Monday, August 02, 2010

Am I Procrastinating? Or Am I Just Not Ready Yet?

Last week, we talked about how procrastination can get in the way of writing. This week, I want to explore how certain things might be considered procrastination, but really aren’t.

About a year ago, I wrote an article about how an idea needs to bake (so to speak) in a writer’s head before it’s ready to be written. I need to do this, anyway, and if I sit down and try to write that story before it’s ready, it will not go well.

Research can fall into the same ‘not ready’ category. So can character worksheets, planning/outlining, brainstorming, and pretty much any kind of preparation work that can be done before you sit down to write your story. I’m a firm believer that this prep work is still considered writing, even though you’re not actually writing.

Nick said last week that he only writes when he feels inspiration—I feel for ya, Nick, cause that’s a hard thing to break out of. :) As he astutely pointed out, this is a form of procrastination. However, waiting until you feel your story is ready is not the same thing. It might feel like procrastination at times, but there’s nothing wrong with waiting until your story is strong enough in your head so you can put it together without worrying that it will fall apart.

There is a fine line between the two, though, and it’s often difficult to tell the difference. But there is a way to put it to the test: sit down and attempt to write it. It might be difficult at first, but don’t give up right away. I’d say give yourself at least fifteen minutes, and then look to see what you’ve got. If you had to struggle through each and every word for those fifteen minutes, then your story probably isn’t ready to be written yet. But if you found a groove and the story started flowing, then you were just procrastinating. :)

So, are you guilty of procrastination?  Or do you lean more toward the prep work and only feel like you're procrastinating?  Or do you not have an issue with this at all?  Do tell!  :)


Nomes said...

I'm procrastinating right now by cruising through my google reader rather than working on my WIP :)

However, I always work well under pressure, and i have a writing partner who I trade 5k a week with, so when friday starts feeling closer, I get right into it... makes up for all the wasted time and good intentions earlier in the week.

Lily Cate said...

I've been a procrastinator in the past, for sure. Sometimes I get to the end of the day feeling terribly guilty that I haven't written a word that day.

On the other hand, I had to learn to "put on the stew" so to speak, and let my writting percolate at certain points. I need at least a few weeks between first draft and revisions to make any real progress

Sherrie Petersen said...

I know that I procrastinate but I do think that part of it is letting the story stew. I've had one in the back of my head that I just started putting on paper and megabytes. But as soon as I started writing it, I knew it wasn't ready. I kept writing as a way to get to know my characters, but I know the voice hasn't emerged yet.

Tabitha said...

Nomes - that's exactly how I procrastinate. :) But I don't do well under pressure, so when I waste a bunch of time, I'm just screwed. :)

Lily - guilt is horrible and evil, isn't it? :) That's great you've discovered that your stories need to percolate. After I discovered that about myself, it helped alleviate that evil guilt stuff.

Sherrie - I *love* everything you just said. It shows a level of awareness that I think is imperative in writing really great stories!! :)

cleemckenzie said...

I'm definitely in the weary, not ready camp. Taking a break and thinking.

Mary Witzl said...

This is hard for me to answer because I veer from one to the other. On one hand, I tend to push myself to keep producing even when I don't particularly feel like writing because I think self discipline is very important; on the other, I still haven't written the ending of one novel I'm working on (a women's novel) partly because I can't bear t. One of the main characters dies and as it stands, I worry that I've made this too deus ex machina. I am so determined to get this chapter perfect that I've now left it for over a year. Even I know that this is really procrastination, no matter how noble my reasons for it.

Anonymous said...

I can tell by my attitude. Dread or fear signals procrastination. Happy contentment, with ideas bubbling up in my mind, signals that I'm just getting ready.

Beth said...

Great article.

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