Confessions of a Self-Diagnosed, Recovering Procrastinator

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!

Why?

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

desk piled with notes

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.”
Proverb

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.”
Will Rogers

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!”

calendar-with-deadline

“I love deadlines.
Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”
Douglas Adams

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.

Anne Barton

Anne Barton

Visit Anne

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Her Web site:

http://annebarton.com/

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Her blog:

http://annebarton.blogspot.com/

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Leave a Comment for Anne

Anne will drop by throughout the day to chat.

If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.

I’m holding a drawing for a set of classy Hallmark embossed note cards in honor of my classy friend. If you leave a comment, your name is entered in the drawing. I’ll conduct the drawing the evening of Nov. 14. The winner will have her choice of one of the three sets of note cards pictured: 10 purple pansies, 10 pink butterflies or 8 cream-colored roses on gold.

Congratulations to Walt Mussell, winner of the drawing! And not to worry ladies, he has a lovely wife who is sure to enjoy the prize . 🙂

Anne Barton's Post Prize

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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22 Responses to Confessions of a Self-Diagnosed, Recovering Procrastinator

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome back, Anne. It’s great to have you. Your article is fun, filled with helpful tips and fabulous quotations.

    I can be a first rate procrastinator, although I’m not quite as bad now as when I was young. I don’t want to think about the number of all-nighters I pulled in high school and college as I rushed to complete assignments I’d put off to the last minute.

    And what do I drag my feet on today? Dusting, washing my truck and minor sewing projects. (I don’t want to admit how long I’ve had “hem blue skirt” on my to-do list.)

    One of the best tools I’ve found for helping me stay focused on my writing is being a member of one of the three Goal-in-a-Month loops run by our fellow Pixie, Amy Atwell. Knowing I’ll be reporting my progress–or lack thereof–to the other GIAMers each week serves as great motivation. Plus, the encouragement and support I receive is a nice bonus.

  2. C.J. Redwine says:

    Great article, Anne! Of course I struggle with procrastination! I like to do the fun stuff and none of the rest, usually. Though the hard stuff is definitely more rewarding.

    And I just made real mashed potatoes (garlic/sour cream no less) on Sunday. Yum!

  3. Pat says:

    I adore Writing the stories, but hate editing. The story is done, written. I want to be on to the next. So, for me, the actual work begins after the first draft. I have a CP who fuctions not just as a critique partner but as a cattle prod, and this heifer, while fond of the partner, could do without the prod.

    Deadlines are my impetus most of the time, but the self-imposed ones are too easy to shrug off. Again, it’s my CP who calls to say, “I’m WAITING.” Yeah, she can be a real PITA, but she keeps me going when life would interfere.

  4. What a great article, Anne! I really needed to read this (and post it by my computer!) I am truly struggling to finish The Raven’s Heart in time to get it in the Golden Heart. I have already paid my money so I have SOME motivation. Still, it is so hard NOT to put off writing in favor of almost anything else sometimes. I like the “what if” suggestion. I need to keep telling myself this one could be the one and then crank out those pages!

    I will confess to using paper plates too. And I haven’t made real mashed potatoes in over 15 years!

    I procrastinate about so many things and then panic to get them done. That is NOT working for me. SIGH!

  5. Anne Barton says:

    Hi all! Keli, thanks so much for having me. I’m actually scooting out the door to school. Running behind . . . hmmm. I’ll check back a little later. Hope everyone has a great day!

  6. I’m big on setting my own deadlines. I try to make them achievable but tough. That usually keeps me on track.

    As far as the mashed potatoes go–we eat them only when we go to other people’s homes for meals. At my house, it’s rice in the steamer, noodles on the stovetop or baked potatoes in the microwave.

  7. Great article Anne.
    We must be twins separated at birth. I am such a procrastinator too, yes taxes and gas tanks.
    Thanks you much for the motivational tips. I’ll try harder this week 🙂

  8. annebarton says:

    Keli, you’re so efficient it’s hard for me to believe you’re a procrastinator, but it’s good to know even you’re not immune.

    I’m shuddering at your to do list. Dust? Wash truck? Hem blue skirt? Maybe you could change to: Delegate cleaning duties, drive through car wash, and shop for new blue skirt. 🙂

    Thanks again for having me. You really are the hostess with the mostest.

  9. annebarton says:

    CJ! Real garlic & sour cream mashed potatoes? I have one question for you. Can I *please* come to dinner at your house?

    I happen to know you just finished a killer manuscript, so whatever methods you’re using are golden. Congrats, and take some time to relax! Thanks for coming by.

  10. annebarton says:

    Pat, LOL at your description of your critique partner as a “cattle prod” and a “PITA.” Because I totally get that you mean it in the *best* possible way.

    I guess revisions are a necessary evil, huh? At least when you blow through them you can reward yourself by starting a new story. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  11. annebarton says:

    Louisa, my fellow pixie! 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling to get RH finished, but I KNOW you can do it. Hasn’t this story already won awards? Your adoring public is *waiting* for this book. You can’t let them down.

    Remember, you don’t need to have all 400 pages (or whatever) polished to perfection for the GH . . .

    Good luck, Louisa — I’m rooting for you!

  12. annebarton says:

    Hi, Annette! So, are you already working on the sequel to Drawn into Darkness? Getting a deadline from a publisher must be nerve-wracking and wonderful at the same time. Best of luck with the writing. I can’t wait to read your GH winner. Sept. 2009, right?

    So you go over to other people’s houses for real mashed potatoes too? I heard CJ’s having everyone over. 😉

  13. annebarton says:

    Hi, Marie-Claude! Thanks for taking a break from American Title V in order to stop by. I hope the voting is going well! Loved your bio and first line.

    I wish we were twins, cause then I’d be French and maybe a little more glamorous. 😉

    So you like to play gas tank roulette too? I’m not normally a risk-taker, but there’s something so thrilling about letting the needle get halfway down the “E.” I’ve never actually run out of gas before. I always seem to know just when to call it quits and do the responsible thing–borrow my husband’s car. 😉

  14. Kit says:

    Hi Anne. Hi Keli. I’m not much of a procrastinator but I loved your post. And I want a copy of that Christmas cookie recipe 🙂

    Kit

  15. annebarton says:

    Hey, Kit! Thanks for dropping by. So glad you’re feeling better!

    The Italian Christmas cookies (“Wand”) are labor intensive, make a complete mess of the kitchen, and contain about 400 calories each. But they’re soooo worth it. 🙂

    Basically you mix and knead the dough, roll it out, cut strips, tie them into little knots, and . . . fry them. Oh yeah, and then sprinkle with sugar.

    The recipe says things like “one small glass of white wine” and “a little vanilla.” I would never attempt to make them without my mom/aunts/sister. That’s part of the fun. 😉

  16. Theresa says:

    Hi Anne! Loved your article. Made me smile. I’m not usually a procrastinator but I sure was one today! I am trying to finish a manuscript and I am doing ANYTHING not to finish it! Usually the last 50 pages are the most fun for me. But not this time!

    I make real mashed potatoes every Thanksgiving. So, it’s almost time…

    Good luck to Louisa with finishing Raven’s Heart!

    Hi Keli! And thanks, Anne!

  17. Walt Mussell says:

    Anne, loved your article! I don’t know if I have time to procrastinate but I seem to find time to do so anyway.

  18. Amy says:

    Anne, I saw word of this post and I’m embarrassed to admit I *procrastinated* and didn’t read it until today! My bad! It was very helpful, and I loved the quotes. Glad you’re finding the goals group has helped you. I’ll be discussing it a little more next week.

    I’ve also given up on real mashed potatoes, but that’s because the refrigerated mashed potato packages are so yummy!

  19. Anne Barton says:

    Hi Theresa! Thanks for stopping by. Wow, you’re so close to the end of your ms. I bet it’ll all come rushing out of you in one or two days. It’s downhill from here, my pixie friend! Have fun with it.

    Thanksgiving is probably the last time I made mashed potatoes too, but in the year 199?. I hope you have a great one, and good luck with getting the lumps out! 😉

  20. Anne Barton says:

    Walt & Amy — Hi to 2 of my goals group buddies! Actually there are a lot of us here (Keli, CJ, & Marie-Claude too).

    Amy, I’m so grateful to you for setting up the group (GIAMx3). It’s helped me become much more aware of my productivity (or lack thereof!) An unexpected benefit has been getting to know great people like you.

    Oh, and both of you have way too many exciting projects going on to be eligible for procrastinator/slacker status. Sorry! 😉

  21. Keli Gwyn says:

    Anne, it’s been wonderful having you at Romance Writers on the Journey again. You write such great articles. I enjoyed this one and look forward to the next.

    Walt, guess what? I held the drawing, and you’re the winner. Congratulations! Now, I know a set of feminine note cards is not your thing, but I invite you to have your lovely wife take a look at the three choices and choose her favorite, which I’ll get on its way.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left Anne such great comments. And for all the compliments you paid me and my blog. You’re wonderful, and I’m blessed to know you. 🙂

  22. Beth Trissel says:

    Wonderful interview, Lynn. I enjoyed it, and that sticky business about learning to discern good advice from bad. Tough call.

    Cheers! This sounds like a terrific tale of romance that will be snapped up on both sides of the Atlantic. Great good luck to you.

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