Your Displacement or Mine?

Writing is the only thing in the world that makes me want to do housework.

So, what’s your favourite displacement activity?

 

Weird, huh? I hate housework, I love writing, so how come every time I’m part way through some writing I suddenly get the urge to do the washing up, tidy, iron, arrange my bookshelves? It’s because my brain is searching for a ‘displacement activity’ apparently.

‘Displacement activity’ is a posh phrase writers have for all the stuff you do that is not the stuff you are SUPPOSED to be doing. Avoidance is probably a more readily understood term, but doesn’t sound half as writerly. What happens is a little ‘displacement monkey’ in your mind distracts you from the task at hand, by urging you to ‘make another cup of tea/check the TV guide/your bank account/ebay/post on this blog : ) rather than crack on with that piece of dialogue you’re trying to get down. Displacement activities can sabotage your writing, they say – though I’m not wholly convinced. I think they sometimes happen for a reason. Perhaps what you’re working on needs time to settle, or percolate in your mind and after you’ve bought those gloves on ebay, it will all come together. However, I admit, I think I’d get a lot more writing done if I didn’t have an Internet connection in my office…

I know a few writers who keep their displacement activity on hand – as another creative hobby and they believe one such activity complements and feeds the other. So, they may start painting and then half way through THAT activity they’ll turn back to their writing as a displacement activity for their painting and so on…

Apart from this blog and the Internet, my favourite displacement activity is taking long walks, which can’t be so bad. What’s yours?

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About suehealy

Multi award winning Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by the Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Heinrich Boll Association and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her 2016 play ‘Brazen Strap’ ran at the King’s Head Theatre, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has also shown at the Hackney Attic and Etcetera Theatres in London. Sue’s nine radio dramas have broadcast on BBC Radio 4, WLRfm, KCLR96fm. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, she spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. Presently, she is London-based, researching a PhD on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre. View all posts by suehealy

13 responses to “Your Displacement or Mine?

  • Fiona

    Hmmm, perhaps you could plan to do 2 hours of housework every morning! Bet that would soon send you back to your computer 🙂

  • Fiona

    btw, love your blog, Sue. it’s funny & inspiring & if I squeeze my eyes up really tight, a tiny bit like having a coffee with you in oktogon kavehaz. keep it up!

  • Madison Woods

    Oh, I’d never heard the term before, but that’s exactly what I’d call it – displacement activity. I wondered if I were the only one that did it, if I were just procrastinating. But I think you’re right. I think it serves a purpose and we should indulge in it sometimes. Housework is one of mine, coffee another, and if I still smoked, it would be the queen of all displacement activities.

    • suehealy

      Hi Madison, thanks for your comment! There are a lot of pretentious labels in creative writing, aren’t there – and ‘displacement activity’ is a helluva pretentious name for doing the washing up. Glad this post lets you know you’re not alone. I don’t think you’re a real writer until you excel at displacement activities. And agree with you re smoking, if I still smoked I’d have displaced myself to a lung transplant by now!

  • suehealy

    Aw, thanks, Fi! Sending you a virtual tejes kave – and will write properly tomorrow xo

  • Katy

    I like to call it ‘productive procrastination’, but displacement activity sounds much more official! I like it!

    Housework and any sort of cleaning are definitely my displacement activities. I’ve always believed that it comes from the need to do relatively small tasks that will have me seeing a ‘result’ when I’m done…whereas writing can often be such a large project with the finish, the ‘result’, far far away in an unforseeable future. There’s something so satisfying about finishing something you’ve started, and writing can withhold that satisfaction.

    It’s all worth the wait in the end, obviously, but sometimes I just need that hit of doing something start to finish…ergo housework!

    Great post!

  • kinziblogs

    Sue! Thanks for visiting my blog…must have been a displacement moment! Never had a cool three syllable word for wasting time. Fun to hear another writer has the same issues under deadline.

    Love the image, too 🙂

  • SallyAnn Beirne

    Could you include displacement activities in the hobbies and interests section in your cv? !
    I pick ticks out of the cat a lot.
    Loving your blog!!

    • suehealy

      I put displacement activities in the employment and education section – makes them stand out, and anyway, I get too distracted when writing my CV. De-ticing cats is a pretty cool activity… can you bring your flea ridden cats to Ardmore? Pretty please?

  • Anita M. King

    The term displacement actually makes more sense to me than avoidance or procrastination because I do often get that sense of one activity complementing the other. My favorite displacement activities are knitting and crocheting—or perhaps writing is my displacement activity for yarn crafts. I have also been known to spend way too much time playing Minecraft which, while not nearly as productive, still feeds my need to be creative.

    • suehealy

      Hi Anita, good to hear from you! I like your idea of one complementing the other. Yes, I’ll go with that. I think displacement activities have their purpose – you just have to be careful that they don’t take over… Knitting and crocheting are very hip displacement activities. Creative and practical too.

  • susanwritesprecise

    I can relate, as I do the exact same thing. Sometimes in mid-sentence I’ll jump up and decide it’s time to wash windows. Unreal.

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