Guest Post: Carolyn Mansager doesn’t procrastinate

I was talking to a writing friend, Carolyn Mansager the other day about how she manages to avoid procrastination when she’s writing. She told me she has a couple of writing partners, one in Connecticut and one in California. I asked her to explain how it worked, and here’s what she had to say:

CMA writing partner does help maintain deadlines that you don’t otherwise have. But the other part of the equation is that a writing partner makes you accountable. The two combined are what makes writing with a partner the most productive.

If you are showing each other your work, each person knows, whether you share via email or in person, that you either did the work or you did not. There is neither honor system nor wiggle room around this fact. You assign your writing partner, for example, “email me 500 words by midnight tonight” and either you have an email with 500 words from them, or you don’t. Accountability.

Or, you tell your writing partner: “I have the goal of doing x, and will email you the first draft by Y (date and time) and either you do it, and they get it, with a thumbs up, kudos or comments (depends on your relationship) or you don’t, and you get the “Where is it?” In that case, you may be running late, or something happens in life, and you can share that event with them, and he or she will (hopefully) understand, and you move on from there.

A writing partner is also allowed to ask you this question, “Why aren’t you getting the writing done?” It becomes a friendship situation sometimes. Writing can be solitary and our brains work a bit differently. So being able to talk about it with another writer is a great help. Sometimes this can get worked out over coffee, or in the case of RG and myself; we met in the bar at Grand Central Terminal, while we were both, coincidentally, heading for the same train. Then we discussed it on the train ride home.CM1

As a result of our agreement, I am now waiting for RG’s 500 words, emailed to me. He has a deadline and knows I am waiting for his words. Chances are good, he’ll do it now. He’s waiting for mine, too. He and I met through the Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) group and ours is a writing relationship. It’s different from my writing relationship with Yvette, but that happens. Two people, two writers, work differently sometimes.
“My West Coast writing partner Yvette and I contact each other via Facebook i.m. and agree that it is “time to set the rooster” that means the alarm on my phone, and I keep the time. We negotiate when and for what amount of time we write. We write in separate rooms, sometimes in different time zones, for the allotted amount of time. Although we can’t see each other writing, we believe that’s what we are doing then. The word count says it all. Either you have words down at the end of the time, when the “rooster” crows, or you don’t. The rest is the same accountability as with my East Coast writing partner.
Since writing is a solitary event, we also make time to meet with each other, to have conversation as friends, and sit in the same room and write, when we are in the same vicinity. The overall goal is to support each others’ individual writing goals, and help guide each other to completion of individual projects, with support of another writer. I recommend making time to write, if only for a few minutes, each time writers get together. That way, we are alleviating procrastination and promote word count completion. We are also building writing connections and friendships.


Deadlines…or die

I don’t know about you, but I’m a typical writer in the sense that when it comes to writing, I procrastinate. Those of you that say you don’t ever procrastinate have selective memory. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And so, the only way that I can be sure of writing what I’m supposed to, when I’m supposed to, is to have a deadline. There’s a snag with this. When you’re writing for yourself, there’s no-one to impose deadlines on you. There are deadlines for paying the bills, deadlines for taking a shower, deadlines for getting to the next appointment at the nail salon. But deadlines for being creative? After all, why should I need deadlines when I love writing? But, somehow, I do.

Winner_180_180_whiteWhich is why, in November 2011, I volunteered for NaNoWriMo. I had two novels languishing in a drawer somewhere, and decided that if I were ever going to write one, I’d need a deadline. So I signed up to write the 50,000-word horrible first draft of a novel in 30 days. A deadline at last.

The thing about signing up is that it makes the damn thing public. So I had to do it, or lose face. In June, I had committed to doing 30 creative things in 30 days. (Why do these people always pick short months?) Each day, I had to think of something new, because I was posting the results on Facebook. And by new, I mean old, in many cases. For instance, I made what we used to call a Japanese garden; something my mother taught us how to do when I was small. You fill a container with moss and then ‘plant’ flowers and twigs to make a miniature garden. Then you add pieces of mirror (or in this case, silver foil) to represent water, and voila! I don’t think my mother had any idea that Japanese gardens were made of sand and rocks, but never mind.

249559_218176941549009_6871888_nOr there was the day I made the papier maché bowl. On another dreadful day, when I didn’t have much time, I decided to make something any child could make in an hour –  a lanyard. I don’t think I’d ever made one before, but it looked so easy…here’s a picture of the result. And it took me hours!
All this turned out to be preparation for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The idea here is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days. Realistically, I didn’t think I was going to manage it, because I was traveling for the first 9 days of November, and had other activities I had to fit in when I get back, like the Writers’ Cafe I was helping to run, and a presentation and reading of the three winning stories in our writing contest, and the book club (why is it at my house?). And let’s not forget Thanksgiving…

All in all, I suspected it was going to be tough. But I know that my whole career has been founded on deadlines, and so, even though they used to be imposed by other people, I’m finding that the best way for me to write is to promise someone else that I’m going to do it. And better yet, make the promises public on the internet, so anyone can see them and hold me to it.

Well, I did it. And then  I had to revise it. Nothing happened until I joined a small writing group where they expected me to produce something every two weeks to be critiqued. Lo and behold! I began to write again. There was one problem. I was writing a very bad novel. So I switched to some memoir writing…and then the group disbanded. Now I need to find another, because I NEED DEADLINES!

P.S. I started writing this two years ago…