Monday, November 10, 2008

When Procrastination Is a Good Thing

As Francesca mentioned in her post on Saturday, procrastination is the bane of many a writer’s existence. I’m probably the poster child for the affliction. When the muse is not in the mood to be creative just about anything is more appealing that sitting at the computer, writing crap--spider solitaire, grocery shopping, or--gag--cleaning my house. Like Francesca, I need a real deadline (self-imposed ones don’t work for me either) to kick my butt in gear.

I blame procrastination for why I lost my agent. I signed with him in the spring of 2005 and though we got lots of positive response on my book, there were no takers (mainly because it’s set partly during WWII). So he said, “What else have you got?” Well, I had the awful first book every writer has that shall never see the light of day and another I’d started but was only about 4 chapters into. I sent a partial of the new book to him, he liked it and said to send the ms to him when I’d finished it. No deadline. No pressure. You know how they say ‘if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile'? Well, give me a month and I’ll take a month. Give me a year and I’ll take a year. Give me no deadline and I’ll take forever. Needless to say, it was 2 years before I got him that next book. While he liked it well enough, who wants client who takes so long to finish each book, so we parted ways and I don’t blame him. It was my fault. I screwed up.

Fast forward to this week. In true Lori-procrastinating form, I’m doing something other than revising/editing down my manuscript before starting the great agent hunt all over again. Oh, I can claim it’s writing-related, but it’s still procrastinating and non-productive for the book…or so I thought. You see, since I’ve never made it to RWA Nationals, I was listening to the 2007 conference CDs that my local chapter owns. In particular, I was listening to the Publisher Spotlights. To be specific, I was listening to the editors speak from the one publisher who came very, very close to buying my last book in the fall of 2005. Then came THE moment. A person from the audience asked if they were taking books set in WWII. The editorial director answered that they don’t get many submissions in that era although that editor X (the very same editor my agent had sent my book to) had received one that they all fell in love with AND THEN SHE DESCRIBED MY BOOK! I about had a heart attack. OK, so she didn’t mention my name or the title, but what were the odds of them getting 2 books so similar? I even sent the sound bite to my critique partners to see what they thought and they all said it sounded like she was talking about my book. As incredible as it seems, even though they didn't buy it the editors still remembered my book after 2 years. Or at least I think so. Needless to say, the mere possibility has lit a bonfire under my bahookie. As soon as I’m done with this blog post, I’m doing nothing for the next week but work on edits so I can send editor X my latest manuscript. If I’m not completely delusional about what I heard on the conference CD, she’ll remember me and hopefully like this book as much as the last one and buy it. And if not, at least it will have jump started my writing again so I can put this one behind me (and get it out making the agent rounds) and get on with the next book in the series.

So who says procrastination is a bad thing? Sometimes, it might be just what you need.


  1. Wow Lori,
    Kudos. I hope your book takes off. :)

  2. Hi Lori: You've hit a nail on the head, one I've been pounding, too.

    Not all procrastination (or productivity, for that matter) is created equal.

    It can sometimes be good to procrastinate - it can lead to less struggle, delay (counter-intuitive, but true), and more optimal functioning.

    There's a new book out titled Productive Procrastination, and it describes how to do it, how to tell productive from destructive procrastination, and how to end the destruction kind. (Yes, it's available on Learn more about the concept of Procrastivity at Wishing you optimal procrastivity!

  3. Lori,
    Wow! In the snippet of the conference CD did they indicate they'd be at all interested in seeing that book again? After you convince them to publish your current manuscript you can tempt them with your first! Good job!


  4. Francesca--

    No, this was the book they wanted me to revise and reset as a contemporary, which would have changed the entire book. After a lot of soul searching, I told them I couldn't do it. I still have hopes that when I've got a bunch of sales under my belt, I'll have the clout to bring out a WWII book. Only time will tell.