How to procrastinate #6: Emma Healey

How long did it take you to write your first novel?

Five years. I was working full-time for three of those years, and part-time for one of them, so it wasn’t like I was sitting solidly in front of my computer. But I still feel like it shouldn’t have taken me that long.

What’s your worst procrastinating habit?

I don’t know what it is, only that it exists. How else would I lose such huge swathes of time without achieving anything? There are days when I genuinely don’t know what I’ve done with my time, except waste it in some mysterious way.

How do you stop yourself doing it?

I set a timer for 20 minutes, and then when that goes off I set it again. It’s annoying to me that this works so well, but something about the awareness of time and the need to justify each set of minutes makes me become suddenly productive.

Do you listen to the interminable Inner Critic? How do you keep him/her quiet?

I don’t exactly have an inner critic, or I wouldn’t see my inner critic as a negative thing to be silenced, but I am sometimes inhibited by an idea of an external critic. (Is that the same thing and I just haven’t realised it before?) The way I keep the made-up external critic quiet is by telling him he’s not my intended audience.

Quick tip for aspiring writers?

Save up your will power. As a writer you’re going to need your will power to keep writing, so don’t waste it on starting a new diet, giving up alcohol or forcing yourself into an intense exercise regime at the gym. You can do those things when you’ve finished your book (maybe).

Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding (learning how to put books together but not how to write them). She completed the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011, and Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel. She has been named a Londoner To Watch in 2014 by the Evening Standard.

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