Exercise for the soul

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
By: 
Spiri Tsintziras interviewed by Michelle McLaren

A portrait of Spiri Tsintziras
Spiri Tsintziras

Procrastination. It’s one of the few things writers of all kinds have in common. Spiri Tsintziras is a prolific writer, blogger and journalist, as well as an anti-procrastination guru.

So, why are writers so good at procrastinating? Spiri shared some of her thoughts with Writers Victoria’s Michelle McLaren.

Why do so many writers procrastinate?

Lack of time is a big one. We have so many competing demands on our time - getting ourselves off to paid work, looking after little people or elderly parents, trying to find the time to exercise or catch up with friends or upload what we had for dinner onto our Facebook page. Many of us want to write, but making the time and the psychological space to do it can be challenging.

The other big reason we procrastinate is fear. Fear of getting the words down on the page. Fear that they aren’t good enough. Fear of letting go when we’ve finally got a gleaming piece of writing ready to send off to a competition or a journal or a publisher.

I meet so many writers who say they will write someday. But the days and weeks and months pass, and they still haven’t written. Or they haven’t crafted what they’ve written. Or they haven’t made the time to research their market and send off their work.

The 12 step course teaches people how to make the time to write and how to channel the muse - as painlessly as possible.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be an expert on beating procrastination?

It’s easy to be a procrastinator. I, like many writers, am really good at it. But over the years, I‘ve learnt to discipline myself to write in bite-sized pieces, regularly and mindfully.

I think of writing in the same way as I think about exercise. You simply need to get started. The more you do it, the easier it gets. And while it’s not always enjoyable, it feels good once you’ve done it. Writing is like exercise for the soul. A corny and clichéd analogy I know - but I’m sticking with that.

You’ve written about a really wide variety of subjects, from books for children to your relationship with Greek cuisine and more. Has writing about such a huge range of topics helped you stay motivated?

Variety is important for me personally. I like to write about what interests me, and what resonates at an emotional level. And I write to share and understand and connect. Some of my writing even helps pay my mortgage. All of these things help keep me motivated.

It’s so easy to run out of steam as a writer - the “fixes” of getting published, or getting paid for your writing, are generally few and far between. I know so many talented writers who have regular setbacks. But somehow we all manage to jump back on the horse and keep going.

In your experience, what’s the most rewarding thing about helping writers get motivated?

I love it when a writer finds that magic place that allow the words to flow onto the page. When they finally ignore that pesky internal editor who says, “it’s just not good enough”. When they remember a powerful memory, or they write a beautiful piece of prose, or they have a strong personal insight through the words they’ve written. It’s very gratifying to be able to facilitate that process in some small way.

When someone who has done the 12-step procrastination course comes back to me and says, “I wrote that memoir piece”, or “I finally finished my novel”, or “I submitted that screenplay”, I feel like a proud mum whose child has kicked their first ever soccer goal.

About Spiri Tsintziras

Spiri Tsintziras has written several books including ‘Afternoons in Ithaka’, a memoir of self-discovery, family, connection and the power of a tomato. Spiri’s writings have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Spiri blogs at www.tribaltomato.com and runs the communications business Writing Spirit.

Spiri will be running a Business Writing workshop on Annual Reports in Melbourneand a workshop on This Fascinating Life – Writing Memoir in Woodend in June 2017. And she is available for in-house training through our Business Writing program.

About Michelle McLaren

Michelle McLaren is a Program Intern at Writers Victoria. She works as a freelance copywriter and writes about all things literary at Book to the Future.