It's not something I have a lot of experience with. I work for myself. My only boss is me. I am probably my most exacting taskmaster.
How do I get everything done? I think the fact that I don’t have a lot of time helps. I squeeze writing in between family and extended family and now school. It’s a tight space. There’s no time for writer’s block. There's no time to procrastinate. So when it’s time to write, I write. Even if it’s utter crap. (In writing that’s called a crap draft.) Here’s the thing, you can fix crap, you can’t fix a blank page. That same sense of get it done applies to more than just my writing. It's pretty much how I get through life in general. I wanted to put my thoughts on avoiding procrastination in concise terms for the talk. Here's what I came up with.
Love What You're Doing: I started a discussion about procrastination with my pottery professor. He said something very profound. Paraphrasing here…Artists don’t procrastinate because we love what we do. So maybe that’s something to think about. If there’s something in your life you’re always putting off, maybe it’s time to ask why? Some things just need done. Cleaning. Cooking. Chores. But life should also be filled with things we love. Things we feel passionate about. Maybe if your life is a series of putting it off as long as possible it's time to find something you love and can't wait to do. You'll get through the things you have to do faster in order to get to the things you love doing.
Nike…Just Do It: This isn’t just for the writers out there. It’s for life in general. Most of you follow my new love of pottery and have read about my promise to make 50 bowls—which grew into 100 bowls—for an Empty Bowl fundraiser. My first bowls are inelegant, but the later ones were so much better. I set a deadline for myself and just did it. But even in the midst of it, there was a sense of accomplishment. I learned so much. So if you’ve said you’ll do it, or you have to do it, do it.
BUT Know your limits and set priorities. When I started writing, I prioritized my life and my time. Family first, writing second, everything else after that. There was this mom at school that constantly bugged me to come to salad bar days. Now, I volunteered often at school. When the kids wanted me there, that was my priority. They didn't care if I was at salad bar. So I went, but not often. When this mom made a crack about me just sitting at home all day, I didn't justify my writing career. I just smiled and said, I don't chop lettuce and left it at that. It might not always seem like it, but I know my limits and I try to avoid biting off more . . . uh lettuce than I can chew. I also know where my priorities are. That helps. For me it was always family first, then writing. Now it’s family, writing, pottery.
Set realistic goals. If you say you want to write a novel/build a rustic log cabin/run a marathon by the end of the year, you’re setting a lofty goal. I think goals of that size seem insurmountable and make it easy to procrastinate. But something more reasonable…write a chapter a month/find some wooded land to buy/run a 5K...those are doable. Breaking a large goal into smaller components helps. When I'm writing I don’t think about the 300 pages. I think of it by the day. 10 pages.
Newton’s first law says a body at rest will stay at rest unless some force acts on it. Maybe that’s a boss or a spouse, but I think the most worthwhile source is internal. So maybe the best way to fight procrastination is to ask yourself why you’re putting something off and find a solution. Carve our more/specific times. Or even don’t do it. It's okay to decide something isn't working for you.
Perfection: I've already mentioned writing crap drafts. The lesson there is to allow yourself to not be perfect. Allow yourself to realize failure is an option, but not trying isn’t.
Pressure: My friend Susan and I were talking about procrastination. She works best under pressure. I do not. Realize how you work best and use that to get it done.
Next time you find yourself procrastinating, I hope you take a moment and ask yourself why. . . then find some solution.
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|Between the Words|