I am very good at procrastinating. It cost me my MA thesis, which I wasn’t able to complete because it looked like such a Herculean task that I managed to scare myself into complete paralysis.
When I started working on my first piece of fiction (a short story), I very quickly found myself going back to my bad habits:
- Expanding the work to such proportions that it becomes impossible to complete in a reasonable amount of time. I managed to turn that short story into a not very good novella.
- Fiddling with my workflow to the extent that it is no longer helpful to me, but rather becomes a liability. I tried using a typewriter for the story at first, and while I discovered a very useful tool for very specific problems, forcing myself to use it for the entire first draft of said novella, did me no favours.
- Setting totally achievable deadlines, and then letting them go “swoosh” by me.
I procrastinate when the work that I’m setting out to do seems too unclear, too large, or too tasking. It’s a way of avoiding problems that most of the time I created myself.
While I still procrastinate, I’ve found that over the last few months I’ve been doing it less and less. Most of the problems of scale that I caused myself were solved by using the Foolscap Method and Quick Drafting. The rest of my problems I have solved by creating external deadlines that I can’t easily blow off.
Every two weeks I meet with a fellow writer that I appreciate, and we swap writing samples that we want critique on. Knowing that those two weeks will fly by whether I’ve written something or not, and not wanting to show up empty handed, have really pushed me to stop playing and start writing. My output has been better and more consistent since we’ve started these get togethers, and it had been a sheer blessing for my work.
If you are a procrastinator, try setting yourself an external deadline. Find a fellow writer, a friend or a family member whose opinion you appreciate and who you can trust with your work. Set a deadline with them (I recommend every two weeks, because it is often enough to not let you to fall off the wagon and get really far behind, yet not to often to become a burden).
More likely than not, it will be a deadline you’ll keep.