No wonder leaving things to the last minute is so popular

At uni, we used to stay up all night to study before an exam.  My friends and I lived in a farmhouse and if we were ‘pulling an all-nighter’, we’d make each other instant coffees until we were buzzing and delirious. One night, we got in a car and drove to another farmhouse, turning off the headlights and parking well back on the long driveway, walking silently to the lit windows of our studying student neighbours at 3am. We chose a window each and counted to three. Then banged our pots and pans together and giggled hysterically before running back to our car and returning to our desks. Hilarious, huh?

We filled the academic year with the types of social and cultural things that students do (thinking they were probably more social than cultural), then we used the exam period to learn what we’d been taught academically all year.

It was the pressure of the last minute that meant I drank up all that information about monocotyledons and dicotyledons ready to spit it all out six hours later in the exam. And by spitting it out, that’s where it stayed, on the exam paper and not in my brain. Lucky I haven’t needed to know the difference between monocots and dicots since. If you’re not sure what they are, sorry, I can’t help.

Leaving things to the last minute forces productive behaviour. It’s win-win really. You get to do random things that only procrastination allows in the lead-up, but then you come through with the goods at the end.

Oh, what do you think of my new look? And no, before you all fall over and ask, ‘Surely you haven’t changed your hair after 20 years?’, it’s not me. It’s my website.

Remember back to the start of this year when I boldly announced that I was going to write a book? This year. (Wondering now if I should have left off the ‘this year’ part…) In readiness, I removed all of sewing from my website. Can’t make orders if I’m writing a novel, I said.

Then I blogged sporadically (like every couple of months), I went out for coffee sometimes, I mourned the empty house, and I didn’t write a book.

But. The year isn’t over.

There’s this thing called NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s held in November of each year, and last year almost half a million people signed up, committing to write a novel (50,000 words) in the month of November.

I nearly signed up because I the joke was on me. “I’m going to write a book this year,” I’d spruiked. It’s November. And we all know now that there is no book. (And after November, there are potentially half a million books that will be jostling for the same space on the shelves at the airport as mine. Assuming that all participants finish. Cos anytime someone says they’re going to do something, they always do. And assuming that they’re all published. Cos it’s really easy to get a book published.)

But we went away for a couple of days at the start of November and we were all sick for a couple after that, so I never signed up to NaNoWriMo. And I started to see how easy it was to let life get in the way of a goal.

NaNoWriMo values enthusiasm, determination and a deadline.

I already have all those things. I’d already set a deadline for my novel purely through my own spruiking.

So I’m running my own initiative. I think I’ll call it SeWeSlo (Seven Week Slog). There are 47 days left of this year. So if I write 1,000 words a day, every day, for the rest of this year, I’ll have 47,000 words (of sand, ready to build a castle). That shouldn’t be too hard – it’s always such a quiet time of year…

Here’s a quote by a bloke who knew some stuff that popped up in my Facebook feed the other day:


That was inspiration enough for me to start, as here’s a photo of my bedside table:


The problem until now has been a lack of ideas. What is this book going to be about? And a lack of knowledge. How do you actually write a novel?

The first question was answered last month. I’m part of a brilliant online writing group in which we take turns setting monthly writing tasks and then review each other’s submissions. I’ve learned so much. Last month the task was to plot a novel. I spent the month procrastinating, kind of like I had all year, like I did all year at uni. The day before the submission was due, I started to really panic. I had to submit something. Anything. Just come up with an idea and flesh it out like a plot.

I didn’t stay up all night, but I had to work very hard to get it submitted in the time I had left.

So now I have a plot.

And I’m excited by it.

So I wrote 600 words. Who knew that actually starting something was all you really need to get started?

The second question, how do you actually write a novel, I answered with the help of Google, my writing group peers, and that pile of books beside my bed.

So here’s to a new look website where I can write when I’m not writing a novel.

And here’s to my SeWeSlo.

And here’s to you, for joining me on my new site. I hope that from here my writing can entertain you and that one day, I can open it back up with a shopping cart so that you might buy my book.

How about you – want to commit to starting (or finishing) something as part of my SeWeSlo?

(PS. If you badly want something I’ve sewn under The Bear & The Whale, please contact me, I may still be able to help. If it’s my mum’s beautiful dolls clothes you’re after, you can now find them all on eBay, where she’s enjoying many sales to new customers.)

2 thoughts on “No wonder leaving things to the last minute is so popular

  1. I have tears from laughing at the pic of your bedside table – you are a classic! I’d like to pre order any book you write Mrs Patton. You are a super talented writer. I wouldn’t care what the topic was, i know you’d entertain me and have me giggling. Just this little piece starting with school exams to writing a book and then tying it all back together is super clever. So proud of you xxx


    1. Thank you so much, Sam. Let’s see if you’re still proud on the 30/31 December when I stay up all night trying to write 50,000 words so that the joke isn’t still on me! I won’t do the saucepan thing outside your house. With age and wisdom, I might try to come up with a funnier procrastination trick. x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s