Did the title catch your eye? Are you guilty of procrastinating at times? Then you know what to do. Read this great article by my talented critique partner, fellow 2008 Golden Heart finalist and friend Anne Barton without delay.
Don’t put it off. Do it now!
Because Anne, in her entertaining way, offers great suggestions for battling the Do It Later syndrome. Plus she shares some great quotes.
So, hop to it. Just do it. Blast right through it. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me.
Keli – Keeper of the blog and putter offer of things she really shouldn’t put off. (Now you know why I’m so glad Anne wrote this article! 🙂 )
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Confessions of a Self-Diagnosed, Recovering Procrastinator
by Anne Barton
I love to sleep in, I often use paper plates to avoid doing dishes, and I haven’t made real mashed potatoes since I discovered that the instant kind tastes pretty good. I’m lazy, and, for the most part, I’m OK with that. But we all know the best things in life often require hard work and—regrettably—sweat. Relationships. Raising kids. My Italian grandmother’s Christmas cookie recipe. And writing.
No matter how much we love to write, most of us have to work really hard at it. We write because making characters come to life is exhilarating. Because we want to move people. We write for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it’s meaningful.
Unfortunately, my lazy gene manifests itself in the form of procrastination. Some of my favorite objects of procrastination are school projects, income taxes, doctors’ appointments, and gas tanks. Harmless stuff. I might have even accepted this tendency as a slightly endearing character flaw, if not for one thing.
Procrastination takes energy. And we sloths would rather not expend our precious energy worrying about deadlines, making excuses, and begging for extensions. Because all those things are . . . well, they’re dreadfully exhausting. Trust me.
So, I’ve reformed. At least when it comes to writing. I carve out a little time for it each day. Still, the temptation to put off a challenging scene or difficult chapter lurks constantly. So, I’ve found inspiration in a few quotes.
“If and When were planted,
and Nothing grew.”
Starting a new project is scary. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first book or fourth. You think to yourself, “What if this is a big waste of time? What if nobody ever reads this? What if a lot of people read this? What if my love scenes read like a medical book?” And if you don’t have those kinds of doubts, maybe you wonder, “Was my last book a fluke? Do I have another story in me? What if this book’s not as good as my last?”
Try changing the questions in your head. Say, “What if this is the story that lands me an agent? What if this is my breakout novel? What if three New York publishing houses end up in a fierce bidding war over this book and it’s subsequently made into a major motion picture starring Keira Knightley?” You’ll never know the answers to these questions. Unless you start your story. Type it on your PC, your Mac, or your AlphaSmart. Write it on a napkin in yellow crayon. Just write it.
“Even if you’re on the right track—
You’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Once you start writing, don’t stop. Keep making forward progress, because once you have momentum, the story will flow, and your word count will soar. The best part is that once you’re in a groove, you won’t need to exert as much energy. Repeat after me: Exerting energy—bad. Getting your groove on—good!
“I don’t wait for moods.
“You accomplish nothing if you do that.
Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”
Pearl S. Buck
Since I’m a teacher, you’d think I’d know all about discipline and good work habits. Yes, well, apparently one can lecture on these topics without having a working knowledge. Fortunately, I have a wonderful support system: a Writers’ Goals Group. The group works like this: each writer sets his or her own weekly and long term goals, and reports back to the group weekly. Simple, but effective. How?
The Goals Group required me to set a timetable for finishing my book. Also, I’m accountable for my progress every week, and it would be mortifying to admit the only thing I’d accomplished was changing the font style or my heroine’s middle name. (Hmmm. Better get writing.) An unexpected benefit has been that it’s easy for me to go back and track exactly how many new pages, revisions, and other writing-related activities I’ve completed each week. And then I can make my goals aggressive, but still realistic.
“My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me
To tarry ’til a more convenient season.”
Mary Todd Lincoln
Things are going to come up. Holidays, family commitments, illnesses, life. When possible, don’t let them completely derail your writing. Find the balance that’s right for you, and realize that writing during a rough spot can actually be therapeutic. It also provides a great excuse for slacking in other areas. Try this: “I would have . . . (Insert past perfect tense form of unsavory activity here: “gone grocery shopping,” “changed the baby’s diaper,” or “bought a Christmas present for your great-aunt Rose.”) . . . but, I’m desperately committed to my craft. Sorry!”
“I love deadlines.
Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”
If you don’t have real deadlines, make some for yourself. Finish the chapter by the end of the week. Finish the synopsis in time for a contest. Finish the manuscript before the end of the year. Even if you miss your deadline, you’ll be further along than when you started. When you do meet a deadline, celebrate like mad. Then set a new one.
I’d love to hear from you.
• What things do you always procrastinate doing?
• What helps you stay on track and meet your writing goals?
• When was the last time you made real mashed potatoes? 🙂
Anne Barton’s treatment for procrastination is progressing nicely. There are disturbing signs, however, that her lazy gene may have been inherited by one or more of her children. She plans to have them checked out—one of these days.
Her Web site:
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