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Procrastination spasms

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Picture by Ren Hang

According to Wikipedia, Procrastination is: In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. 

While talking with my casual friend journalist Patrick Alleyn today, I said out loud one of my most perplexing habits. I imagine a quick check would find others who do it and even an official medical term. It's pretty weird though. 

He was quizzing me about the writing process for novels and I was telling him how I broke down the targets by word count and overall time into how many words per session I needed to reach. Like if you want 500 pages, at 250 words per page standard average, that's 125 000 words. So if you wrote four times a week and did 500 words a session ... you'd need a year and two months just to get a first draft in. The thought of that defeats me mentally before I even start trying. As does the idea that you realistically need to double up that output, at least.

We then talked over pre-planning and mapping the novel first, all that stuff, then he asked me what was the hardest part of writing and two things immediately came to mind. The first is that the hardest part for me is the ten seconds between sitting down to start typing proper prose in a draft and the moment I start to type. That is where hardcore procrastination attacks. I may have easily and enjoyably done a month of planning, inventing and preparing but those ten seconds are killer and I may find anything else to do.

The second thing is what I can only describe as procrastination spasms. I sit down, I look at the screen ... then, I stand up and walk off to another part of the flat - for no fucking reason. After a few seconds of walking, I realise that I'd had no reason to get up and walk away - it was a subconscious involuntary physical act. My subconscious actually takes over, stands me up and marches me off, hoping I'll bump into another task I presume. It's not the same as being in those ten seconds and thinking, wait, I'll just get a cup of tea before I start, then getting up - it's a physical spasm and it is not proceeded by identifying another task.


Robert Westall's Futuretrack5

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Robert Westall was a British author most famous for his story The Machine Gunners. I knew his name after seeing the BBC adaptation of that book on T.V. That was in 1983. To quote the Wiki entry, "Many of his novels aimed at a teenage audience deal with complex, dark and adult themes." Futuretrack 5 was published the same year, I probably came across it a year or two after that, when I was around thirteen or fourteen. 

Despite being a teenager, I consciously avoided what is now known as YA or Young Adult fiction. I found the whole concept insulting. I was getting to grips with Elric of Melnibone and Nancy Drew didn't bear well by comparison. But I was browsing my local library in Neston, Wirral, one day and Futuretrack 5 caught my eye as I was ironically scanning the YA section and feeling all pompous and superior.

What I found was a thoughtful and bleak dystopian vision that pulled no punches and asked more questions than it answered. And, as with all the classics of the genre, no matter how some parts get dated the key concepts are icily familiar today. Strange that I should revisit it it now, the action is dated by the hospital death certificate of dystopia architect Charles Scott-Asbury - 26th September 2012 - who they "had missed him by four days."

The story follows Henry Kitson a young British lad coming out of the education system at twenty. To his knowledge, the country is split into two parts now, the unnems and the ests. The unnems are an underclass who live in large city-based fenced ghettos and are placated by entertainment complexes called Futuretracks that naturally attract then destroy leader types. The ests are a perpetual yuppie class enjoying the best of everything. The problem is that the ests breed too fast in their prosperity so come exam day, any students failing the tough tests are sent 'behind the wire' to the ghettos, on that very day.

I'm in Shanghai Talk this month

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parkour girl detail
Pic: Parkour Girl detail. From my novel Parkour Girl and Yellow Fish Car.

Shanghai Talk magazine have a 'summer reads' feature this month. They selected four authors to give their advice on what to read in Shanghai when the heat drives you inside ... and also let them plug their own books.

Editor Kerry Allen was nice enough to include me as one of the four authors.

If you can find the print version it looks great and is very well laid out. For the basic text and photo version, it can be found online here:

I give shout outs to 2000 A.D. and J.G. Ballard. Lets face it, either Shanghai or Guangzhou is going to be Mega City in the not too distant future.

My novel reviewed at China Rhyming

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book amazon.jpgMy novel Parkour Girl And Yellow Fish Car is starting to spread around a bit.

If you've not checked it out go to the lovely professional standalone site for it here if only for a quick peek.

Enter an underground world of Chinese vigilantes and heroes.

It has just been reviewed over at the blog China Rhyming which is written by Paul French. Paul is a prolific and respected author, especially on all things China, and his latest book is Midnight In Peking. 

Go here to find a list of his stuff.

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