Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are you put off by procrastination?

What's the difference between a published writer and a wanna-be writer? Talent could have a lot to do with it. Opportunity, contacts, even luck.

But all too often the biggest difference is that the published writer actually wrote something. The wanna-be didn't.

The wanna-be writer might have great ideas, great talent, but lousy discipline. If you don't put your bottom in the seat and your hands on the keyboard and actually write something, you'll have nothing to publish.

Is writing your dream? Are you living your dream? Or dreaming your life? What's keeping you from writing?

The second thing many wanna-be writers don't do is submit their work. This involves some research to find the right market. It may seem complicated or intimidating, but it's not so bad once you start.

I know there are a lot of talented writers who do spend time writing but they haven't been published. Yet. If you keep writing and keep putting your work out there, you are miles closer to getting published than someone who hasn't tried to market their work or who doesn't spend the time to complete that article or book.

So, are you writing? Are you researching who might be interested in publishing your work? What have you done so far to get published? It will help tremendously if you join a writers group or attend writers conferences. A good critique group will help motivate you to write on a regular basis. Have you done any of that? Or are you putting it off?

I want to write, but I have to clean my kitchen.” “I told my friend I'd go bowling with her.” “There's this show on TV...”

Yes, it's important to have a life. But it's also important to prioritize. Do you need to go out with your friend every week? Are there any TV shows you can cut out of your schedule? When you sit down to write, do you check your email first? Just play “one” quick game of Spider Solitaire?

If you want to be a serious writer, you need to get serious about writing.

I had a friend in college who would wait until two days before a term paper was due before he'd start writing it. He usually got 'B's. He'd say to me, “I only spent two days on this and I did as well or better than lots of kids who spent weeks on it. If I had spent as much time as them, I would have gotten an 'A'.” He sounded proud of that fact, but I knew he was really insecure. He was afraid that if he spent weeks on the paper and didn't get an 'A', it meant he wasn't smart. But he must be a genius to get a 'B' with just two days effort.

His insecurity made him procrastinate. And kept him from getting 'A's.

What's making you procrastinate? Is it fear of finding out you're not as good as you think? Is it poor discipline? Are you easily distracted? You need to first identify the problem, then deal with it.

If you're afraid you might not be good enough to get published, that's all the more reason you should write. You need the practice. You also need to grow in the craft. Take a writing course (either online or at a local college), join a critique group, or buy a few good books on writing. And, just as important, read the kinds of books you want to write. All while still finding time to write.

If you have poor discipline, you need to set some rules. Perhaps only check your emails three times a day (morning, noon, and night). Perhaps limit Facebook time to one hour a day—say, from 9:00 until 10:00. If you're doing something else during that hour, you don't go on Facebook that day. Set your schedule and then stick to it.

If you are easily distracted, find ways to get rid of the distractions. Get the cleaning done quickly so you don't keep thinking about it when you should be writing. Or get someone else to do it. Put a sign on your door telling your family you are not to be disturbed between the hours of 4:00 and 7:00—whatever works for you. I renamed the games on my PC. Minesweeper is now called Timewaster 1. Spider Solitaire is Timewaster 2. Those names make me think twice before I click on those games.

How about you? Can you identify what keeps you from writing? And what can you do about it?


  1. Great first post Donna! I've always thought the secret of great writing is the application of the seat of the pants to the chair.

  2. Thanks, Bart. I've heard some use the acronym BOCHOK (Bottom On Chair, Hands On Keyboard). I guess that means not to be watching youtube, huh? Or, in my case, using the mouse to play a game.

  3. Angela Hunt says she does all the necessary things in the morning to get them out of the way so she can dedicate the rest of her day to writing. She sets daily content goals...if she achieves them, she rewards herself with a movie later in the day.

    My biggest issue is not having any days that are like another. My work schedule is never the same from week to week let alone day to day. So it's hard for me to pace my day. I do set goals, however, the night before the new day according to what demands the day will bring.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Linda. I like the idea of rewarding yourself for sticking to your goals. But a movie wouldn't do it for me. Chocolate, on the other hand, might be a good motivator.

    Setting daily and weekly goals is a great idea. When I do that, I get a lot more done. The problem I sometimes run across here is being too ambitious with my to-do list. That makes it too easy to get overwhelmed. The trick is to break it down into small doable chunks.

  5. What a kick up the backside! Thanks so much! I'm really bad at procrastination - others believe in me, but I don't believe in myself.

  6. If others believe in you they must see something there worth believing in. Trust their judgment.

    Also, beware: self-doubt can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    And one more thing you should know: if God puts a story in your heart to write, he knows you are capable of writing it and of writing it well. My favorite passage of scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust Him.