Procrastination: Not Writing When You Need to Write

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This past week I had a deadline – my first chapter and a book outline due on Friday. You might think that I spent all week doing nothing but writing.

Monday, I wrote my to-do list for the week, updated the church blog, e-mailed my students, went to the library and had lunch. Then, I worked on chapter 1. I finished a draft by about 11:00 pm.

Tuesday, as I was checking Facebook, a message popped up. The high school needed me! I started my book outline, and then worked at school for three hours. Returning home, I had lunch (3 squares are vital!) and worked on the outline. I had a draft by about 10:30 pm.

I met my deadline with a few hours to spare in spite of my procrastinating. To overcome procrastination I have to know why I’m doing it. Most often, it is one of these four reasons.

Route not charted. Sometimes I’m not sure where I’m going with a piece of writing. If I’m writing a personal essay, it could be that the experience is too new and I need to process it first. Or maybe my editor wasn’t specific enough with the parameters of the assignment. In fiction, I need to know where the story is going. To overcome this type of procrastination, I need to make some decisions or talk to my editor.

Lost my way. If I’m well into a piece and then start to procrastinate, it’s often because I’ve taken a wrong turn. Either I’ve gone off topic in my nonfiction or wrote a fictional scene with my protagonist acting out of character. If I know more-or-less where the story is going and something feels off, this is often the problem. I need to spot where I made the mistake, and then I can fix things and move forward.

Too spacy to write. Writing is hard work so I may lack the energy to write. Have I taken a day off in the past week? If I’m on deadline, I may not have time to take a whole day off but I need to recharge my creative batteries. Sometimes I walk or knit. Choir practice helps. So does going out with my family or friends. After I’ve recharged, writing will once again be possible.

I don’t want to write it. Some topics or scenes, though necessary, are brutal to write. I’m working on a book called “Black Lives Matter.” My knee jerk reaction was “Of course they matter!” Still, racism and social inequality are hard to write about without standing on a soap box.

While I’m working on this, I’m going to have to guard against procrastination, keep my goal in sight and keep my creative batteries charged so that I can keep moving forward.

Why do you procrastinate?


SueBE teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next section start May 4, 2015.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Why do I procrastinate? Uh, let me, uh, get back to you later...

Seriously, I wish I knew. I tell myself I work better with the pressure of a deadline looming (which seems to be true), I tell myself that I have lots of responsibilities and I have to prioritize (which is true) but honestly, I don't know.

If you could develop a shot that would make us procrastinators stop putting things off, you'd make a million...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Isn't that the truth! I do think that external deadlines really help, but I sure wish I had that shot.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Sue! I realized that I procrastinate if I don't have two things:
1. A Deadline
2. Accountability

The second is the most important because if I'm the only one holding myself accountable, I tend to let myself slide. I really need someone to check in with--whether it's an editor, business partner, or teammate. That's why my novel gets put aside but my copywriting doesn't.

But sign me up for that shot! ;)

Unknown said...

I prefer to think of it as "research for an as-yet-undefined-project-that-most-likely-will-involve-yet-another-new-story-despite-the-fact-that-I-already-have-more-works-in-progress-than-Imelda-Marcos-has-shoes" than procrastination.

You say po-tay-toe... I say po-tah-toe.

Seriously though... my characters seem to have a knack for talking themselves into a tight spot and leaving it up to me to sort things out. That is when procrastination steps and and says "May I have this dance?"

And you know what happens next....

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