Writing for procrastinators 

Pragmatic skills to overcoming the blank page and prioritizing creative endeavours


Even after publishing four collections of short fiction, writing columns for Xtra West Magazine and airing regularly on CBC Radio, writer Ivan Coyote still can find herself in the throws of procrastination.

The Globe and Mail may have called the Whitehorse native a "natural-born storyteller" but raw talent isn’t what got Coyote supporting herself as a freelance writer. It kept the work coming, but it was hard work and over coming those mantras all aspiring writers are familiar with "I really should wash the dishes first."

The Capilano College instructor has heard all the excuses, including some from her own mouth, and that is why she is passing on her secrets of how best to bully yourself into scribbling with the Boot Camp for Procrastinators writing workshop Feb. 18 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Alta Lake School.

"Writing, being a solitary endeavour, it’s not like having a gym buddy where you are letting someone down if you don’t show up," Coyote said.

"This is one of the first sorts of hurdles for people who are wanting to get into the practice. I take a pragmatic approach to tricking yourself into having a deadline. I can say as a professional writer, it is only you who gets your butt off the couch and confronts the empty page syndrome."

For authors who have been writing that book for years on end, for scribes with a journal full of a dozen half finished poems, for writers who shy from starting a grocery list, the three-hour workshop will whip your pen into shape and get you writing that screenplay or children’s book you’ve always dreamed of.

"It’s a daily struggle to get there," said the writer/performance artist.

"The biggest step (is just getting started) and all the rest is downhill once the initial work is done. It’s about tricking yourself into getting the work done."

She drew on the example of how people will push to get homework done for a class, not wanting to disappoint the teacher or fellow classmates, as one situation that can be manipulated into a surefire strategy to put paper to pen.

"Why are we more loath to disappoint strangers than our own selves?" she asked. "It is a fact of human nature, so we take that bad habit and flip it around, so to have a positive impact on your writing life."

The idea of a writing buddy was born.

Coyote has plenty of success stories beyond her own to demonstrate her tactics work. Just last month one of her students signed with Penguin Publishing.

"She takes my advice better than I do," Coyote laughed. "She has gone from being a student to an inspiration of mine."

Boot Camp for Procrastinators is one of five workshops being offered as part of the Celebration 2010 festivities taking place during February.

Other writing workshops include The Path of the Journal: From first entry to published piece with Maria Coffey Feb. 18 at the Squamish Library, and Travel Writing Tips, Tales and Techniques with Coffey Feb. 19 at Spruce Grove Field House.

Photographer Dag Goering is also hosting two photography workshops, Putting the Heart into Travel Photography Feb. 18 at Capilano College in Squamish and Feb. 19 at Spruce Grove Field House.

Writing workshops are $10/$15 and photography workshops $35.

For more information, visit www.whistlerartscouncil.com

To enroll in Boot Camp, call 604-932-4518.

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