On Not Writing

So I am on the Côte d’Azur, lucky enough to be not too far past the start of my 3rd Annual Rent A Holiday Apartment in France Cheaply During The Low Season To Do Some Writing In thingy.

The first year I came, I had never been to this part of France before, so the majority of days got away from me while I, ahem, explored the place.

(Cafes! The beach! Cafes on the beach!)


Why write a book when you can read one? (Answer: To condemn yourself to a life of disappointment, bitterness and regret.)

Then last year I happened upon a collector’s edition box-set of Battlestar Galactica on sale in my nearest FNAC, and I’d never seen it and my oldest friend had just been telling me about how much I had to watch it, and being a TV show I knew there’d be an English option on the DVD menu even though it was the French edition, and, well, I may not have finished my novel, but I did find out who all the Cylons were.

This year though, things were going to be different.  (I am finishing this bloody novel by November 16th OR ELSE*.)

And they were different, to begin with.

I arrived here last Tuesday, but because I opted for the cheapest flight in the universe (€30 from the south of Ireland to the south of France, can you believe it?), I had to travel to Dublin Airport on a bus that left Cork at 3:00am, so I missed a night’s sleep and then spent all Wednesday recovering from it.

But Thursday I was all business. I was all, ‘Let’s start this as we mean to go on,’ and, after stocking up on enough Nespresso capsules to kill a small horse, I banged out nearly 7,000 words in one session and, even more amazingly, I was pretty happy with them.

But on Friday I wrote half as much, and then on Saturday…

*innocent look*

Well, you see, the thing is, I’d never seen Downton Abbey. Not a single episode. Not a minute of it. I couldn’t even have picked Dan Stevens out of a line-up (although I would’ve taken the time to study him very carefully). And so sometime on Friday evening, feeling like I deserved a reward for all my hard work and that I didn’t deserve to be out of this particular pop culture phenom loop for a moment longer, I casually logged onto Hulu—which, thanks to some internet wizardry, thinks I’m in America—and navigated to the first episode.

You can guess what happened next: it got to be Monday.

It was Monday, and I’d spent all weekend with the Crawleys & Co. I’d watched everything available on Hulu, which was the first two seasons and the first Christmas special. This isn’t a sitcom: the shortest episode is 47 minutes.

Picture 1

The Viewing History wall of shame. OF SHAME!

We’re now up to about two hours ago. Needless to say having become so adept at procrastinating, I immediately began my social media rounds (the TheJournal.ie, Sky News headlines, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, repeat as required) and discovered that Nathan Bransford’s new book, How To Write A Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever, was out, so I downloaded it and started to read it.

And a few minutes ago, about three-quarters of the way through the book, I came upon this:


Highlighting: Catherine’s own. Kick up the arse: courtesy of Catherine’s Kindle. 

If that’s not a kick up the arse from the Universe, I don’t know what is. So I’m getting off my arse before this binge-watching (long) weekend turns into a binge-watching week (or more), and I’m getting back to my novel.

(First thing in the morning. Because I’m sure I can find a stream of Downton Series 3 online somewhere, right?)

*The or-else-what is TBD. Something horrible and awful and very motivating, though.

28 thoughts on “On Not Writing

  1. Karen says:

    I can SO relate to all this – I’m constantly shocked by how little writing I get done when I set aside oodles of time for that very purpose. If I have an external deadline I can write until the cows come home and start demanding dinner, so I know I CAN do it – I just don’t know why I’m so terrible at motivating myself!

  2. pamelavmason says:

    Bwahahaha! The only difference between us (besides age, accents and maybe writing genre) is that I am not on the beach in France with you!!
    Seriously… make this a retreat next year and we can all kick each other up the arse without an ereader’s aid.
    Or Nathan Bransford’s.

  3. elizabethballou says:

    Oh gosh, I understand this completely. I’m in Spain right now, and I really should be out learning the language or studying or writing instead of watching BSG (I am DYING to know who the last Cylons are!).

    Anyhow, good luck, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in France!

  4. marilynslagel says:

    Okay, you just gave me goosebumps! I started watching DT in Season 3. My friends and I are planning a trip to London, Paris and Rome next year – Highclere Castle is on our list. Soooo, on Thursday afternoon, 10/24/13, a friend stopped by with DT seasos 1 and 2 for my viewing pleasure. I worked Thursday evening and spent ALL DAY FRIDAY and half of Saturday watching all of it. OMG! Wasted the weekend but loved every second of it. Dan Stevens? Oh, yeah. Even a “mature” lady like me can dream.

  5. gracielynne62013 says:

    I absolutely love this post! You had me so cracking up. I find that I use my blog as the friend that I go play with when I am trying to escape the novel “husband.” The novel is work for me, the blog is fun but both are writing. Now I have decided that I am going to make my blog posts be the platform for another novel. I hope it doesn’t take the fun away from my blog.

  6. drcarolcooper says:

    Love it. I’m off to write 7000 words today, and then you know, tomorrow, well, I’ve never seen Downton Abbey either.
    Love the blue shoes too by the way.

  7. Andy Leigh says:

    Sounds like you wrote up to where you were ready to write up to, Catherine. Then when you tried to force the words before you were ready, your brain rebelled. When it’s happened to me I’ve found the procrastination excrutiating and always feel horrible about myself during and afterwards.

    The procrastination sets in for me when I try to shortcut my creative process by missing out the development, thinking, re-reading, scribbling down thoughts etc. and instead go straight to the writing. I always end up paralysed when I do that because it puts too much pressure on me when I’m not ready.

    Take the pressure off yourself by sitting there with the intention of just being around your writing, and as Hollis says above, having some creative gestation periods. Whenever you start to feel stuck, it’s probably this bit of the process that you’re trying to miss out. Before you know it the writing is back on course again.

  8. Ellen Kagan says:

    I have written my medical memoir, Ellen In Medicaland, my wild and woolly story of my crazy experiences at a Harvard-teaching hospital that is on Kindle. I now want to self-publish it in paperback and have written my one-woman show based on the book that I plan to perform in 2014. However, I am pretty tired right now and am taking it easy, which I have found is necessary in the creative process. Somehow, I have found, just lying back and relaxing is good. Of course, I live on beautiful Cape Cod, which is heaven right now and is like a vacation. But I say, on with vacations!! They are beautiful.

  9. James F. Brown says:

    Another thought, Catherine,

    Whatever you do, DON’T start watching “Breaking Bad”! Seasons 1-4 are out on DVD. Season 5 (finale) will be out soon. You have been warned…

  10. Jacqui Pretty - Grammar Factory says:

    Lol – I love this and so resonate. My problem is, while I can bang out first drafts really quickly, I hate revising. Is it unreasonable to expect everything I write to be perfect the first time? :p

    That’s why it’s been three months since my editor got back to me with her feedback, and I still haven’t looked at it. What have I been doing? Watching all eight seasons of How I Met Your Mother, watching season 1 of House of Cards and downloading every rom-com that has a half-decent review.

    I know – I should be ashamed of myself >.>

  11. Sine says:

    Ah, well, Downton Abbey is deadly to us writers. Especially women writers. One can only hope it might be a smidgen better now that… Oops, just realized this might be a spoiler alert. In case you hadn’t gotten all the way through Season 3 yet. In any case, love your blog, I’m new to it by way of being immersed in the middle of Self-Printed and now checking up your online presence. I’m sure I’ll be stopping by often from now on as I’m going through the morass of self-publishing myself. And to find out when Downton Abbey Season 4 might be starting.

  12. Julie LeeSong Norman says:

    I spent most of the day procrastinating writing my second book draft and hadn’t gotten to Downton yet. I don’t know if you’re helping me sit down and write or giving me more ways to put it off. 😉

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