Thursday, January 27, 2011

Displacement Activities

My mind's idea of a displacement activity
Some days all I want to do is avoid writing (or my tax return, or that big project at work). I have discovered avoiding things means inventing displacement activities to fill the gaps so it seems that you just didn't have the time.

I can watch DVD box sets and TV until the cows come home as a way of avoiding doing things but lets be honest we all know that is being idle. Having displacement activities give the illusion of you being dynamic and constructive but all you are really doing is scattering energy and doing a version of sleight of hand.

I have discovered that in the latter part of the year I tell myself I can't do any writing on a certain day because I need to do my tax return. Now the tax return does need doing but I have discovered that really it is a displacement activity. It gets even more complex when you realise that I will do anything not to do my tax return... so I get out all my reciepts and tell myself that I will sort them whilst watching DVDs. Ha! I can make that tax return/reciept thing last months!

But when I have done the tax return and the big project at work has been completed there is nothing stopping me from writing. Or is there? Maybe I should tell you a little about my domestic scene. I am not by nature a tidy person. Things do not get automatically put away when used or washed. And I have just spent the last few months displacing all activity with my tax return and day job... yup my flat is a tip. So on Monday night when I promised myself that I was going to get some writing done, I suddenly had this overwhelming urge to clear out my bedroom. And very satisfying it was too. I can now get in and out of bed without risking life and limb climbing over a pile of stuff.

I did have this grand idea of taking up some new hobbies in lieu of going to the gym. I was going to go flamenco dancing and ice skating. I really was. But I had a good chat with myself last week, why? Why did I suddenly want to take a few more hours out of my week to do these things? Was it because I was bored with the gym? Or am I too lazy to run round my local park? And then I realized! They were just displacement activities. They sounded great but they would eat into my precious time. But because they sounded interesting and constructive I wasn't being lazy! See how tricky my mind can be, it had me convinced that I was doing them for my own good. Not that I don't want to do flamenco dancing... I so do! But I want to be a writer more.

So this weekend I will tell myself I will write, goddamnit. And I will have it all worked out... but I really have a very messy living room. If I just move that set of books over there before I start...

What are your displacement activities?

 Please come by on Sunday to see what Susanna has to say....


  1. Ironing. Not a glamorous one, like flamenco or ice skating, but because I consider it 'thinking time' too, I kind of give myself permission to do it. (As if I need permission to do the ironing)

  2. I can really relate to that, Brigid! For me, I tend to find myself too distracted by deadlines of other projects weighing on my mind to write easily, feeling like the responsible thing would be to clear those out, first. But I'm not that keen to do them, either... so I procrastinate a bit longer by walking the dog or giving in to my temptation to read the next chapter of my book. By the time I get the deadline stuff done, I'm left with no time for writing.

  3. Nicolette - Ironing... eek! That is something that is on my avoidance list as well. That and I buy a lot of clothes that don't need ironing.

    Seabrooke - Sounds very familiar :-)

    Julie - Twitter is not a displacement activity!! It is a valid writing tool! *mind refuses to believe otherwise*

  4. My engineer father calls this "colouring maps"...his definition being "an activity that gives the impression of accomplishment without actually accomplishing anything", as in time spent at school in geography class, lovingly feathering blue round all the coastlines of a map and giving every country a distinctive colour. Doesn't change what's on the map. Just makes it look a little nicer.

    I am an expert at colouring maps :-)

    See? I'm doing it now...:-)

  5. Oooo I like that, 'colouring maps'. Might have to use that at work.

  6. Flamenco - now there's an idea ... Or how about line dancing? Or salsa? Let me know next time and I'll come with you!

    I love colouring too ...

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