Procrastination. It’s a word I hate, yet at times can’t seem to avoid. It’s not like the task is going to magically get done or go away, so why not just bite the bullet and get it done? Ah, that would be the logical answer, but procrastination rarely resides in the rational area of the brain…at least for me.
I’m a writer. I love to create characters and tell stories around them. Getting to know my protagonist is like making a new friend—one I can hang out with and empathize when things go wrong…and you know that will happen because writers love to create tension. Just call me The Agitator.
So, if I love writing and creating, why do I sometimes find myself procrastinating? My writing friends and I ask each other that question—or a form thereof—every time one of us admits to not having put words on the page.
We don’t do it to me mean or shame the person. We do it to help our friend figure out what’s causing the “snag” so they can find a way out. Usually, the question is, “What’s keeping you from writing?” For me, as much as I’d like to blame physical things like, the kids need to be driven X place or the house needs to get in order (I’m far from a neat freak), the truth is, it’s all in my head. I procrastinate because I’m afraid. Afraid of screwing up. Afraid of going down the wrong rabbit hole. Afraid of deviating too far from my carefully crafted outline. In short, I’m afraid of failure.
I love my story, The Water Chamber. I can’t wait to have it finished, polished, and ready to be queried. But I’ve been stuck on the same two chapters for the last three months. Why? Because I got sucked into the dialogue and interactions of some characters and realized I wrote them in a way that lead them on a different path than my outline. In short, the story cannot unfold the way I need (and want) it to.
No big deal, it happens. I just need to backtrack a little, rewrite a few things, and get back on the right track, right? In theory, yes. In practically, not always as simple. The backtracking kept going deeper and deeper until I realized I needed to rewrite the entire chapter. Ugh, that feels like a waste. Then I realized that the “seeds of outline deviation” were actually planted two chapters prior, and they need to be fixed first. D’oh!
I got the first of the two prior chapters fixed relatively quickly, but as I began to tackle the next chapter is where I got “stuck.” Imagine a large ball comprising of several strands, some the same color, some different. They’re all tangled and knotted. It’s hard to conceive where to even start.
That’s kind of what it feels like, and even though I logically know if I just played around with it long enough, things would loosen and soon be sorted out, I find myself doing any and everything to avoid tackling it. And the more I avoid, the worse I feel about myself. Then my confidence as a writer goes down, and my fear of failure goes up, urging me to more avoidance. It’s a vicious cycle.
But no more. I’m too stubborn to let procrastination get the best of me. My story is too important to sit on the shelf unfinished. I’m going to bulldoze through this hurdle and come out on top because a quitter never wins.
‘Til next time!