Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastinate means ~~ v. intr. – To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. ~~v. tr. – To postpone or delay needlessly.

Some writers seem to have a never ending flow of ideas. They always have something to work on, something in the pipeline and even more ideas finding their way into a special “Ideas” notebook or folder. Then there are the other type of writers who find choosing the right idea more difficult. They spend so much time asking themselves “How do I get started” and searching the internet for the answer, that nothing actually gets written.

Here are a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Just sit at your computer and type. Doesn’t matter what, whatever is on your mind. What you did this morning or yesterday. Get the flow started and then at some point you can cross over into writing your novel.
  • Flip through magazines and newspapers and see if ideas can be stimulated by what you are looking at.
  • Take the phone off the hook and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the internet or the television. Pull the cords out, if you have to. This is writing time, not surfing time.
  • Same goes for eating and drinking. You’re only wanting these things because you can’t make yourself write!
  • When you do start writing, when it’s time to stop – finish in mid sentence so that when you return to your work tomorrow the thought is already there. You can finish the sentence and then continue typing.
  • If you get really desperate try opening the dictionary at any page and then writing a sentence using the first word you see; or, try to think of new words using each letter of the word you first see.

Here are some other suggestions:

Keep an open mind

Sometimes you can be doing something else and a character will pop up in your mind and shout “Hey, I wanna be in your next story”. Who are you to deny this person? Take notes and listen to what the character has to say because these are the best characters ever.

In other words, let your subconscious mind take over. It really does work.

Commit yourself to a deadline

Set a deadline for when you want to finish the chapter or novel. Make sure it’s a realistic deadline otherwise you won’t make it and you’ll be disappointed in yourself.

Another form of this is to set times especially for writing. Say… an hour a day. If you find you sit in front of a blank screen for most of that hour try giving yourself a reward when you’ve written a page or 1000 words – whatever works best for you. The reward can be allowing yourself 30 minutes on the internet or that cup of tea you wanted so badly.

Again, be reasonable or be stressed!

Start anywhere

Remember, you don’t have to start at Chapter 1 word 1. If that’s the reason you’re having trouble getting started go to a scene that you feel enthusiastic about and start writing. Often, once a few scenes are written the rest start to flow much more easily.

Don’t, however, write all the exciting scenes first and leave all the boring in between bits to last because then you’ll have a novel almost finished but you’ll be dead bored writing the rest of the story and will experience major procrastination problems.

Have more than one project

This is something that works for some people but not all. Have more than one project going at once. It’s better if each project is at a different stage and then if you get stuck on one project you can switch to another for a while (letting your subconscious take over on the first project).

Don’t forget that you can switch between activities in the same project too. You can concentrate on research, writing, redrafting, editing, and planning. Whilst you’re doing any of these things – you are still in writer’s mode.

Read

Most writers like to read so this shouldn’t be a problem. Read books in the genre you are writing or that are aimed at the audience you are looking at for your work. Reading wisely has two effects: 1) It helps you relax, and 2) It is great research.

Find other writers

Joining writer’s group and visiting writing message boards is a great inspiration and I highly recommend doing both. Naturally, don’t let these groups interfer with your writing by demanding too much of your time but sharing ideas and thoughts with people just like you, is an excellent way to help get the creative juices flowing. It also helps you to realise that you are not alone. There are many people just like you and I sitting alone in a room, trying to write a novel. By reaching out to those people, you will find a new desire flare up within you and “procrastinate” will be a word that no longer fits in with your personality.

The Medieval Village

Villages were only built near a stream or spring because they needed to be close to water. Houses were dotted along a little dirt road. Some of these houses were nothing more than little huts; others were a bit bigger. A large manor house, with barns and stables surrounding it, was where the lord and his wife lived. You would always find a church nearby.

village

Around the village would be three large arable fields. One would be for growing wheat, one for barley and the third would be lying fallow (nothing is planted there because the farmers would be letting the ground rest). Each field was divided into strips. Most of the village families would have strips scattered about in each field, and the lord would have his own strips. His part of the land is called the demesne.

There would also be common grassland because the people had the right to graze cattle and sheep. Near the stream, where the ground is damp, the grass would grow tall and thick in the hay meadow, and close by would be the watermill with its big wheel turning round in the water as it grinds corn. This would belong to the lord, who would also have a windmill on a hill.

Further away, beyond the fields, are dark woods, where pigs might be kept and deer could be hunted.

The Lord and his Villeins

Most of the village people were called villeins. The lord of the manor gave each villein space for a house and small garden, strips in the arable fields and a share in the hay meadow, common land and woodland. Instead of paying rent, the villeins would work on certain days for the lord.

In February or March, they would do several days’ ploughing and harrowing on the lord’s land but they had to provide their own food. Once in summer and once in autumn, they would be expected to do one day’s ploughing and one day’s harrowing, but on these occasions the lord would give them food twice a day. There would also be other regular work to be done on the lord’s strips, like hoeing off the weeds. Besides this work, week by week, there were special times when the villein’s whole family had to work; cutting and carrying the lord’s hay and reaping and carrying his corn.

As well as this, the villeins would have to give the lord four hens at Christmas and twenty eggs at Easter. It is known that this is true because it is written in a custumal. There were so many rules about what the villeins had to do for the lord, and what the lord had to give them, that in many villages, to help their memories, they wrote down these rules or customs in a document called a custumal, which gives information about the work of the villagers, their rents, their rights and their rules.

Houses

The villeins would help each other build houses. They didn’t have bricks or stone but the lord allowed him them to cut down trees in the forest to make a wooden house. They built a framework of timber, filled in the spaces with a lattice-work of this wood, and plastered this all over with a mixture of mud and chopped straw. In this way they made “wattle and daub” walls. Finally, he thatched the roof with straw.
Inside, there would be a flat stone for a fire in the middle of the room and a smoke-hole in the roof above it. The cooking is done indoors in winter but whenever possible the women would cook out of doors. The windows have no glass but do have wooden shutters.

The house has two rooms. In one the man keeps his tools (a hoe, a spade, an axe, a wooden bucket, a sickle, a flail and his bow and arrows) and all the animals sleep there at night. In the other the family lived and slept. Most families would have a wooden table, some three-legged stools, a log against the wall for the children’s seat, and a bed like a big wooden box. The man of the house would make all the furniture himself. The floor would be mud, stamped down very hard and firm. All the clothes would go in one big wooden chest, and most of the food would be kept in baskets. In one corner there would be a wooden trough in which the wife would make bread, and an iron cauldron she used for cooking dinner, washing the clothes and bathing the baby. On the table would be wooden plates and cups, and a clay jug.

Up in the dark roof would be big pieces of bacon and strings of fish hanging by the smoke-hole to get smoked ready for eating in the winter. A tiny door led into a little wooden shed where there would be a great tub of salt water full of port pickling for the winter too.

Nobody in the village had water brought to them by pipes. There was a deep well in the middle of the village usually, where everyone went to draw water.

Egyptian Women

woman

Most women had to take second place to the men of the family. As far as society was concerned, “a woman’s place was in the home”.

Their daily chores included fetching water, cooking, cleaning, grinding grain, baking bread, brewing beer and washing and mending clothes. Some women had vegetable gardens to tend and animals to care for too.

Others did spinning and weaving or made clothes. Women from wealthy families could afford to hire servants to help them and they also had maids to do their hair and make up. Poor women had to do everything themselves.

Some women worked as servants for others, while others worked as mucicians, dancers or entertainers. Women could own farms and businesses and were often quite successful. They were even allowed to leave their property (in their will) to anyone they wanted.

Farming

Producing enough food for everyone was the most important job in ancient Egypt, and most ordinary people worked on the land for at leat part of the year. Much of the farmland belonged to the king and his noblemen, or to big insitutions such as temples, which employed stewards to look after their land.

farming

The boundaries of fields were marked out with stones to make sure that nobody tried to take someone else’s land. Every few years officials measured the fields to make sure the stones had not been moved; this also enabled them to work out how much of the harvest the landowner would have to pay in taxes.

Wheat and barley, were the most important crops grown, which were used to make the basic diet of bread and beer. They also harvested flax for making linen, and papyrus for making writing sheets. Beans, lentils, onions, cucumbers, lettuces and many fruits were also grown.

Some year the crops failed, which left the community to experience and famine. Many people starved at these times. Often, the ancient Egyptians knew when they would experience a bad year, if the height of the Nile River was too low, there would not be enough water for the crops and if it was too high, everything would be washed away.

As soon as the flood waters went down, the farmers ploughed the fields and planted their crops. They irrigated the growing plants with water which had been held back from the flood or brought the the fields, from the river, by using water scoops or wheels.

They often used trained baboons to help pick the fruit but ripe grain was harvested with a sickle; flax and papyrus were pulled up by the roots; and the rest of the crop was gathered by hand.

Education

Education was highly valued in ancient Egypt but it was only for boys. Some girls may have learned to read and write, but their main role was to stay at home and help their mothers.

HierogLetL250Being able to read and write was the key to getting a good job as a scribe, so parents tried hard to send their sons to school. Education was expensive and not all families could afford it. Boys who did not go to school were expected to work. They had a practical education, often learning the family trade by helping older relatives and copying what they did.

Royal children did not attend the same school as the other children. They had their own school inside the palace whereas most boys went to the temples and government offices where they would work when they grey up.

The boys started school at the age of five. They used wooden boards and learned how to write the hieratic script used for official documents. They made their own reed brushes and ground up colours to mix with water to make ink.

Older students learned to draw the beautiful hieroglyphs used for religious texts and practised writing the kind of official letters and documents they would come across in their working lives. They also studied mathematics so they could keep accounts and work out taxes.

Some students took specialist subjects such as foreign languages, history, geography, astronomy and law.

You’ve Decided to Write

Perhaps, you have been jotting down snippets of thoughts and ideas onto scrap paper or maybe you have been writing little stories for years. However you started, you’ve decided that you want to write and you want to be published.

What do you do now?

  • Set up an area in your home especially for writing. Somewhere peaceful and quiet, where you can think and be creative.
  • Buy a computer with a decent word processing programme installed. Some people still like to write freehand but most publishers only accept typed manuscripts so why lessen your chances of being published by being in the minority group.
  • Read everything you can put your hands on about the art of writing. Visit your local library, book shops and search the internet for up to date information.
  • Think about joining a Writer’s Centre, Reader’s Group and Writers’ Message Boards on the internet as they usually have access to many useful resources and ideas.
  • Subscribe to Writers’ Newsletters.
  • Think about enrolling in a writing course or workshop. There are plenty available on a variety of subjects.

The Right Mindset

When you decide to write, you may encounter various obstacles. The biggest of these is often self-doubt. There is a lot of competition out there, so what makes you think you can make it when so many other haven’t. If we all thought like that, no one would ever get published. If you have the right mindset, the determination and a love for writing then you are on the right path. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

If self-doubt plagues you then this is where a supportive family and friends can make the difference between completing that first special manuscript or consigning it to the wastepaper basket.

Rarely, will you be able to sit with other people who also write with a passion so it is important to realise that you have entered into a very lonely profession but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If you’re doing it properly, you won’t have time to feel isolated with all those characters inside your head and those plots waiting to be put down on paper. Besides, these days with the internet at most people’s fingertips, you’ll be surrounded by other people who know and care about what you’re going through whenever you feel the need.

Making Time to Write Each Day!

This is critical to every writer. You will need to write every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s during the day, in the middle of the night, on the bus or if you steal a few moments at work to jot something down but you must discipline yourself to write EVERY day. If it’s only to write fifty words or edit an existing manuscript. The more practice you get, the better.

When you do sit down to write forget about everything else for that short time. The housework can wait, take the telephone off the hook and get your spouse or kids to tend the garden for a change. It’s time for you to be creative. After a while, you will discover that a certain time of day works best for you. Try to keep that time free.

The First Draft to the Last

Your first draft doesn’t have to be good and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about spelling, style, and grammar just yet. Just write. Get it all down on paper (or on disk) and worry about the rest later.

Before you start editing your work, put it away for a while. A couple of weeks or even a month should be enough. Then start reading it through with a pen and pad beside you so you can make notes. Again, you’re not looking at spelling, style and grammar for the second draft either – you should be checking that the storyline, plots and main points are coming through as they should.

Have you included all the necessary information? Are your thoughts logical and orderly? Have you started your story at the LAST possible moment, the place where the character’s life is about to take a real dive towards trouble? Does it make sense or has it been contrived to make it convenient for you, the writer? Does the reader get to know the characters? Does the story move along at a nice pace or is it slow and boring?

The third draft is when you check the spelling, style and grammer. If you have pointless words in your story, delete them. Study your first page and make sure it catches the reader immediately. This is also the time when you should trim your story.

If you are an unpublished author then this is a very important point to remember. First novels should be between 80,000 and 120,000 words in length. Less than this and the reader feels unjustified in parting with their money to buy the book because they feel as if they are being ripped off. If you have more than 120,000 words, however, the publisher will look at you as a financial risk because they have to outlay more money to publish a book by an unknown author that may flop.

For the fourth draft you should print your work out. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’ll find as it’s much easier to see them on a printed page. Once this final revision has been completed, you will be ready to start looking for an agent or publisher.

Feudalism

systemLords and Vassals

For safety and for defense, people in the Middle Ages formed small communities around a central lord or master. Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of the castle, the church, the village, and the surrounding farmland. These manors were isolated, with occasional visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.

In this “feudal” system, the king owned all of the land in his kingdom. He kept a large portion of the land for his own use, and a great deal of land was also held by the Church. What happened to the rest of the land? The king awarded land grants or “fiefs” to his most important nobles, his barons, and his bishops, in return for their contribution of soldiers for the king’s armies.

The nobles divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their servants or “vassals.” Many of these vassals became so powerful that the kings had difficulty controlling them. By 1100, certain barons had castles and courts that rivalled the king’s; they could be serious threats if they were not pleased in their dealings with the crown.

In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. While it gave no rights to ordinary people, the Magna Carta did limit the king’s powers of taxation and require trials before punishment. It was the first time that an English monarch came under the control of the law.

The Peasants

At the lowest echelon of society were the peasants, also called “serfs” or “villeins.” In exchange for living and working on his land, known as the “demesne,” the lord offered his peasants protection.

Many peasants remained free, but most became serfs. A serf was bound to the land. He could not leave without buying his freedom, which was a rare occurrence. Life for a serf was not much better than the life of a slave. The only difference was that a serf could not be sold to another manor.

As rent, Serfs would often work the land and produced the goods that the lord and his manor needed three or four days a weeks. This exchange was not without hardship for the serfs. They were heavily taxed and were required to relinquish much of what they harvested. The peasants did not even “belong to” themselves, according to medieval law. The lords, in close association with the church, assumed the roles of judges in carrying out the laws of the manor.

Egyptian Furniture

Wood had to be imported from far away – cedar from the Lebanon, ebony from Africa – so furniture was rare and expensive. The ancient Egyptians did not use very much furniture because of this.

The rich had beds but most ordinary people slept on mud benches covered with mats. Instead of pillows, there were headrests made of ivory, wood or pottery.

In wealthy homes there were chairs to sit on, and three legged stools were also popular. There were no cupboards or wardrobes. Clothes and household goods were kept in wooden chests and boxes, while foodstuffs such as oil and grain were stored in pots and baskets. Trays of food or jars of drink were put on tall stands.