Displacement Activities

I’ve been trying to type the first paragraph of the next book. For quite some time. It’s there, in my head, but my head is an irrational location in which to story it with any hope of getting it out and down on paper.

Dr Wang, who created Wang Laboratories in the 1950s, was an electronics genius. He made his money not from Wang, even though the firm employed 35,000 staff worldwide, but from IBM.

This is what I should be doing. Typing and checking.

Back in the 50s, many people had the idea of using computers. But while it was possible to perform calculations, and then output the figures –  no one knew how to output while leaving a copy in the computer’s memory. So you had to start again from scratch when you wanted to continue from that point. It was Dr Wang who invented a simple way to make a copy internally, while also printing out results. And as a result of his patent, he was paid a dollar for every computer IBM made from then on. And he invested much of his money in a safe-haven – IBM.

Well, my head’s like computers before his time. I’ve got the information in my skull, but …

There are so many ways for an author to delay writing. Just now, as an example, I feel a little peckish. And a coffee would be good. My hearing aid just bleeped. That’s good – the battery lasted two weeks, which is really impressive. The last machine used to last one week only. My phone is flashing at me – wonder why? – and I have several calls I really need to make, but …

You see? I just managed to digress neatly for quite a while without any effort whatsoever. Because it’s easy. When I’m on form, and working at my own ramming speed, I type at 1,000 words an hour. I type them, which is basically one scene, take 15 minutes for coffee, disposing of the last coffee etc, and that’s an hour gone. And while making coffee, I can concentrate on the next scene I’ll type. It’s quick and efficient.

But not yet. I’m still cogitating.

Let me say, however, that this is not, repeat, NOT, writer’s block. No one I know who is a crime or historical writer has ever enjoyed the luxury of a block. Why? Because we don’t come from wealthy backgrounds. Only those who have no concern about what is in the bank can afford a block.

No, this is the opposite, if anything. There is so much going on in my noodle that needs to be thought through, that even planning is itself a displacement activity.

I really should tidy the office. But I could just read another book ...

Yesterday, for example, I bought a book. Not shocking news for a writer, I know: but this book was the excellent David Hewson’s book on how to use Scrivener, the author’s project planning and typing software from Keith Blount. It’s superb software, and I have written the last six books on it.

However, there is always more to learn, isn’t there? You can spend your life learning more. Luckily for me, I have already spotted five different aspects of Scrivener which will make my life much, much easier. And usable.

But it is displacement. Just as is, now, reading more about my period. Because I know enough to start the book now. I know, I know perfectly well, that when I do start typing, I’m going to be flying already. I don’t need more research.

Which is why I’m typing now. Writing a ruddy blog post.

See? Everything is displacement!

3 Responses to “Displacement Activities”
  1. Jules says:

    Haha! I empathise with all those distraction techniques! I get my ‘writing thinking’ done in the strangest places – usually nothing connected with writing. It’s a bit like sneaking up on the task in hand sometimes, using the ‘doing something else’ as camouflage! But, like you, that’s on a good day – on a bad one even the writing thinking gets displaced by the most mundane stuff, usually involving food!


  2. As an opener, have you tried ‘He was a dark and stormy knight’?


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