Diary of a Student: #AmNotWriting

Joana muses on the important relationship between writing, 
and the stuff we do to avoid it.

Being a writer is hard work. How many times have you heard this? Hands up ...

Now hands down, because otherwise you won’t be able to scroll to read the rest of this article.

Yes, writing takes dedication, patience and discipline, and why? Because it forces you to think. Let’s just admit it. Sometimes, we writers will do anything not to think. Especially since we are so hard-wired in such a different way from the rest of Humanity. We feel everything more intensely. More passionately. More fiercely. We are the only type of being that can put themselves in the other’s place and contemplate life from a myriad of perspectives.

And yet, how do we deal with this power? We procrastinate.

But fret not! For even the best of writers will succumb from time to time to distractions. Social media, playing videogames, watching a whole season of one show in a day… All of these the pointless time-consuming proclivities that we engage with in order to avoid writing.

To give you an example, a few months ago I had this conversation with our recent writer-in-residence Wyl Menmuir. I told him that I had been spending my free time staring pathetically into a screen, instead of writing my book. But he understood. He knows, and you and I know, that we all do that sort of thing, just to avoid thinking and feeling. For Wyl, it was building a table from scratch. Carpentry suddenly felt more enticing than pouring his heart out in 2,000 words.

Knowing that he had done that made me feel a whole lot better. If not for the fact that I know whenever I try to hammer a nail down, it is certain there will be some sort of injury involved. And what other things do I do to avoid going to the hospital? (I mean, writing.)


1.     I stare into the abyss.

My favourite way to start the day: gaze at the ceiling. Sometimes, I might make an effort to notice all the flaws in the paint. Others, I will look at that big hole on the wall from when my poster fell, because I was cheap and I got white-tack instead of a frame. Who knows? The abyss is endless.


2.     I go to that local supermarket that everyone in Uni goes to, but which can’t be named here because it’s a brand and they haven’t paid me to advertise them.

I treat myself. I drink from my friend’s banana-pineapple-berry smoothie, or whatever crazy flavours kids are drinking these days. Then we go through every aisle comparing steak prices. And then… I go home and cry because I’m a student and I can’t afford to buy steak.


3.     I become a vegetarian.

It beats crying over steak, and it definitely helps to save the planet. But who am I kidding? I constantly lack the motivation to sit down and write, and here I am thinking that I would actually be capable of giving up meat? I am a disgrace.


4.     I eat a packet of crisps instead.

This one involves a trick. I have piles of books that have been sitting on my bedside table for more than a month. So, what do I do? I eat a crisp every time I read more than five pages, and I call it a treat for a job well-done. Surely, I had to do something right, right?


5.     I stretch and exercise.

Because I obviously ate the whole packet in one gulp, instead of keeping the promise of reading those five pages. Spell it, Joanna. D-I-S-G-R-A-C-E. Disgrace.


6.     I save the planet.

I did it! I became a vegetarian. Spelling took a hard toll on me because it reminded me of how hard it is to ACTUALLY sit down and write. I realised it was better to fight for a worthy cause instead. One day, I might even write a book about it. Today is not the day.


7.     I become spiritually enlightened.

Years have passed, and true. I still haven’t done any writing. But now at least, I always look on the bright side of life. I’ve become so in-tuned with my spirituality, that I am sure that I will write that book one day. Eventually. No worries though. Because worrying leads to thinking. And thinking leads to writing. And I… don’t want to do that now.


Wait. I just did. Crumbs. That was easier than I thought. Guess I’ll do some writing then.

by Joana Varandas