Procrastination is a killer, and it extends to things other than writing. Anytime you are doing something other than what you are ‘supposed’ to be doing, no matter how badly it needs to be done, that’s procrastination. If you set aside a time every day to write and then decide that the dishes, or painting the house, or the third season of Breaking Bad just needs to be dealt with NOW, that’s procrastination.
It’s the worst thing for anyone that writes – you have no one to answer to (usually, or at least as early in the process as I am now), no one that is going to kick you in the backside to get you moving, and to top it all off, you will probably get more positive response from your significant others (spouse, kids, etc.,) for not writing (and doing those dishes, or painting the house) than you would by putting one or two thousand words on paper.
Your writing or not writing doesn’t have an immediate, direct effect on anyone’s quality of life, other than your own, and sometimes that isn’t enough to keep you going. The problem gets even harder to solve when you’re working a full-time job and you have a family and you come home from work tired and there is soccer practice and scouts and church activities and dinner and God knows what else to deal with when you get home every night.
It is so easy to say ‘screw it’ and not write that day.
Those are the days where you need to knuckle under, find yourself a nice quiet place, and pick up your pen or keyboard or whatever and do it. Why? Because when you miss one day it becomes easier to miss the next, then even easier the day after. Soon, you’ve got something nagging you in the back of your head that you should be doing and you know you’re not. The shame of ‘not doing’ sets in and you become almost afraid of starting again – what if what I’ve done is crap? What if I’ve lost my train of thought? what if I can’t pick it up again at all?
If you want to write, and you’re actually writing already (or have been), all I can say is that you need to suck it up and get started again. Crack the whip on yourself. You won’t get it done by not doing it. Even if you can only put 100 words down a day, that is infinitely more progress than if you ignore it and hope it goes away.
Procrastination is my great demon. I started The Script 17 years ago. Procrastination and not making time to write is the reason I’m still working on it today instead of watching it on Netflix. I finally decided that I want to write and make an effort to squeeze in an hour or two to put the stories playing my head on to paper. And now, I’m closer to having something done and worth letting other people than I have ever been (or thought I’ve been).
The lesson for my fellows among the dirty, unwashed, unpublished masses: If you want to write, write. Beg, borrow, or steal the time. Do Whatever It Takes to get whatever it is onto paper. Then edit and revise. And at that point, you might have a novel or a screenplay or a short story you can show to the world, while beating on your chest and declaring, ‘Look thou, gaze upon the wonder of my creation and be awed.’
Or you can just stick it in envelope and send it to someone, hopefully someone that has the authority to sign checks.
But either way you go, you need to get it done first. And it won’t get done hiding in a drawer or tucked away in a file on your computer.
Keep writing. ~James
PS – just so you now, I wrote this instead of working on The Novel.
PPS – Procrastination is an insidious beast, isn’t it?