My name is Alexis, and I’m excited to join the ranks of the posting set—thank you to Nancy Rawlinson for inviting me. Biography seems the preferred way to begin, so I’ll tell you that I’m in the home stretch of the M.F.A. experience. I finished coursework for Columbia University’s nonfiction program in the spring and am working on my thesis. While there, I also served as editor-in-chief for the literary magazine Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Further back I spent more than five years as a reporter and editor with the Vineyard Gazette, a newspaper on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
To jump right in, I’ve been considering Jess’s procrastination question and—having experimented with quite a few strategies—I think a good thing to do is find a fellow writer, or group of writers, with whom you can exchange work on a regular basis. It helps to meet deadlines when you’re accountable to someone outside yourself, plus there’s the benefit of feedback. Also, a warning for the coffee shop sitters out there: free wi-fi is not necessarily your friend. I thought I’d found the answer to the distractions of my apartment when Starbucks announced all-access this past summer. But my 15-minute email breaks quickly turned into hour-long surfing expeditions. Now I make a point of disabling the internet on my computer whenever I want to be creative.
A final thought on beating procrastination: incentive. Everyone’s got to have a carrot they can chase. It could even be something small—say, a trip to the movies after finishing a draft or stamping an application. Writing contests are also excellent for this. Winners often receive cash prizes, or publication, or both. In fact, the Columbia journal just started accepting entries for theirs—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Check it out. Who wouldn’t welcome an extra $500 in their pocket? ... I’ll watch for other contests to highlight, and I look forward to keeping up with the conversation.