Monday 22 September 2008

Catherine Tate Procrastinates and So Shall I

The Guardian newspaper has yet again decided to produce a series of fab inserts specially designed for me. It's a seven-day How To Write series, which isn't as naff as it sounds. Today's insert is How to Write Comedy with an introduction by Catherine Tate, comedian and one time companion of the Time Lord.

I was supposed to be working on some fresh material for my new novel but I just had to blog about Catherine Tate's working process that incorporates procrastination just because my readers in South Africa are unlikely to be getting the How to Write insert (except of course, this being the digital age, you can read the whole article in the online Guardian).

'Writing" always means "not writing" to me, because I will do anything to put it off.

I think this is mainly because writing anything down and then handing it over to a third party — especially in comedy — is such an exposing act that you naturally want to delay the process.

Also, the control required to get ideas out of my head and into some tangible form that I can present to others doesn't come easily to me. I will quite simply do anything other than sit down in front of a blank screen and begin.

So guys, we procrastinators are in stellar company.

But that is not the point of this article. I will quickly come to the point so that I can get on with procrastinating over my writing.

At the end of the piece, Catherine Tate offers up three bits of advice and I thought, hey, it would be so easy to apply these to writing for children (which I suspect is a lot like writing comedy, but I haven't read the rest of the Comedy insert yet so I can't tell you).
Catherine Tate: Trust yourself. You have to start with what you think is funny before you can have the confidence to write to anyone else's brief.

NFTS: Start with your own idea and then work on it from there. Don't go copying what seems to be hot at the moment (Chick Lit and Vampires according to BrubakerFord, in my previous post), don't do a comic diary just because Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been so successful (although I am sorely tempted), be yourself.

Catherine Tate: Give a gag three chances to work, if after three (separate) attempts they're still not laughing, bin it. It's not them. It's you.

NFTS: Be clear-eyed about reader feedback/critiques. If three trusted readers concur on a problem, well, don't bin it ... but accept that you've got to do something about it. It took me a long time to take my own advice about this and with my first novel, I got stuck in an endless loop of rejection and submission that only ceased when I wrote another book.

Catherine Tate: Don't take criticism personally, take from it what's useful. Apply it and move on to something better. And be brave. No one got anywhere by being too scared to open their mouth in case nobody laughed.

NFTS: Yup. Like I said before. And as for the courage thing: it's hard but no one ever got published by giving up.
Btw: NFTS means Notes from the Slushpile. I got tired typing.

And before I go back to work, here is my favourite Catherine Tate sketch in which teenage scourge Lauren "Am I bovvered?" Cooper quotes Shakespeare to an English teacher (played of course by David Tennant aka Dr Who).

P.S. Check out this t-shirt in my shop -that- never- makes- any- money- because-the- Spreadshirt- markup- is- so- high.

It says "Done Procrastinating" in front. On the back it says "Later"


  1. Hi Candy

    thanks for that, it was really entertaining and very useful - I love that Catherine Tate clip!

    And you've really helped me procrasinate this morning.


  2. glad to help. and you've helped me procrastinate too. we are a mutual procrastination society. or should it be a simultaneous procrastination organisation?

  3. Absolutely brilliant! Not only did I procrastinate by watching the Catherine Tate clip - wonderful, wonderful, wonderful - but I must procrastinate AGAIN by telling everyone else to look at it too.

  4. ah my evil plan to dominate the world via procrastination is beginning to succeed ...

  5. This reader in South Africa has spent the entire day procrastinating and is delighted to find still further opportunities to procrastinate. Many thanks, Candy!
    Your evil plan to dominate the world via procrastination is indeed succeeding.
    Still it can only be better than what present world leaders are doing.
    Candy for World Ruler, Queen of all Procrastinators!

  6. So this plan...does the rest of the world procrastinate thus leaving the field clear for you, Candy, to do whatever you like? Or are you procrastinating as well, in which case, will anyone get anything done ever again? this an even more evil and clever plan for Catherine Tate and the Guardian to take over the world by willing Candy to make us all procrastinate, through Candy's own procrastination?

  7. sue, you are giving me a headache.

    >So this plan...does the rest of the world procrastinate thus leaving the field clear for you

    that was the original idea but i think i'll make up my mind tomorrow


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