys, love this topic, it's helping me avoid a new chapter opening as we speak! Jan, not sure you can claim #1 procrastinator title. I would have been here first but I was busy setting up a Facebook account. Now that is something I've avoided for years, but I was running out of things to check in order to keep from actually writing.

And Hank, your techniques are marvelously compulsive! As a psychologist, I definitely approve of setting aside specific time to worry. And you handle yourself very nicely, telling yourself you can do it now or do it later! Seems like that should work for ankle-biters too:).

My worst downfall is email. My writer sister was appalled when she saw that I have my system set up to chime every single time an email hits the inbox. I know I should turn it off, but I haven't made myself do it. Maybe if Hank were to lay down the law...

HALLIE: I'm with Roberta, biggest culprit is email.I know it's really become a sickness when I put off replying to an email because I don't want the time stamp to show that I'm checking my email every ten seconds.

RO: Hallie, isn't the trick to that to Keep as New? I have some emails from weeks ago that I hope to respond to one day. Hi Rhys! Welcome! See, I procrastinated so long about welcoming you that I'm doing it now.. a little late but just as sincere.

Ah yes, the actual writing part of this business. I wish I could say I was like organized and such a's just this side of scary how good she is. I always feel more focused and productive after hanging out with Hank. Then, unfortunately, it goes away. I, on the other hand, have been known to stop writing if there is a really nice bird outside my window (which means I need to get the binocs, check my life list, the Audubon guide, etc.) So I guess you could say I take almost any opportunity to interrupt myself. (What! You say they've posted the scores from the synchronized swimming competition? I must see them!)

RHYS: Great to know that I'm in the company of fellow procrastinators--why else would we all have joined a blog?And I see that Jungle Red often asks our guest bloggers to give ourtrageous facts about themselves and have people decide which ones are true. So I thought I'd start off with some ourtrageous facts of my own:

1. I sang with Simon and Garfunkel

2. I wanted to be a lion tamer when I was a child

3. I traveled across Europe alone at the age of 12

4. I used to be manager of a rock group.

5. I once mooned a passing train
Okay, so which are true and which are the result of my creative imagination?

Thanks again for welcoming me so warmly,



  1. Omigod...we have to have a JR hiking trip. I love hiking...and camping..especially if there's a four star hotel or spa at the end of the trip.
    OK...the lie,.....I think it's Simon and Garfunkel..everything else sems quite plausible..

  2. Welcome Rhys,
    This is one of the blogs I check in on a couple of times a week to see what's new so it's great to see another author I read on the blog.
    I don't comment too often, but I do stop by to read. I've tried to limit my blog hopping to just a couple of days a week because I found I was getting nothing else done otherwise!
    Caryn in St.Louis

  3. Welcome, Rhys!

    If you're ever in my neighborhood, stop by for tea--at last count I had 14 teapots and 69 teacups, and the silver spoons to go with them (my grandmother used to do publicity for Lipton Tea).

    I think we can justify devoting time to the blogs/loops/lists/emails because they keep us in touch with the writers community and the market. And we solitary writers need some human contact, even if it is cyber-contact.

  4. Welcome again, Rhys. One of my first procrastinations of the day is reading this blog!

    Hank, what is your daily assignment for word count? I'd love to see a blog topic about how people with full-time jobs get their writing done (although your personal discipline clearly helps in that regard).



  5. Oh Edith, my word count assignment is the number of words in the book
    (100,000 for Drive Time) divided by the number of days I have to write it. I think this time it was 546 or something. Very doable.

    I also have a weekly total. So if I dont make my daily goal, that's fine, I can focus on the weekly and not get worried. Even when I'm behind, that lets me see how far behind I am.

    SOme of that "discipline"
    might better be described as "fear."

  6. And Rhys--if you sang with Simon and Garfunkel, I'm going to be writhing with jealousy. I've always had an enormous crush on Paul Simon.

    Unless, wait. "Singing with Simon and Garfunkel" as one of the million people at their Central Park concert doesn't count, right?

    Hiking. Sure. Maybe later.

  7. Rhys,
    I forgot to officialy welcome you, but you must know by now how THRILLED we are to have you here.

    I think that singing with Simon and Garfunkel is so obviously a stretch, that it must be true.

    I'm going to guess that you never wanted to be a lion tamer!

  8. If we're hiking, I only hike downhill.

    1. I sang with Simon and Garfunkel
    This has gotta be true...
    2. I wanted to be a lion tamer when I was a child
    I hope this is true.
    3. I traveled across Europe alone at the age of 12
    This sounds true.
    4. I used to be manager of a rock group.
    I love this one. Hope it's true too.
    5. I once mooned a passing train
    She throws tea parties and moons trains. "I don't think so," as we would have said at Crime Bake.

  9. Welcome Rhys!!

    I can procrastinate with the best of them! Sometimes I'm good and get on with whatever I have to write or do, but sometimes I don't. I'm usually great at doing things for other people, but drag my feet when doing something for myself. Writing included.

    I limit myself to checking only 2-3 blogs each morning, and surf others later if I have time or am filling a few minutes. I try not to comment on EVERYTHING.

    Mind you, if we have a tea party at Sheila's, dibs on making tiny sandwiches and pastries for it! I looooove to cook. I'm Aussie, so at least I'd get some of the taste sensations correct. Hmmm. I think I have a recipe for Eccles Cakes around here somewhere...


  10. Marianne, you still here?
    What are Eccles cakes?

    Sheila, publicity for Lipton Tea? That must have been fascinating..and to be a woman in that world at that time..did she tell you about it?

    (Oops,this is me procrastinating. I'm supposed to be researching our upcoming story on how federal accounts were attacked by scam artists.)

  11. would love to hear more about the Lipton Tea gig! and have some of Marianne's goodies. how about a short walk followed by tea with Jungle Red??

  12. Now I have friends to share my tea addiction, I can see. Silver tea spoons and eccles cakes. How divine, dahlings. My great aunt used to make the best eccles cakes. I've never tried. I'm a better eater than baker.

  13. Thank you JRs--I no longer feel so alone in Procrastination Station! I'm mortified to say that I dally at celebrity gossip sites and other folks' blogs way too much. Then my writing time gets squeezed and then the kids come home and I stay up way too late to work and am exhausted in the morning--and of course I must have a nap! It's a vicious cycle...

    Rhys, hiking is so healthy. That can't possibly count! I had to dump Twitter. I was definitely obsessing.

    Hank--will you write us an anti-procrastination handbook or do a video?!

  14. Hi Hank!! Yep, I've been reading but not having time to write long comments. I've been a bit tongue-tied (er, keyboard-tied) about commenting - especially the emotional stuff. I have been dealing with emotional things with my family in Australia for the last few months - by remote control. Long and complicated, but doing much, much better now. All I can say is THANK GOD FOR THE PARKINSONS DISEASE SUPPORT GROUPS!!!. My brother in law is so afflicted, but he's doing better. My brother eloped with his demanding paramour - but he came home to do it. I know there's a novel in there somewhere. :-D

    I've also been writing!!! Between two major business travel trips.

    Now planning out my Christmas cooking boxes. I road tested some new chocolate creations on Saturday and inflicted them on friends. The dark choc/coconut/cherry crashed and burned, but the milk choc/cranberry/pecan/Grand Marnier ones were just too moorish. The dark choc ginger worked, as did the choc dipped pretzels rolled in pistachios!! Now I can get on with my christmas menus.

    My mother in law - who is a london lass - makes Eccles cakes now and then, and killer Yorkie Puds (er, yorkshire puddings). Sigh. I think I can feel an attack of Wine Trifle coming on... I'm useless at making spongecakes, so me dreaming about making a Battenburg Spongecake the other night was a pipe dream, I think. :-D

    Mind you, I love tea party goodies. DH and I had a brilliant one at a little beach place in Newport Oregon a few years ago. Sigh. And since we're missing out on England this year, I'm missing Cornish Cream tea and pasties (that's pronounced pahs-tees, more or less). :-D

    Dang, now I'm hungry...


  15. Eccles Cakes recipe
    6 oz puff or flaky pastry
    1 tbsp sugar

    1 tbsp butter, melted
    1 tbsp soft brown sugar
    I cup currants

    1. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut into 9-cm (3 1/2-inch) rounds.

    2. Mix together the ingredients for the filling and place a small spoonful of mixture in the centre of each pastry round.

    3. Draw up the pastry edges towards the centre and re-shape into a round. Turn it over and roll lightly until the currants just show through.

    4. Score in a lattice pattern with a knife. Allow the cakes to 'rest' on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes in a cool place.

    5. Brush with water and dredge with sugar.

    6. Bake in the oven at 230°C (450°F) mark 8 for about 15 minutes until golden.

    7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

    serving amount
    makes 10 cakes

    This is the recipe I have in one of my Aussie cookbooks. Have fun. :-D


  16. thank you for the recipe, Marianne. I'll let you know how it turns out.

    And now it's confession time. Which of my outrageous statements was a lie? I didn't cross Europe alone when I was 12. I was actually 14.
    All the others are true.
    I used to be a folk singer and i used to perform with Al Stewart who was sharing a house with Paul and Artie, who also used to come and sing at our folk club. I was in a late night cafe when they came to say goodbye because they had to go home--they had a record called Sounds of Silence that seemed to be doing well. The rest, as they say, is history.

    And mooning the train--not on purpose. I was climbing Mount Snowdon in Wales and desperately needed to pee. The mountain is completely bare. The climbers hut was closed so I maneuvered myself behind it, out of view of the path. I had just squatted down when I heard a chuffing noise and there came the mountain rack railway with all those pairs of eyes looking down at me. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. One of my more embarrassing moments!