Procrastination: A Writer's Friend or Foe?

There was a time, in the recent past, when procrastination held me captive by my thumbs (it’s not easy to write or type without thumbs, believe me). I caught a bad case of procrastination right after I became a published author. It especially reared its meddlesome head as I tried to complete book three in my Southern California Mystery series (due out June 25th, for wondering readers out there).

I find the word itself icky, like lumbago or bratwurst. Procrastination is like walking in a pair of dress shoes across a floor oozing with crude oil. Wreaks havoc on the soles. Even worse, too much procrastination can fill you with self-loathing. But that’s not necessarily all bad. It may actually turn into a motivator that forces you to return to writing. I disliked the lousiness I felt from putting off writing so much that my only option to feeling good again was to write.

Here’s a fact: when we’re procrastinating, we’re not doing nothing. We’re just doing something other than the pressing task. Granted, building bookshelves, pulling weeds or baking cookies is putting aside the task at hand, but we’re not being idle, right?

Thankfully for me, I overcame procrastination and finished my novels. How? I followed sage advice provided by author Raymond Chandler. He wrote detective novels by setting aside four hours a day and following these two rules:

a) You don’t have to write.

b) You can’t do anything else.

Chandler likened the rules to being in school. “If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored.”

Rewards help, too.

How about making a deal with yourself to write for one hour, then watch TV, paint or do whatever you find rewarding? However, I suggest no online shopping (dangerous territory here, as one can plummet headfirst into a time sucker, speaking from personal experience, with little to no satisfaction. Climbing out of that rabbit hole can be very slippery). The better option is to write longer. Chandler had it right with four hours – a respectable amount of time to get the job done. And we’d rather be respectable than procrastinators, right?

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