Home » About Me » Procrastinate Later

Procrastinate Later

My cat is the best cat in the world, except when I’m writing. When I’m writing, he suddenly insists upon being petted, claims the warmth of my laptop as his own, or feels the need to vomit all over the carpet. The thing about BCITW is that he makes himself something of a distraction.

We all have distractions and things that will make us want to put our writing off until later. I don’t know about you, but I can tell myself “I’ll write after I do this one thing” for hours, or even days on end. This can be hugely detrimental, especially if you’re freelance and don’t have any deadlines but the ones you set yourself. This is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. In fact, it’s a miracle you’re reading this blog post at all. I can be “working on” something for ages without actually getting anything done.

I think the main reason I procrastinate, and I hope others can identify with this, is that I’m afraid to write badly. Moreover, when I do start writing, I become disillusioned and stop, because the actual product I’m producing is not living up to the expectations I built around it. So, things get abandoned, or it just becomes easier to check Facebook or read a blog (thank you, by the way). I mean to do it, but the idea and the possibility of it was better than the actual experience
If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, or you’re just having trouble getting motivated to write, there are things you can do to help!

First: Don’t worry about quality on early drafts. There will be multiple drafts. There will be re-writes. The first time, just get the story down. I always say, when I’m writing my first draft: “This is not my novel. This is the primordial ooze that my novel will eventually evolve from.” It’s amazingly liberating. “This is not the finished product! This is not what it will be. I will come back and change this. But, for now, I’m just going to keep on writing and keep the story moving.” It’s the most freeing mental state I’ve found for writing first drafts. And, once you have the first draft down, editing is a lot easier than staring at a blank page. I even use my word processor to color-code things that need re-writing, more research, and so on. That makes it easy to come back to, and eases any pangs of conscious I may have about leaving it less than what I want it to be.
Most of the time, when you go back and read what you wrote it’s not as bad as you thought it was anyway.
If you draw, think of it this way: your first draft will be your sketch, roughly blocking out subjects, background, and primary focus. Shading, textures, depth, and nuances will all come later.

Second: Get involved with others. Nothing inspires quite as much as being part of a group of writers, most of whom are… amazingly enough… writing. Having something to share with people is a good motivator to write. The boost that made me finally finish my first short story was a local writers’ group. I was going to my first meeting there, and did not want to turn up to the meeting empty-handed, lest there be critiques. Turns out there were none, but I still got a solid polished draft done.
That short story turned out to be my first sell.

Even if a group is not available to you, simply telling your friends that you’re doing it and asking them to proofread for you when you get it done can help. Give them a date you’ll have it for them to proofread, even! If they’re anything like my friends, they’ll be constantly teasing you that you haven’t finished that story you told them you were going to have them look at. Nagging serves a purpose sometimes.

Third: Reward yourself. That book you’re dying to read? That new outfit you want? That new restaurant you want to try? Sorry! You can’t have it until you’ve reached your writing goal. Reach a writing goal? Celebrate! It’s an occasion! Make sure you treat it like one. Giving writing goals a sense of celebration and occasion can bring a lot to your writing life. This goes very well with the second suggestion, also. Your writing widows, the people who suffer in your absence when you’re writing, should be very glad to see you, too.

None of this is stuff you haven’t heard before. But, it’s like losing weight. We all have a basic understanding of how to do it, yet the process of actually doing it can be very difficult for a lot of people. Freeing yourself up to write badly, getting friends involved in communities, and setting goals for yourself and celebrating them are ultimately so helpful in bringing ideas into reality that I feel that we all need to be reminded of these things.
Now, stop reading blogs and go write! Just make sure the cat is fed first. He’ll bother you in the middle of your best scene if you don’t. That’s what mine does.

10 thoughts on “Procrastinate Later

  1. Funnily enough, I was in the process of drafting a blogpost when I came across the link to your blog in Facebook’s writing group – I seem to have hit two of your aforementioned distractions in one fell swoop! This time, since I discovered your great new blog, procrastination has worked in my favour. Next time I might not be so lucky!

    • I’m glad you did. When someone asks me why I was never the next J. K. Rowling, I’m going to blame facebook. Still, I’m glad you found your way here. I hope to see you again sometime. Thank you!

  2. There’s nothing better than panic to motivate a writer. As editor of the Clayton/Deer Park Historical Society’s newsletter I had to get something into print every month. Submissions were seldom incoming, so I ended up doing most of the writing myself. Just the pressure of a deadline kept me at the keyboard, but it also burned me so badly I finally had to resign – in large part because I had no time left over to write anything other than society related stories.

    I did learn a lot. I found out how bad I am at punctuation, word usage, and general editing. I cringe looking back at some of those early newsletters. With that understanding, before going into print I’d send a draft of the newsletter out to a group of willing and semi-willing draftees for comments and corrections. These people also provided motivated in that they expected to see something from me on a regular basis. The downside was that most weren’t writers – well educated and good spellers, but not writers.

    So, I think you’re right about developing a group of friends you can bounce things off of – especially if said group has a fair number of writers in it. Such a cadre of surrogate Jewish mothers can levy that nagging load of guilt we all need on occasion. If a Jewish mother can’t get you to the keyboard – though I hear Italian mothers also work well in a pinch – I don’t know what will.

    • LOL Stereotypes aside I think you have an excellent point, as always. Deadlines and panic help a lot. I think that’s why I enjoy Nanowrimo so much. And nagging well, It’s a bit like going on a diet, you have more success if you’re accountable to someone.

      Don’t worry, I think newsletters are notoriously bad. Don’t you?

  3. Most newsletters seem to be dull. I know they’re intended as public relations devices and as such are designed to have more shine than information. But is that really a sufficient excuse for such non-creativity?

    The historical society’s newsletter had a different mandate. Our function was to collect and disseminate historical data relevant to the local area. That meant our newsletters were supposed to contain in majority articles and correspondence. If people weren’t submitting such, it was my job to find and/or create it. That can get wearisome, especially in those instances when you’re not particularly interested in whatever you’re writing about.

    The few times I attempted to write fiction I failed miserably. I finally discovered that I just wasn’t interested in that type of writing. As for writing in general, I suspect the problems involved in writing a fictional short story are not terribly different than those of scripting a prose essay. Both require a good story idea. In both instances the story idea is probably drawn out of real life; in the case of fiction most likely a gathering of events from divergent sources; in the case of non-fiction a gathering of events from connected sources. From that point on it’s just a matter of how much latitude the author is allowed in punching the story up before tipping the story’s credibility over.

    But to get back to the subject of procrastination – once upon a time I thought fiction writing would be easier because I could just make everything up. No research. No need to study. Just sit down at the typewriter (that’s a clue as to how long ago this was) and invent. What I eventually found was that for me non-fiction was easier. That’s not to say it’s easy. Until you’ve actually taken half a dozen tape recordings and a box of documents and threaded it all into an at least semi-literate story, it too – like fiction – seems like it should be easier than it is. The big advantage non-fiction has is that the bones of the story are already on the tapes and in the documents. And that means the page is never blank. It may be a confusing mess, but it’s never blank – which goes back to your idea of getting something on the page even if it’s eventually edited away.

    • I agree, newsletters can be very dull. It’s possibly the most boring kind of writing there is, to write AND to read.

      You’ve actually hit on something else I plan to blog about, and that’s realism in fiction. Even if you’re writing about unicorns that jump over rainbows, people have to BELIEVE in those unicorns and rainbows, and think to yourself “Hey, if they did exist, that’s what they’d be like.”

      For Example: Anne Rice’s vampires were so believable that even now it’s fairly common for vampires in fiction to have a “Rician” skills set. There are differences, but Rice seems to have become the base model.

      And you’re right. It’s ironic how crippling having things completely open-ended can be. When the possibilities are limitless it’s easy to find yourself directionless.

      I may tweet that. LOL

  4. I have to, on some level, not care about what I’m writing. Just trust myself. It’s not always easy, but when it is, it really is! Maybe that hope that it will be easy is as problematic as perfectionism.

    • Exactly! And my problem is I can have plot bunnies, characters, and all that in my head for ages before I ever end up putting pen to paper, or rather hands to keyboard. So, when I finally write my beloved story, it’s easy for me to be disappointed. So, that’s why I learned to tell myself “NOT THE FINAL DRAFT!” LOL

  5. Excellent advice! I’m going to forward this to a friend who just started writing. =) Also, I totally agree with Wally about panic being the best motivator, I think that’s how I got most of my papers done for school. Plenty of time…no need to rush…lots of..oh no, IT’S DUE!!! *g*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s