What’s with the procrastination? Frequent Questions

Q: What’s with the procrastination?
A: Ah! You must be writing.

One of the participants in my Jumpstart 2017 5-day writing challenge last week was surprised to find that when she sat down to write on Monday, her to-do list suddenly became quite compelling. The writer, Janice Hall, gave me permission to quote her piece:

“So, here I am, finally, beginning my first Writing Challenge entry. I had planned to begin this with my morning coffee, but so many IMPORTANT things kept getting in the way: I had to tidy up first, then wrap that one remaining present, then look at some emails, and make a grocery list, take a shower, and then Facebook…(‘No, no DON’T go to Facebook…don’t do it…NOOOOOOO!’)

Well, anyway. Now, it’s 2 pm, and I’m sure I could find some more important tasks to distract me, but, what is that about, anyway? This is the kind of work that, once you sit and actually begin to do it, is engaging, challenging, enjoyable. Same thing with exercise, and working on music (I’m a singer). So, why do I want to do anything but that work?”

Ah, writers and procrastination. Yep, that’s a thing. I fall prey to it myself, from time to time.

every writer deals with procrastinationSometimes I know exactly what’s going on—like around tax time, when my office gets so tidy an untrained observer might think I’d moved out. Other times it sneaks up on me. Like when I’m slogging my way through the kind of client assignment that reminds you why it’s called “work” and suddenly realize that the loaf of bread I bought yesterday has disappeared. Into my stomach.

Then there are those times when it doesn’t feel like procrastination because you’re not eating or cleaning your house, you are actually smack dab in front of your computer, making words appear on the screen. You’re writing! Um…but not the thing you’re supposed to be writing.

Which reminds me: this blog isn’t going to post for another week. Maybe I should get back to writing that marketing material…

No procrastination here (2 days before posting)

Yes, I really did start this post a week ago. I would spend all day writing blog posts and other things for myself if I could. But I have clients (love them!) and obligations (tolerate them!), so I don’t always have the luxury of losing myself in the keyboard.

During the writing challenge last week, I decided that I would play along with my participants, writing to a prompt every day.

So did I write and post on the same day, as I had my challenge participants do? Reader, I did not. Next-day posting is as close as I want to get to my deadline. I never want to find myself overdrawn at the blog bank. Too much stress. Avoidable stress.

But that’s the opposite of the problem our questioner faced, isn’t it? So let’s get back to it.

Don’t know what to write? Procrastinate!

Most procrastination comes from fear. I’m not your shrink, so I’ll leave it to you to figure out what you’re afraid of.

I’m fortunate that early on in my career as a freelance writer, I caught myself in a lie. I was about to start a new project—writing an annual report.

I don’t know how to do this! I wailed inside my head. And then I snapped myself out of it. Because even in my fear, I knew that was a big fat lie.

Of course you know how to do that, my better self chided me. You’ve written a bunch of annual reports.

And I had to admit it—I had. I did know how to write an annual report. So I sat myself down at my desk and did it.

Now each time I start a new project, I wait to hear the subconscious wail of I don’t know how to do this! (Yes, even after decades it’s still there.) And then I laugh at it. Because 99 times out of 100 it’s just a big fat lie.

But sometimes it really is true—sort of. Not that I don’t know how to write, but that I don’t know enough about the subject. Maybe the client has left me a little short in the research department. Maybe I don’t quite understand what I need to understand yet.

Ah…food for another blog. Stay tuned.

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