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Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Yesterday's Dreams, Author

9/30/09 - Writing Words of Wisdom - Procrastination

(disclaimer, this article was written many years ago, so the time references are a bit off by now ;)

Tomorrow is Always Another Day Away…

BY DANIELLE ACKLEY-MCPHAIL

 

So…you wonder why you don’t get any writing done…right? Let me guess…Work gets in the way? You have Writer’s Block? You’re tired? You’re not good enough? Enh…Wrong answer.

 

Procrastination…The Lazy-Eyed Monster

First off, let’s see what Merriam-Webster’s Colligate Dictionary (http://63.240.197.92/cgi-bin/Dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=procrastinate) has to say on this subject:

 

Main Entry: pro·cras·ti·nate verb

Inflected Form(s): -nat·ed; -nat·ing

Etymology: Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of

tomorrow, from cras tomorrow

Date: 1588

transitive senses : to put off intentionally and habitually

intransitive senses : to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

synonym see DELAY

- pro·cras·ti·na·tion /-"kras-t&-'nA-sh&n/ noun

- pro·cras·ti·na·tor /-'kras-t&-"nA-t&r/ noun

 

So, you might say: No way! I would never intentionally put off writing, so this doesn’t apply to me. Enh…wrong again…All of us do it, from time to time, me most of all. It is 7:16pm on Saturday night…guess when this column is due? Yup, Saturday. We may not realize we are doing it, but we are constantly making decisions that stand in the way of our writing progress.

 

It Will Just Take a Few Minutes…

What is it for you? Do you have to clean up the mess before you can concentrate? Do you need to catch that season finale, or you just won’t be able to think straight? How many times have you gone for a snack? Or decided to check your email first? There are so many little things that get in the way of what we “really” want to do: write. To be truthful, I am sure that you don’t even realize you are doing it; I know I don’t most the time. The truth is the few minutes those tasks take can really add up.

 

How do you get around this? Writing time is writing time, baring emergencies—or impending spousal wrath—nothing is to interrupt it. Don’t have a TV nearby, make sure your family stays clear (with the noted exception of the above instances), make sure your hunger and thirst contingencies are in place, and close your mind to the world outside your writing space. (This is not recommended for long stretches of time, unless you want those close to you to forget what you look like).

 

To Muse or Be-Muse?

Acceptance is the first step. Now repeat after me: I am a procrastinator. Very good… Now, do you know why? Everyone has their own reasons—admittedly, sometimes even valid.

 

A lack of inspiration. It can be rough not knowing what to write, definitely have been there myself, from time to time. The ways I get around this, editing and assignments. If I find myself with a lack of inspiration—the dreaded Writer’s Block—I do not let it stand in my way. You may not make headway in your storyline, but if you at the very least use your writing session to review what you have already written it serves several purposes: one, it allows you to catch mistakes in spelling and grammar; two, it gives you an opportunity to flesh out any sections that need it; and three, it re-familiarizes you with the work you have already done. All three of these can help summarily banish your lack of inspiration.

 

Another way around this is to use either an outline, or keep a list of “things I need to write.” I do this in relation to my novels. I jot down my ideas or elements I want to be sure to incorporate in the finished product. When I find myself stumped and I have already polished what I’ve written before to a fare-thee-well, I read through my notes and ideas. It doesn’t always work, but nothing will, every time. If nothing else, it does remind you of your goals.

 

If you don’t have an ongoing project to help you along, have someone provide you with assignments, topics or situations for you to base your work on as an exercise. Think about it…most of us fell in love with writing thanks to some English teacher somewhere. Assignments and reports fostered our creativity and cultivated our interest. How many of you realize that after the impetus of school was removed from your daily routine, your writing efforts became drastically reduced? I know mine did. It wasn’t the enjoyment that fled, just the motivation. So recreate it. I had a friend give me assignments and I also found an on-line writing site with weekly writing contests. Without that, I never would have been published when I was. Whatever means you use to get past this stumbling block, be sure to write something every day, or at least with some regularity. It is the only way for your talent to grow.

 

Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Till Tomorrow?

Too much effort. I don’t know about you, but I am lazy to the extreme when it comes to certain aspects of my writing. Part of this stems from too many steps, part comes from too much waiting, and yet another part comes from too much doubt. See, in my own experience, to use a cliché we can all relate to, I am used to being a big fish in a little pond and a little fish in the big pond.

 

I don’t find writing to be too much of a problem, most of the time. In fact, I have more problems stopping when I should be doing other things. My biggest problem, and the source of my private procrastination habits, is in submitting my finished work for consideration in the various venues that exist for authors. It isn’t a lack of desire to gain recognition. It isn’t a lack of confidence in my talent. It is an overwhelming aversion to waiting and wondering.

 

This will explain to you how, though I have written prolifically since the age of 13, it is only in the last two years that I have had my work recognized in any way. This is the roadblock that I must work my way past. So far I have made no effort to submit my work to any venue, unless it was the simplest of procedures, or I felt I had something to set me off from being just another faceless by-line. I have worked my way from submitting only when my work is solicited, to submitting when I my work has been recommended. The next step is to aggressively seek out sources that don’t know me from Eve and try my luck there. I will have to format my work appropriately, research submission guidelines, package my dreams, and send them off to the world—and the post office—and learn to wait patiently to see if any will find a home.


My reason for procrastinating…a fear of rejection…a fear that this isn’t good enough…

 

I resolve that I will work my way past this.

 

Now, my friend, you need to look at your own personal brand of procrastination and see what is required of you to overcome it. Only by freeing our dreams can they be realized.

 

Note: This column originally written for the monthly column, If We'd Words Enough and Time, which ran on the defunct site www.fictionauts.com.

 
For more wisdom on writing, please visit the blog of my friend and co-editor, L. Jagi Lamplighter.

Question for Today: What is your guilty procrastination tool? Email? Facebook? Origami reproductions of dead presidents? Let me know! For me it is email and social media...with the occasional vanity search thrown in. And making polymer clay horns!

Comments

I'll get back to you later...
wiseacre!
An excellent, excellent column, and one I will be forwarding on.
Why, thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Danielle
www.sidhenadaire.com
Computer games! My worst promise to myself? "just one game to "relax" before I start writing. Three or four house later .... sigh. Right now my game of choice is Spider Solitaire, which, let me warn you, is truly an evil plot to hijack my life. Haven't yet figured out who wanted my life, but there is someone out there. I had finally cured myself from another Evil Game, but then came the new computer all shiny and I was curious. Curiosity killed Pam. That should be my new byline.

This post could have been written by me, except I do realize most times that I am procrastinating. I'm just powerless against it (it's my excuse and I'm sticking with it). Major A-1 Professional Procrastinator, that's me.
Now see, I cured myself of this one forcefully...had no choice. Not only was it sucking up writing time, but it was also affecting my hands (from too much repetitive clicking), which mean typing was painful.

Any time I get a new computer the first thing deleted are the games. Extreme, but I know I have to do it. Of course, this might not be practical on a communal computer, but definitely do it if you have a dedicated writing computer...if you want to break the habit, that is!
Oh ack! The pain! I have considered deleting the games. But, but that means they're GONE!!! Oh ack. I may have to consider it. I actually have very strong will power when I can invoke it. It's getting my mind to that point that's hard.
See, I have other computers so I only delete it from the computer I'm supposed to be writing on ;)
Ah HAH! Smart! :-)
LOL...I have my moments ;)
I've a good excuse so far this week. I'm ill - probably one of those computer viruses that's doing the rounds :(

Usually it's just lack of definite a daily goal, which is easily fixed, so long as I can summon up the energy to actually write a daily goal ;)
LOL...now that's original...but I don't think my boss would buy it.

Sorry you still aren't feeling well. Get better soon!

Procrastination

Danielle, I am absolutely shocked you would procrastinate about anything. That is a shocking confession to me. I will now have to re-examine the world as I know it. Say hi to Mike for me!

Re: Procrastination

ROFLMAO! I know...I have shattered more than a few people's opinion of me...I think...so hard to know who is and isn't reading this ;)

Like I said, it isn't even always a conscious effort to evade whatever I should be doing, but way too many times to count I've sat down to work on something with limited time and found most of it sucked up by other things. The trick is to catch yourself when you are doing it and examining what you did so you can remove the potential for that in the future...such as removing games from the computer you write on or working on one without internet access. Though I have to admit, I can't really do that last one because I depend on it too heavily for on-the-spot research...but if that isn't a concern for you but unsanctioned email writing replaces planned creative writing, you might want to try it.

Webcomics...

... and webcomic archives: www.questionablecontent.net, www.thedevilspanties.com, www.xkcd.com

Not that you should go enjoy them, too, or anything. ;)

And ICanHasCheezburger... and any book that is laying around.

Yep, those are my vices. I can usually avoid the last one by not leaving books laying around my work area... but as I submit everything via email - I have a great "excuse" to always have dese intrawebz on...

Getting better... maybe.

;)

Good article!

Re: Webcomics...

Oooh! I can has cheezburger is my favorite! Mike usually grabs a double-handful of pictures and sends them to me when I need a cheer-up. I don't go there myself often because yeah, major time sink there! LOL

Webcomics, fortunately, are not a draw for me. I'm more interested in getting the pictures in my head on "paper".

There is one animated comic I love though because it IS my cat:

http://www.simonscat.com/catmando.html

Have fun!
Excellent post. One of the lessons I learned early on was that my writing on my 'uninspired days' was often as good, once I got going, as on the inspired days...so there was no excuse not to put butt on chair and work.

John says that a writer is someone who shows courage in the face of a blank page.
I always liked that bit of wisdom!

I do see a difference between inspired and uninspired, but that does not mean I disagree with you because if I sit down and can actually manage to writer, uninspired often transforms into inspired as I get caught up by the storyline and where it is leading me!
Yes! That's what I meant.
:) see I'm not so slow ;)
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Yesterday's Dreams, Author

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