Friday, April 27, 2007

The Danger of Procrastination

I've been a bad writer this week. I could blame the massive influx of work at the dayjob. Since I'm a copywriter for a living, I am actually writing all day, every day. But in the past, this hasn't bothered me. In fact, it's given me the motivation to go home and work on my novel.

But this week...well, let's just say the last thing I've wanted to do is stare at a computer screen.

It's an excuse, and a very poor one. I've always been an advocate of "just doing it" - put butt in chair and write, no matter what. I've fallen short of my own advice. My balance has been out of whack. I can come up with a dozen excuses to not sit down and work - I'm too tired; I've been writing all day and sitting in a chair all day - I don't want to do it anymore!; I'd rather take a nap; and on and on.

Here's where procrastination turns dangerous. Because I've allowed myself to not work on the novel, I've distanced myself from my characters and my plot. Since I'm in the midst of edits, this is very bad. Why? Because I've lost the threads of just about everything - my characters' personal growth; how the subplot fits in with the plot; etc., etc. And picking up those threads and figuring out where to weave them back into the story has me sitting in front of my computer tearing my hair out. I just can't sit down and start writing - I have to go back and familiarize myself with everything again. I'm wasting valuable time here!

But y'know what? I could have easily prevented this. I could have told the excuses to take a flying leap into the nearest puddle of murky water, but I didn't. The longer I put it off, the less I remembered from the plot, and the harder it was for me to get into the story.

I won't lie - I've turned on my laptop every single night this week. But I've worked on the same page every single night. How much time have I lost because of my procrastination? I don't even want to think about it.

And here's something else. When I procrastinate and get away from my writing, when I'm no longer immersed in that wonderful world, I feel lost. Bereft. Unfocused. And once I get back to my writing, my life is so much brighter.

But I'm human. I make mistakes, and when I do this, I can only try and think of ways to not make them in the future. In short, learn from my mistakes.

I think procrastinating while in the editing process is almost worse than when you're writing a first draft. I have so much in my head that I need to keep track of...and not working on it for a few days or a week or more causes all that info to just fly out the ol' ears.

Solution # 1

Keep copious notes. Don't keep all that info in my brain. If I can't get to the page right away, I can scan through my notes and jump right back into the story.

Solution #2

Fight the excuses. Remember that there are many, many other people who had a lot more reason to not show up at the page every day and still did it.

This weekend, it's time to dive into the manuscript and pick up all those threads. I'm excited because I love living the writing life and I'm anxious to get back to it.


  1. Thanks for an inspiring post, Melissa. It's just what I needed today.

  2. Wow! Are you ever hard on yourself, Melissa. In the words of Fred Flintstone, "Loosen the bone, Wilma."

    It's going to be okay. Take a breath and say, "OOOOOOOMMMMMM." Remember your own motivation for writing this novel. The characters and their development, the plot and subplots and their intricate delicacies will come back to you, or if they don't, something BETTER will come to you.

    I like your suggestion about taking copious notes. That will definitely help when there's been a gap in time between writing and/or editing sessions.

    Now get back to that manuscript and lasso in all those threads.

  3. Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth. I've slacked off the editing this week and am anxious about hitting it again. I'm hoping all the threads are still in there somewhere.

    Good luck this weekend!

  4. Sometimes you do need to take a break though. Don't be too hard on yourself. And a little distance can give you insights about your own work too!

  5. Devon Ellington7:01 AM

    I think you're absolutely correct.

    You've learned from the past week, you don't like the feeling of not writing -- this will motivate you to stick to your goals, and shore up your commitment to your writing.

    Good for you!


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