Saturday, November 24, 2007

Procrastination v Deadlines

Now after my last two posts being late, I'd say my worst bugaboo is forgetfulness. Between househunting and helping to organize an art show locally, I'm lucky I've managed to remember my own name during the last month. I apologize for my chronic forgetfulness everyone.

Overall though, procrastination has been my worst writing fault.

Back in grad school, I'd do my research and figure out what I planned to write but then not complete the paper until the week it was due. In a couple of cases I pulled an all-nighter because I'd not get it written until the night before it was due. I don't recommend that. In my job as a librarian, I know a few new college students and have told them to do as I say, not as I did. Do NOT pull all-nighters. The weird thing was those papers often got the highest grades. I write best under deadline.

This presents a serious problem for me right now because I have no deadline. I'm looking for a home for my completed manuscript but my current work in progress is just that. In progress. I've had trouble finishing it because no one is breathing down my neck and there are no consequences for failure. Back in school, the consequence of no paper was a failing grade but I don't have that motivation anymore.

Here are a couple of ideas I plan to implement to get myself back on track.

1. Set a realistic deadline.

Now I did this earlier this year and it didn't really help. But I'm going to try it again and see if I can add some things to help make it more stringent. I want to complete my manuscript by 6 p.m. on January 1, 2008. There I said it. In writing. Publicly.

2. Create a consequence and impose it for failure.

We tell our kids if you don't clean up your room, you don't get dessert or something similar. The premise is that a job has to be completed and if the obligation isn't met, a treat is denied. I think I can make this work. I just have to figure out what I want badly enough that denying myself would be BAD. Hmmmm. If I don't finish my book by my deadline, I can't go to Wylde Nept's concert when they play locally early next year. Oh my, that ought to do it. I love those guys.

3. Reward for meeting the goal.

You know what they say, you can get more flies with honey than vinegar. If the threat doesn't work, maybe a carrot will. So I guess my reward would be the opposite of my consequence. If I finish in time, I get to go to the concert when my favorite band in the world (Wylde Nept) plays locally next year.

4. Write daily for best results.

Earlier this year I was writing every day, but I've let that go. I think writing daily with a minimum goal of 300 words a day is doable.

Yeah, this stuff could work!

So there you have it. I'm trying to face my worst bugaboo. How do all of you get past your inertia? What tips do you have to write daily and fight the dreaded danger of procrastination?


  1. Oh, we must be kindred spirits. Procrastination is my middle name. I've tried the self-imposed deadline, but since I'm the one who sets it, I'm also the one who lets me slide when I don't make it. The treat/punishment thing doesn't work for me either, since I'm the only one holding myself accountable for it. Since it's just me and my WIP right now, the only person I'm letting down is myself. I think you're right -- I need a real deadline, with a real editor breathing down my neck, to light a fire under my you-know-what.

  2. Have you guys tried really nagging critique partners to motivate you?? It can work! Or maybe you could make a deal with somebody that if you finish by a certain date, they'll beta read it for you, and if you don't, you have to do something for them!


  3. Jody,
    That's a great idea. I'll have to give it a try!

  4. Oh, a nagging CP might work for me...hmmm...but that means I need to find a nag.



  5. My husband went to this "coach" once about procrastination and she made him write a $200 check out to the (I won't say but insert Republican or Democratic here) party, who he HATES, and threatened to send it in a month if he didn't have the thing done. It was quite effective.

    I have found in the past that small incremental deadlines work best for me. Is there somebody you can exchange 15- 20 polished pages with every week?

  6. Great tips. I'll get right on them. . . tomorrow. :)

  7. Oh man, the dreaded "p" word is also MY middle name. And though having actual deadlines has helped a lot, I'm still susceptible, especially when really tired. Well, and just being lazy. This is where the internet is both a blessing and a curse. I do set daily writing goals for myself, which I don't always make, but if I fall short a page (I try for five a day), I attempt to make it up the following day. Doesn't always work, but it's something. And you hate to see the extra days you owe piling up, believe me! My CP also has an electric cattle prod ready, which I have authorized her to use whenever necessary. All good and workable ideas, Francesca, great post!