Sunday, March 7, 2010

F.A.I.T.H. on Procrastination

Christy here. Two Sunday's ago, I whined about being a procrastinator and how disorganized I am. Fellow writer Edwina Cowgill & Georgia belle ;) stepped up to the plate to give me some pointers on getting organized. As a "Thank You" to Edwina, I offered up a panel - your very on F.A.I.T.H. Girls - to assist Edwina in any writing related questions she had. What do you know, we're talking about writing, but we're also talking about overcoming procrastination.

Without further ado, I welcome Edwina back to F.A.I.T.H.

Edwina: Hi Christy, I don't procrastinate on anything, except writing. Is it that way with others? If so, why? Or are they procrastinators in general?

**Christy: I procrastinate on writing if I’m not feeling confident or good about the story I’m working on.

**Angie: I think procrastination happens for 3 reasons: The first being fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown... The second happens because we don't see hope for a result. So we give up before we start. The thirds seems to be no perceived value. We don't think there's a value in what we are doing or that someone else will value our work or ideas. Do any of those fit? It's also possible we need more education. That's the case for me in a project I've been working on. I've had to halt it to learn more so I can do it better. But if feels frustrating to stop.

**Mindy: Yes, if I don't have a good feel for the scene I'm working on I can think of a hundred and one excuses not to work on it. However, if I know exactly what I want to do, I can't wait to get to the computer.

**Jennifer: I don't like to procrastinate. I feel a sense of relief if I've got something behind me or partially behind me. If I'm behind on something, it's usually because of circumstances out of my control.

**Missy: I used to procrastinate in my writing before selling. Now, though, with deadlines looming, I don't. Although I still procrastinate on a lot of other life stuff (the laundry, paying bills, cleaning, folding clothes!) I think maybe one reason I used to procrastinate is because I would get discouraged. And maybe I didn't believe in myself enough. Plus, I had small children who had to come first. I actually found I was more productive after I went back to work part-time!


Edwina: I find that I procrastinate in writing most often when I only have a small block of time - 15 minutes to an hour. How can I overcome this?

**Christy: If I only have a small block of time, I work on editing what I’ve already written… or brainstorm a new scene. Just doing something that will take a small amount of time, that I can jot down and come back to later, makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something.

**Angie: I think it comes down the value of the time. If we learn what that value of that time produces, then we put more faith in using it appropriately. So try this exercise: Pick several different activities. Set a 15 min. timer on your stove or phone. Now do one of those activities for 15 min. Note (meaning write down) the results. Do it again with another activity. Note the results. What happens when you do this several times with several different activities? You'll begin to trust the result that working in small increments IS productive. Try it please and come back with your results. Prove me right or wrong :-) It's an issue of belief. We Doubting Thomas' have to prove it to ourselves sometimes. Don't take my word for it, test it.

**Mindy: Sometimes it's a matter of giving myself permission to write only a paragraph or two. No matter if it's only one sentence, it's still progress.

**Jennifer: I have to write like that because of my full-time job and all the stuff I've got going on. Just take excellent notes, keep them in a tote bag with you everywhere you go, and realize that even a paragraph adds up like pennies. Some of the greatest sentences of all time were created in under 15 minutes.

**Missy: I actually have a hard time with this as well, Edwina. I love to work in big chunks of time. My ideal would be to go away by myself for a couple of weeks and write a full first draft. I have learned to use smaller blocks by taking my Alphasmart or netbook along and working in carpool line, etc. I also brainstorm and jot notes on anything I can find (receipts and scraps of paper out of my purse work well!) :)


Edwina: What are creative ways to avoid procrastination in writing? (I've set personal goals, personal deadlines, posted cute little sayings, such as HOKBIC - Hands on Keyboard, Butt in Chair; nothing works.

**Christy: Edwina, I agree, those sticky notes and personal goals don’t work for me either. If you don’t have a critique partner or a critique group, get one. This is my strongest recommendation. Or, do you have someone – a non-writer, maybe – who likes to read? Your “reader” and your critique partner will help keep you accountable by asking your progress. Also, a critique partner will be sending you their manuscript to review so after a while, you’ll want to get feedback on yours, instead of the relationship being one-sided.

Also, if you can join a writers group where you meet with other writers once a month, that, more than anything else sometimes, will help motivate you to write. I can’t tell you how many GA Romance Writers meetings and ACFW Chapter meetings I’ve left and been so excited because I couldn’t wait to get home and work on my book. Being among other writers seems to energize me because we can encourage one another.

**Mindy: About a year ago I started working with a writing partner, which is a bit different than a crit partner. Not only does she crit my work, she expects to read something every day. I suppose it's like an accountability partner and crit partner all rolled into one. I'd start each day by reading over her crit, which automatically puts me back in the story and spurs me on. The key on this is that it has to be someone who "gets" you and your writing. Someone whose opinion you trust. Of course, life does get in the way sometimes. Matter of fact, I think it's about time I kick life to the curb and get back on track :-)

**Jennifer: In my case, I have to make sure the Internet or the TV is nowhere around. That is why I often write on my AlphaSmart and download it. I don't know what works for procrastination. I struggle with distractions more than procrastination.

**Missy: I think contests help. They give you a built-in deadline to meet--which helps you prepare for a publishing deadline. I also used to reward myself with office supplies or a pedicure...and sometimes food! For example, I would set a date to send off a requested manuscript to an editor or agent, then the day I mailed it, I would treat myself to a pedicure or a trip to Staples. In fact, I still do this sometimes after mailing off a manuscript to my editor. :)


Edwina: Does fear play into others' procrastination? Fear of "not being good enough;" fear of the proverbial rejection letter, etc. If that is the case, how does one overcome that fear?

**Christy: Fear, I think, is one main reason we procrastinate in our writing.

**Mindy: Fear is HUGE. Not just of fear of rejection, but a fear of getting the story wrong. I'm detail oriented, so if I don't have a good grasp on the details I fear that I've messed the story up. I guess I fear someone coming to me later and telling me some detail was wrong.

**Jennifer: I think fear is a huge factor, but I've learned to push past it. I'll have my down days, but then I always get back up on the horse and in the saddle. I guess I don't know what else to do with myself if I'm not writing.

**Missy: I do think fear plays a big part (fear along with discouragement). One thing I did that I found helped was to make sure I always had a submission or contest entry out there. That way there was always still hope! Plus, I'm just stubborn. I never could quite give up, even at my lowest moments. And God always gave me something to pick me back up (a positive comment, a contest final, a good rejection with some feedback on it...)


Edwina: Sometimes, my lack of writing is not due so much to procrastination as it is to interruptions. I realize those can be two separate issues, but when I'm interrupted, my thought process is "Oh, well. I've been interrupted so I might as well do "whatever" rather than trying to get my focus back on writing." How can one avoid this type of situation. (And believe me - I've asked my family to not interrupt unless someone is bleeding or there's smoke. It doesn't work!!)

**Christy: Edwina, I bet we’ve all pushed ourselves away from the computer because of an interruption. However, you have to ask yourself how bad you want to finish the book. How high on the “goal” list is this? When you really want something, you’ll begin to return to the task at hand, no matter the interruption. You’ll be able to overcome the interruption better each time. To avoid interruptions – like my dear family whom I love and don’t like to put off – I’ll try my hardest to write early in the morning. That way, I feel I’ve accomplished a need/a goal that I want, then I’m free for the rest of the time to do for my family or whatever else is needed.

Also, involve your family with what you are doing. Hubby may be a good reader for you and be able to tell you what works or doesn’t. Maybe if you’re writing in a genre your children like – your adult child may enjoying reading what you’re writing. Or if you’re writing for a child, then find your child or grandchild and see if they are interested in the story you’re telling. I found, once I started talking about my writing more to my family, once I started making “writer” friends, and finally, once my writing started paying off in the form of contest finals and wins, then my family was more interested in helping me find time to write than ever before. Your family wants you to be successful, you just have to share with them how much being a writer means to you.

**Angie: Yes, I SO know what you mean. I've noticed a pattern of times for interruptions. So during those times, I've switched to lighter writing such as blog posts or responding to important emails.
Then I do my heavy thought process writing at the times I have noticed less need from my family.
But I think it isn't perfect. So I go back and reread a page or two to get back into the scene or work I'm doing. It's about programming our minds like athletes program their muscles for memory. It's about creating a mental muscle memory. You have to place value on what you are doing internally. So backing up and going at it again tells your mind that you want to. Also how you handle the interruptions matters. Do you sit and allow it? Or do you time them? "Okay, you have 5 minutes." Or do you say, "I'll be with you at X time. Until then, I trust you to handle it yourself."
No, I am not perfect at this either. That's what makes us wives, mothers, friends. But it's all about the importance we place on the work we do and seeing our writing as work, not play, even though we enjoy it. It's NOT wrong to enjoy your work. God made you for this purpose and so HE gave us the ability to be drawn to it and to enjoy it. If you were in an office or hospital or store, would your family be able to show up any time and expect you to take a break? See it as work and they will begin to learn the importance you place on it.
Additionally, what are the patterns? If you see that they interrupt for the same things regularly, how can you preempt that? Is it the, "What's for dinner?" Then preplan dinner and put someone in charge. You can do the same preplanning for most situations in patterns. Again, take notes on what the interruptions are and then you'll have the ability to preplan to avoid the patterns with new responses.

**Mindy: Edwina, I went from having my days relatively free to having a three year old living with me. Talk about interruptions. Now I'm forced to work in small blocks of time. You sound a lot like me, you perform best with complete quiet, no interruptions, and long blocks of time. Sigh.

Another thought is that if God has called us to write, the enemy is going to do every thing he can to prevent us from doing God's will. I need to remind myself that A) if God has called me to a particular story, He will equip me and B) whatever I do, do it as unto the Lord. Do I really want to let Satan win? Of course not. So that sometimes kicks my but into gear too.

**Jennifer: Read my post on writing in the closet. I've taken drastic measures. I even sit in my car--alone at lunch during work. I've learned to tune others out. I'll get some earphones on and play loud classic or Celtic music so I can't hear the phone, the doorbell, the TV, or conversations.

Great, questions! Thanks for joining us, Edwina.

I do much better at this now than I used to. I think it comes from practice. And since I'm the type who likes those long blocks of time like I mentioned, it's hard to go the full 4-6 hours without interruptions. I think in this case, practice makes perfect. Just back up to the beginning of the chapter you're on and jump back in. You'll get better and better at switching gears.

Christy: Great discussion, ladies! And yes, great questions, Edwina!
I appreciate my fellow FAITH Girls and Edwina for making this discussion possible.

I hope our readers have enjoyed this and that some of our tips will help you achieve your goals. Have a great writing week!!


  1. Ladies,
    Thanks for your awesome answers to my questions! All of the answers were very helpful and I plan to implement the suggestions right now (or as soon as I get back from grabbing a snack, putting a load of laundry in the dryer....just kidding!!

    Blessings to all of you!!

  2. LOL, Edwina! I have to say I learned something as well. Happy writing! Keep us posted on your progress!

  3. This was a great discussion, with some great ideas and reminders for us. Thanks to Edwina for her thoughtful questions, and to the FAITH ladies for realistic and wonderful answers.

  4. Hey Becky! Glad you enjoyed our discussion... Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Edwina, thanks for making us think! :) And thanks for sharing your wisdom on getting organized last week!