Writers are fascinating creatures. We’re most comfortable talking to imaginary people, traveling to imaginary lands, and creating stories out of nothing more than words. What we also love is to avoid doing those things at all costs.
You love writing and want nothing more to spend your waking hours putting pen to paper? Sure! Right after you’ve picked the perfect pen and made the paper from scratch because you can’t just sit down and write. That would be crazy? Instead, we write after we’ve done everything else, not because we don’t have our priorities straight, but because us fascinating creatures can also be expert level procrastinators.
“No, not me,” you might argue. “I hit my word count every day…” Really? Really? Is that before or after you spend two hours watching cat videos on YouTube?
Even the most prolific writer gets caught in a procrastination loop. If you still think that’s not you, tell me if any of these procrastinator traits sound familiar…
The ‘Planning’ Procrastinator
Yes, planning is part of the writing process. Some writers can’t write without a plan for where to go in each chapter. But when planning is all you do, you’re procrastinating. That’s right. Putting off your writing because you need to make sure the character arc you already know is flawless needs to be planned one more time will not help. You’ve already spent countless hours on it. You have the plan. You have the plan of the plan. Sit down and write it!
The ‘Researching’ Procrastinator
No, unfortunately, those YouTube cat videos don’t count as research (sorry). If you spend more time fact-checking than writing those facts into your WIP, it’s time to research the physical act of writing and get to it.
The ‘When I’ve Got Five Minutes To Myself’ Procrastinator
This is akin to saying, “When it’s Monday, I’ll start my diet.” We all know Monday comes and goes and the diet won’t start until the next Monday (which will also transfer to the following Monday, riding on a wave of potato chips and ice-cream). Saying you’ll write when you have five minutes to yourself is just an excuse to put it off. Kids, fur-kids, partners, family, your job, responsibilities, and everything else you need to do to live your life are always going to be around. You can’t wait for the proverbial five minutes to yourself. You have to carve it out in between adulting, school pickups, and while the oven is pre-heating.
The ‘Cleaning’ Procrastinator
Having a messy desk is supposed to be a sign you’re a genius, but that theory flies right out the window the moment you need to sit down to write. Suddenly the mountain of washing you let build up for a week is a top priority. Never mind that the windows haven’t been cleaned in a year, or that you only vacuumed yesterday. How are you supposed to untangle plot twists if the house is a mess? Easily, actually. You write and then clean, or you write for half an hour, clean for half an hour. Alternating the task means you get to do both, not just one or the other.
The ‘I Deserve A Break’ Procrastinator
There’s taking a break after a big week of writing, and there’s taking a break after penning one sentence. And not just a five-minute break, this is a break that turns into hours, so at the end of the day, you’re left with one and a half sentences and a lot of break time. By all means, take a break when you need to for your mental and physical wellbeing, but when you’re spending all of your writing time in break-mode instead of writing-mode, you need to reset your mode.
The ‘I’ve Got To Read To Get Motivated’ Procrastinator
I’m all for reading as a motivation tool. Reminding yourself of inspiring words—either your own or your favorite authors—does a great job at getting the creative juices flowing, but when your day of writing turns into one more chapter… and you choose to read over putting your own words on the page, it’s time to acquaint yourself with a reading time limit.
The ‘Desk Needs To Be Perfect’ Procrastinator
A dust-free surface. A notepad for when a brilliant idea hits. A mug of tea. Books about writing for easy reference. A stapler. Highlighters. Staples for the stapler… maybe in that top drawer? Oh, that drawer is messy. Better clean it out now. Did I finish reading that writing book? What happened to my bookmark? What’s that sticky spot on the desk? The tissue box is empty… my tea has gone cold… Is it lunchtime yet? Now I feel like cheese. Do I even have cheese in the house? Might as well check while I’m making more tea and getting a cloth to wipe down the desk. Then it will be perfect and I can write…
Sound familiar? The desk doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need staples to type. You did read that writing book and there’s no need for a bookmark because you dog-ear the page like a monster. The cheese can wait. Sit down and write.
The ‘Fear Of Failure’ Procrastinator
This is a different procrastinator. If you fear failure, you’re getting plenty of writing done, you’re just not finishing it. You might rework your first chapter, or go over your first sentence again and again. Each day might be filled with endless edits and checklists of new things to scour and re-write. If you’re always writing and editing, you’re far from finishing. And if you’re not close to finishing, you don’t have anything to show to friends or beta readers. You don’t have a book that’s ready to be queried. You have a perpetual work in progress that can’t be judged because no one else will ever get the chance to read it. Is that why you started writing? If it’s not, let go of your failure fear and stop procrastinating. The world needs your book.
The ‘I’ll Just Check One Thing’ Procrastinator
This is probably the most common type of procrastinator and one that combines its powers with all the others, mocking you for being sucked into its’ time-wasting game. It’s so easy to slip into the “I’ll just check one thing” mindset when you sit down to write but don’t, it’s a trick. Resist the urge to check your email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They’ll be there waiting (they’ll outlive us all). For now, turn off the Wi-Fi and write. It’s never just one thing you’ll check. You know it. They know it. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
So what kind of procrastinator are you? A Planner? A Cleaner? A combination of Perfect Desk and Fear Of Failure? Let me know in the comments, it won’t take me long to read your answers. It can be the one thing I check before I sit down to write for the day…
— K.M. Allan