Last week I talked about being uninspired to write after recovering from surgery and I’m happy to say that this week I did leave the binge-watching behind and put my fingers to the keyboard.
I got back to writing blog posts and regularly posting and interacting on Instagram, where the great writing community reminded me why I love writing. Trouble is, all the inspiration in the world hasn’t stopped me from instead doing what I have dubbed procrasta-writing.
All writers know about procrastinating, which is where you do pretty much anything but writing. Procrasta-writing, I’ve come to realize, is where you do write, but it’s anything but the kind of writing you want to be doing.
According to my writer resolutions for the year, I should be working on a brand new book. I even have an idea, characters and plenty of notes. I’m all ready to go, yet I haven’t created a new Scrivener project or looked through said notes to put together a semblance of a plan to kick the plot off.
I want to be working on this shiny new idea, but instead, I’m working on blog posts and social media posts, all the while applauding myself for diving back into writing without working on the very reason I dragged myself back to my computer screen.
It’s a frustrating process, especially when I’m aware of such self-sabotage. So why don’t I just get on with it and start work on this new book? Again, procrasta-writing. It’s taken me over, and here are five sure-fire signs that you may be doing it too.
1) You’re Counting Social Media As Writing Time
It’s a given that you need a social media presence as a writer nowadays, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t because I’ve spent more hours this week scrolling Facebook and Instagram than I care to admit.
You need to have a presence, and that presence requires interacting and posting your own content or reposting. Even if you post the bare minimum of once daily, that’s still a lot of writing hours taken up by sourcing content, creating graphics and writing captions.
When you’re procrasta-writing, you’re using the hours needed to do this as justification as to why you’re not working on your WIP. Before you know it, you’re including that writing prompt you created as part of your word count and telling yourself that you wrote something today. I’ve been doing that all week and it’s not getting me closer to starting my shiny new idea. Yes, set aside time for social media, but if it ends up being the only real writing you do all week, then you need to be switching the Internet off and re-prioritizing your writing time.
2) You Have Too Many Ideas
While it’s never a bad thing to have an abundance of ideas, if it seems like all you’re ever doing is writing down your ideas and organizing them instead of actually turning them into the plan for a book, the basis of a short story, a blog post, or a submission for a magazine, then it’s kinda pointless. You should be taking those ideas and doing something with them.
If you’ve got a backlog of ideas, dedicate a day to going through the ones that are most viable, and then the next day, turn one idea into the basis for a piece of writing. That way instead of procrasta-writing notes, you’ll be actually writing.
3) You Can’t Finish Anything
Similar to too many ideas is starting a lot of different writing projects and never finishing them. While some ideas just don’t work and it can, unfortunately, take hours of writing before you realize, most ideas that are inspired and planned correctly can be finished. That doesn’t mean you have to finish them right away either—it took me sixteen years to write a four book YA series—but endeavor to finish your WIP, even if it’s only to a first draft level, before moving to another idea. After all, wouldn’t you rather close out the year with one or more completed manuscripts instead of five half-finished, procrasta-written ones?
4) You’re Still Living In The Shadow Of Your Last WIP
Even though I’ve finished my YA series and I’m no longer having ideas for it, leaving me free to work on something else, book one is out on submission with a publisher, submitted into a publishing competition with another publisher, and book four is with beta readers. Because I’m waiting in feedback/rejection/hope limbo, I’m finding it hard to work on something new.
Usually, I’m all for diving into another writing project while playing the waiting game with publishers as a distraction, but that was when I was working on the other books in my series. Now I would be working on a totally different story in a totally different universe with new characters and places I’m not familiar with yet. Instead of inspiring me to write this new book, I’m procrasta-writing everything but.
5) You’re Writing The Wrong Thing
Any writing is good, right? Yes, and no. Whilst writing anything at all will hone your skills and light your creative fire, if you aren’t dedicating at least some of your writing hours to your ultimate writing goal, then you’re writing the wrong thing.
I’m a YA writer so my goal is to write YA books. The last time I did this was three months ago. In all fairness, I was sidelined by my operation and recovery (which I promise I’ll stop bringing up now), but I’m on the mend and have the energy to work on a YA book. The reason I’m not? Procrasta-writing.
I’ve spent my first week off the couch and back at my desk writing and discarding numerous blog posts. This was mostly due to the fact that I haven’t been writing and it’s hard to blog about writing when you’re not writing. An easy solution would have been to write so that I’d have something worthy to blog about, but as this whole post shows (and this really was the best of the ones I started), procrasta-writing stopped me. I knew I wanted to be working on something else and my creativity knew it too. I struggled with every blog I attempted, and it ate into my days, and now it’s the end of the week and the only writing I managed to complete was this blog post. Hence, procrasta-writing wins again.
— K.M. Allan