Procrastination, Procrastination and Writing, Scission

Bird by Bird, Card by Card: Tricking Yourself into Getting Started

Anne Lamott, in her dare-I-call-it-“cult” book on writing, Bird by Bird, talks about always having index cards at hand to jot down ideas before they vanish into the ether (as ideas—those frustratingly elusive will-o’-the-wisps—tend to do). Often, as we’ve already observed, getting started on something can be the really tricky part. Index cards can be a great way to find a small, but secure, portal into a seemingly impenetrable project. If, for example, you’re working on an essay or an article (or even the great Canadian novel—or a tenure-track worthy doctoral dissertation!), you can pick up an index card that you’ve written the scrap of an idea on and use that to inform the writing that you are working on…right now. Sometimes a detailed outline—although it, too, can be a useful (even a necessary) tool—can seem daunting. It’s too easy to say, “I’m not ready to write my introduction yet.” But to pick up a random idea that will fit into the larger project…somewhere, at some point…can be a very liberating way to approach the task. The following is a link to the passage from Lamott, courtesy of Orange Crate Art.