Friday, May 28, 2010

Managing Procrastination

I'm an author, and I love to write. Most of the time. But, then, there are the other times when I find every possible thing to do except write. I tell myself I'll take a break and get back to the manuscript in an hour, or a day…or next week. I'm not talking about writer's block when one simply cannot form a thought fit for paper. I'm talking about the times when I sit with a zombie-like stare at my laptop screen, then flip into email or Facebook or Twitter or the refrigerator. (I'm definitely 'growing' as a writer :D)

Many of you, like me, hold down a 'regular' job, in addition to writing. Time is golden for us. The key is how we manage the time and manage our tendency to put off doing what needs to be done to solidify our writing. Here's what I've learned about myself in this regard:

1) I tend to procrastinate more when the work at hand is to rewrite. I hate rewriting—just ask my critique partners. I want to write the book once and be done with it. But we all know a book isn't finished with the first writing. What I've learned to do is to set up a timeframe for myself for rewriting. Then it has a beginning and an end. And, at the end, I can move on to writing something new and (hopefully) exciting.

2) I love the instantaneous connection of email, Facebook, and Twitter. I can talk with a friend across the country or outside the country at a moment's notice. Therein lies the trap: the notice. I've learned to turn off my email notification while I'm working. Otherwise, I'm tempted to respond to that 'ding' like the proverbial Pavlov's dog and, the next thing I know, I'm back on the net and my manuscript is shoved to the background.

3) It also helps to have a writing space that is free of clutter. I would say that one thing that has helped me with clutter is watching the TV show about hoarders. Makes me want to toss out everything I own. But I find that, in my writing space, if I'm not surrounded by stacks of mail, other books, used cups and plates, I'm less likely to feel the need to tidy up the area first. The trick is to keep the writing space free and clear—sacred.

Lastly, my muse, bless her heart, can be mean--a true temptress--teasing me with a swirl of new story ideas. Since I'm not fond of rewriting, it's easy to pick up a new idea to run with. What I end up with are four or five stories in the starting phase, all of which—like needy children—keep calling to me. I'm always writing more than one book at a time, but keeping myself limited to one primary story and one other that I can jump to when I need a shift of focus helps keep me motivated and moving forward.

Now, stop browsing blogs and get back to your writing!

Linda Rettstatt
Writing for women—stories of strength, love, humor, and hope.


Unknown said...

I hear ya girl. I find that the more novels and shorts I get under my belt, the harder it gets to dive back into that lonely dungeon again and start another one. I got 1/3 the way into my latest novel, set it aside, and that was four months ago. Just so darn hard to go back in again.

Michael Davis (
Author of the year (2008 and 2009)

linda_rettstatt said...

Yes, Mike. And it's so easy to find a million other things to do. I've been know to clean my house rather than sit down and write. Now that's extreme procrastination!