Storyteller’s Howl: Procrastinate Now! Don’t Put It Off!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The subtitle of this blog is subject to change. But I realized recently that I really need a sub title for my writing posts. And while this one is about writing, it’s also about NOT writing…only appropriate, since it was inspired by another writer.

A blog by well known writer, Devon Monk, recently spoke about the writer’s best friend and worst enemy – procrastination.

Now, I’ve been writing and working with writers for many years, and I can tell you this is pretty universal. All writers procrastinate to varying degrees. I’m quite guilty of this myself, unfortunately – in fact, I’m procrastinating right now, blogging instead of working on putting together my marketing letters for the week. 😛

The things we tell ourselves when we procrastinate seem fairly universal, though. “Oh, I’m just not in the mood to write/work/whatever right now. I’ll come back to it later when I feel more focused.” The only issue is that, honestly…there’s never a later. Or at least, there’s never that “perfect ‘later'” that we’re all looking for.

“Oh, I’ll rewrite that chapter later, when I have more time.” But life doesn’t get put on hold for work – and work shouldn’t get put on hold for life. Honestly, they’re part of the same thing. And if we’re constantly waiting for later, we become trapped in the procrastination loop that ends with our never accomplishing anything because we’re always waiting for that perfect “later.”

So if I feel like this, why am I writing a blog about procrastination – which I have just admitted to being a way OF procrastinating? Well…Because I was supposed to blog today, and this is as good of a topic as any. While I’m putting off my targeted marketing letters, I’m NOT putting off everything. While I’m writing this blog I have several things running on my computer, I’m drinking coffee (more essential to my every day life than you’d think), and I keep absently straightening my desk. I’m also on call to answer the phone, and waiting for the review board to come together to continue working on the final copy review of my boss’s book, Buh Bye, MS.

So while I’m procrastinating from one thing (and something I don’t really enjoy doing anyway), I’m working on other things. Notice something though – all of these things, with the exception of the blog, are work related! Yes, I am still working! I am still accomplishing things, even as I allow myself a little distraction.

The real problem lies, in all honesty, when it comes down to personal stuff. I have trouble finding time to do little things like straighten my desk. Or reshelve my books…I’ve been telling myself for months that I need to go through my bookshelf and decide what I’m getting rid of so I’ll have more room. I need to reorganize all the drawers at my home desk. It took gaining a new possession and not having anywhere to put it that pushed me over the edge of cleaning a certain part of my area…and it took less than 15 minutes once I got started. Fifteen minutes! And I’d put it off for MONTHS.

Procrastination is bad. It really is.But the lure of it is so seductive that people can’t help but do it. And it’s even more seductive for people who work from home. Because then you don’t have the separation of your work and home environments to encourage you to work past your procrastination and actually get things done. In my free time, I fancy myself a writer. I can’t remember the last time I wrote something that wasn’t fanfiction of some sort…Well, no, I’m lying. I wrote and completed an original novel for NaNoWriMo 2009, but I think that was the last time I worked on something not based on someone else’s work.

I also enjoy making art – both digital and traditional. But like pretty much everything else personal I try to work on, I either put it off waiting for “the muse” to strike…or I get so wrapped up and involved in it that everything ELSE falls by the wayside. Which is not good when one is trying to earn a living. Not to mention that it can lead to me going several days barely eating and then wondering why I’m so tired all the time.

I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that I need to learn how to balance things without procrastinating. And yes, I’ve tried schedules and time periods set aside for specific things. I have a bad habit of sticking to the schedule for a week (two, three at most), and then losing EVERYTHING in a couple of do-nothing days of non-productivity. At which point I start to feel overwhelmed when I finally “come back” to myself from wherever I went (usually into a game, or a movie…or perhaps a sickness like a cold), and see all the things I DIDN’T get done when I was supposed to get them done – all of which still need to be done NOW. And it’s like something in me snaps, and I just…I can’t. And I’ll find every excuse in the world to put these things off.

I should take out the trash – oh, wait, I’m going to eat dinner in a few hours. I should wait and see if anything gets thrown away from that so I can take it all out at once. After dinner, though, now it’s too dark to take the trash out. I’ll wait until tomorrow morning. The next morning it’s too early, what if my taking the trash out upsets the neighbors? I should wait until afternoon- and so the cycle goes, day in and day out. Until I’ve procrastinated to the point that what should’ve been a simple, 5 minute chore, is now a half hour ordeal as I pick up all the things that fall OUT of the very full trash can while I try to empty it, and end up crawling around on the floor to get the last of it. Now I’ve hurt my knees and my back and man, see, this is why I don’t take the trash out regularly anyway….Yeah. It’s a seriously vicious cycle, and the trash is only one of the things in my life that I have a bad habit of doing that with.

I’m always finding “reasons” to put things off until later. And then later there’s always a reason to put it off even later…And so on and so on. So I figure it’s time to take a new approach. From now on, the only thing I am going to procrastinate about is procrastination itself!

At least until I can think of some other reason to put something off.

Yeah. Bad habits die hard.