Monday, July 26, 2010

Procrastinators Unite! ...tomorrow

Procrastination. It’s a common side effect of writing. Whether we’re suffering from writer’s block, lack of motivation, lack of inspiration, etc, it often grabs hold when our guards are down. And, once we’re in its grasp, it’s really hard to get out of it.

“I’ll start writing as soon as I clean the bathrooms.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I wash the dishes.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I organize my closet.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I...”
You get the idea. :)

I’m a champion procrastinator. But, at the same time, I don’t like leaving things to the last minute. So I often get caught between “I’ll do it later” and “Oh crap, there’s not enough time to do this!” It sucks, and it’s taken years for me to even recognize this pattern within myself. Now that I have, I try to keep myself from getting sucked into that whirlpool, but I’m not always successful.

My writing used to suffer as a result, too. I’d fall into the I’ll-do-it-later trap, really *truly* meaning to do it later. The trouble was, it was *always* later. I’d gotten myself into a routine where everything came before writing. And if everything comes before writing, the no writing is ever going to get done. Still, nothing changed, even after I realized this.

You see, I like routines. They’re comfortably predictable. I like knowing what’s going to happen and when, and if I break out of my routine, then that comfort is taken away. My oldest son exhibits these traits, too. Poor kid. :)

Actually, I think many people are this way. I think it’s easy to find habits and routines where everything is the same. It’s reassuring, even if the habit or routine isn’t the greatest or best thing for you. On that same note, I think many people find change very difficult. Change is the unknown, and often the unknown is scary. Even if that change is for the best. That’s probably the easiest way for procrastination to get a hold on you.

And then there’s the fear. Fear of failure, success, inability to finish what you start, etc. Fear can be an excellent motivator, but it can be just as effective as an inhibitor. After all, if you don’t try, you’ll never fail. And it’s easy to talk yourself into things with statements like you never had time, other things always got in the way, things didn’t work out, etc.

Getting out of a procrastination rut can be the same kind of thing. It was for me, anyway. My desire to get published finally broke me out of it, and I created a new routine that included time for writing. I’m still using that routine, but I’ll still lapse I said, I’m a champion procrastinator. :)

Are you a procrastinator? If you’re not writing, why not? And is it something you feel needs to change?

That kind of gets into the next subject: what is not procrastination. But that’s for next week. :)


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Great post. I'm usually not a procrastinator, but this summer has been tough--4 kids home from school all day long. Thanks for the words of wisdom. It's nice to know I'm not alone. ";-)

Mary Witzl said...

I am definitely a procrastinator, but I've spent the last ten years fighting it HARD. From time to time, I still slip, but then I think about how fast the time has slipped away from me and how I really want to get something meaningful done before my time is up -- and that gets me back in the saddle every single time.

Nora MacFarlane said...

Procrastination Queen here. The internet is my biggest distractor. I'm seriously considering installing MacFreedom on my computer. It blocks the internet for up to 8 hours. You tell it how long to block, and you can't get around it unless you shut down your computer first. Yikes.

Jessica Bell said...

Yep, I procrastinate. But I have freelence work as an excuse. It's a pretty damn good excuse, but doesn't stop the guilt!

Anonymous said...

I keep meaning to get around to putting writing off, but I just never do.

I'll put off putting it off until tomorrow.

Loved your article. Once school starts back I will have to block out a time for it and stick to it.

Great site!
theBrad (verla tag)

Tabitha said...

Salarsen - 4 kids are enough to keep you from getting anything done. I've got 2, and they're really good at keeping me from working. :) Maybe it's possible to rearrange your day so that you get at least 15 minutes, or something. Kids respond well to routines, so they might adjust well to a new one that allowed you to write.

Mary - that's great!! I know exactly what you mean. I tell myself the same thing when I slip (and I do, more than I like to admit). It works pretty well, doesn't it? :)

Nora - I can spend waaay too much time reading blogs, posts on writer forums, tweets, etc. I can't seem to give them up entirely, so I've compromised. I give myself 30 minutes in the morning to read/comment on stuff througout the internet, and then I write. It's hard because it often means I don't have time to comment on what other people have written. But if I don't do this, then I get zero writing done...and that's just not acceptable.

Tabitha said...

Alliterative Allomorph - that's a great excuse! :) And, yeah, it wouldn't stop my guilt, either. :) But still, at least you're writing and not washing dishes. :)

theBrad - LOL! I love your posts on Verla's. I wish I could be more active there, but it's a procrastination-enabler. :) So great to see you here!

Unknown said...

I definitely procrastinate. I think, once the house is clean, once all the errands have been run, once everything's been checked off the to-do list, I will have a clear mind and can write at my best!

Pft. Needless to say, that is a ridiculous fantasy. I have learned I just have to leave dishes in the sink if I want to actually have something to show for my writing! (Not that knowing this makes DOING it any easier.)

Angela Hoffman said...

How appropriate! This blog entry was posted while I was working on an annotated bibliography that was due in class today and for which I pulled an almost all-nighter (took a two-hour nap at 2 AM) and turned it in online with lonly minutes to spare.

Wish I had the self-disclipline that you do, but this appears to be a lifelong trait with me: I don't care about finishing unless the pressure's on. :/

Unknown said...

I'm a terrible procrastinator. I'm also terrible at "writing only when I feel like it."

I'm 1400 words away from my first 100k, and I still haven't written it. I just don't have the "writing feeling."

Since I start college on August 20th, I really need to get out of this...I need to write when I have time, not just when I have all the time in the world and feel like it...

-sigh- Stupid procrastinating habit...

Matt said...

I'll comment tomorrow.

LM Preston said...

Lol! Don't we all deal with this. Heck, I'm doing that right now. However, I see procrastination as a form of ... ah ... discovery :-D

Anonymous said...

I have many excuses too. Funny as I'm only a procrastinator when it comes to college papers and writing...