Thursday, January 15, 2009

Procrastination



I have a magnet on my refrigerator with a saying that speaks to me on a deep heartfelt level. It reads: Hard work pays off in the long run, but procrastination pays off now!

I want that on my tombstone. Because just when I think I’ve taken procrastination to new heights, I outdo myself yet again.

Oh, I can get all self-righteous and claim that it isn’t procrastination at all, it’s all about prioritizing. And when something more urgent comes up and interrupts time I’d set aside to murder the latest victim in my story, I’m just re-delegating my time for maximum efficiency, right?

However, that gets a bit more difficult to believe when playing half a dozen games of Chicktionary becomes a prerequisite prior to starting my daily pages. It gets downright frightening when a deadline looms close enough to cast a shadow on my computer screen, and I’m on page 125 of a 400-page book due in five weeks.

No way to deny it then. I’m a procrastinator. Now where’s the twelve-step program?

This didn’t happen overnight. No, I’ve been molding this bad habit for some time now. Back in the day when I used to make the kids’ Halloween costumes, my mantra was, “Well, if worst comes to worst, I don’t have to sleep.” This, from someone who considers sleep an artform.

Time is my enemy. Too much of it, that is. I manage to accomplish a mind-boggling amount, if I have very little time to get it done. If I have all summer…it might not get done at all.

Case in point: My driver’s license expired in November. They give you sixty days to renew it. I should only be allowed six. Because sixty. . .that’s two months. That’s a long time. Plenty of time to go back to the eye doctor and see if I can get an enhancement on the laser surgery I had done a few years back. (Not yet.) Plenty of time to find that DOT form he gave me to excuse me from the eye test on the renewal. (Lost.) Okay, then plenty of time to get another form faxed to me. (They can’t fax them. Oh and then surprise, they are only good for 30 days. Someone forgot to mention that.)

Long story short, I ended up having to drive 50 miles to have glasses made at one of those one hour places so I could pass the vision exam on the test the next day, coincidentally the last day to renew before having to take the whole written exam again.

See what I mean?

Of course this particular trait impacts my writing, too. Invariably I find myself having to write 78 pages in two days to finish a book that just won’t end. Or to take weeks to coax my muse out from under the table she’s hiding beneath to give me a clue about where exactly this story is going.

Then there’s that helpful internal voice that occasionally whispers, ‘You deserve a weekend off. You work two jobs…you should have a little fun.’ That voice, I’m convinced comes from a small horned creature that smells faintly of brimstone.

I blame it on success. Procrastination has actually worked quite well for me. The deadlines, no matter how close together, somehow get met. Under pressure I manage to set new records time and again for how many pages I can write in a day when I really really need to. This lulls me into a false sense of security because I was able to do it before, so somehow I’ll pull it off again.

Of course I don’t recall the sleepless nights it took to accomplish those feats. The fist of fear squeezing my chest that this time I might not make it. It doesn’t factor in surprise surgeries, or new babies in the family, or a husband who believes it’s helpful to walk by my chair asking continuously, “Are you done yet?”

Somehow I never seem to recall how horrible the situation was the last time I procrastinated like this. Certainly I’ve forgotten that last time I promised myself I was never going to let this happen again!

This time I really mean it. This time. If I meet this deadline I will really never ever procrastinate again.

So you’ll have to excuse me now while I get back to my writing. Of course there’s those six games of Chicktionary to play first. . . .

How about you, are you a procrastinator? If so, is there anything in particular that you seem to put off as long as possible? Anyone have any tips for kicking this habit?

24 comments:

Helen Brenna said...

When I first started reading this I thought it was Susie. lol You two could definitely commiserate!

Boy, Kylie, you have an outside job, write how many books a year? and have 5 kids. I don't think it's procrastination as much as too damned much to do!!!

Have you ever tried imposing your own "deadlines" on things? Tricking yourself?

Kylie said...

Helen, I do that with my own deadlines (talking writing here) but find myself having to 'flex' as things come up. Part of the problem are too many deadlines too fast together. And I knew this last one was going to be a doozy because writing a single title in 4 1/2 months and working full time is barely doable for me. Throw Christmas in there....yeah.

I'm a list maker, too. Get a big rush from crossing things off my lists! Maybe I need to put my daily writing pages on my list somewhere, LOL!

Betina Krahn said...

Kylie, I feel your pain. Much like my own pain, actually. I learned some time ago that procrastinators often put things off because of their fear it won't be "perfect." Yep, that's me. I'm a closet perfectionist. As long as something remains unrealized, it retains all of its potential. the minute you bring a story or book onto the page it loses a number of its brilliant and beautiful might-have-beens. And that's always a disappointment to me. sigh.

So I just have to quit overthinking my work and playing mentally with all the possibilities and just GET THE STORY DOWN ON THE PAGE!

It doesn't help that I have an easy-going fiance who doesn't like to see me in agony over a deadline. He sympathizes too much, God bless 'im.

Lists are my friend, too. And a calendar. And exercise that gets rid of the excess nervous energy that sometimes plagues me. Now if I could just use them all at the same time. . .

Kylie said...

Betina, yes, I have perfectionist tendencies, too. Or, as I told my mom years ago, "I used to be a perfectionist but now I'm merely fussy!"

But I hear you on starting to write and having the luster from the story dim. Those nebulous what-might-have-beens become something else. Something different. And I'm always convinced what it ends up being is never as wonderful as what I'd envisioned.

The curse of being a writer...!

Keri Ford said...

Yes. Raises Hand Here!! Mornings are THE best times for my creativity. BUT....well, the tv's on and the kid will need breakfast, so is there any point in getting involved in something for like an hour and a half? He'll be going to sleep for a nap in another 3-4 hours. So I can work then. :O) I never seem to remember that when he goes down for a nap, it's time for some resting for me, too.

I'm worse when I don't know what to do with my characters. Like right now. They're both sitting in a tree. Considering their sudden lack of participation in this story, I'm beginning to think I missed something!

Christie Ridgway said...

I am SUCH a procrastinator! About everything, pretty much. I just mailed off a gift to my brother...his birthday is tomorrow. I've, um, known this for years.

I tell myself I procrastinate because I'm always waiting for the best idea to strike me (as in the best idea for a birthday gift), but that theory doesn't hold water when I put off a task (say, cleaning a closet) that doesn't require any creativity at all.

Kylie said...

Keri, writers always recommend that you use every spare minute to write in between what else is happening in your schedule. Have a spare fifteen minutes? Write a page. A spare half hour? Write two.

Trouble is, I don't work like that. If I know I have to be somewhere or do something within the hour, I just can't concentrate and get into the story. I'm watching the clock!

Kylie said...

Christie, I do that with birthday cards. I buy them. Don't send them because it's still too far away. And then think, well I'll do it tomorrow.

Plus my memory is getting so bad it might be days before it occurs again!

My husband is much better about sending cards. But he also has much less to remember!

Michele Hauf said...

I think I have my procrastination moments. Some days I just like to nap instead of actually get things done. And we've all used the laundry as an excuse not to put words on the page, haven't we?

The thing in your post that scared me is that you've had laser eye surgery but you can't pass an eye test? What's with that? Please tell me, someone who wants eye surgery, why you can't pass an eye test! I'm worried now. :-)

Kylie said...

Michele, I had laser about 7 years ago with excellent results. 20/20 in one eye and 20/15 in another. But within months my eyes started changing back. The process was slow. I passed the vision test easily 4 years ago. But in the last couple years I've known that my eyes were getting worse.

They were never terrible, but they've reverted to my old prescription of 20/40 and 20/50. The eye doctor said it was cataracts! At my age! But that everyone gets cataracts in their 40s and he wants to wait and see if they are done forming before he does anything.

The other problem is losing my near vision. I can still read without needing glasses, it's just my distance vision that's a problem. At my age another surgery will ensure I need magnifiers to read. Unless I adjust one eye for distance and one eye for close up. That's what our beloved Cindy did.

I go back in 6 months for another check. But right now I'm ok just wearing glasses to drive and retaining my ability to read!

Keri Ford said...

Kylie, I can do that 15 minute thing if I'm editing/revising. I can do that with the tv going or tuning out the hubby.

But for activily writing a steady stream of new stuff, I need it silence.

Kylie said...

Exactly, Keri. I can edit in a warzone. (years of practice when the kids were home). I just can't settle down and get deep into the story if I know I need to be somewhere in less than an hour.

But that's ok...there's always plenty more stuff around here to be done!

Kathleen Eagle said...

This is what's going on my refrigerator (amid all the drawings of castles and cats) today:

"I'm not procrastinating. I'm re-delegating my time for maximum efficiency."
--Kylie Brant, 21st century writer and purveyor of reason

Kylie said...

LOL, Kathleen! I can rationalize with the best of them!

Liza said...

I too am a procrastinator, but do much better if I make a list and cross things off the list as the are completed. My biggest procrastination right now is going thru my read books to decide which ones to give away and which one to keep. I have books all over my house and need to get them into some type of order. Problem for me is I get up so early to go to the gym in the mornings, I'm ready for bed by 8 at night. Must as least knock out one bookshelf this weekend.

Kylie said...

Liza, I'm a list maker, too. I have known to be pathetic enough to add things to the list that weren't on there but that got accomplishes, just so I can cross them off, LOL!

lois greiman said...

Seriously, Kylie, quit it!! If you're a procrastinator, I'm dead. Holy crap, how many books do you write a year? Add a job to that and you are out of this world productive. Your family should genuflect as you pass by. The rest of us should light candles in your honor.

Kylie said...

Lois--my family genuflecting?? Hmmm. I could get used to that! I'd be satisfied if they just finally got it through their heads that a deadline means I can't come down for the weekend and babysit. And I can't spent hours on the computer booking a flight for them because they're 'too busy'.

But family is hard to say no to, do you find that?

If you insist on lighting candles, however--I'm partial to Sweet Peas, LOL.

Arkansas Cyndi said...

I started to answer this morning then I got distracted by something else and I put it off. Procrastination and I are very close friends.

Okay, gotta go get some writing done, but first, I need to finish that game of Chainz2. HAHA

Oh, I was never the type that could write 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. It takes me 15 minutes to "get into character"

Kylie said...

Arkansas Cyndi, we are kindred souls! Now you get back to those games. Er, I mean pages, LOL!

Cindy Gerard said...

I am the queen of procrastination and now thanks to Kylie, I, too, must play Chicktionary before I can write. Of course I also have to play Spider Solitare, hearts, spades and gin. I think I have a problem.

Kylie said...

Cindy, don't forget some of those other games that are on the livesearch club site, LOL. Although Chicktionary is my favorite there are plenty more that can while away a great deal of time!

Debra Dixon said...

Ahh...procastination. The more successful you are in practicing it, the more ingrained a habit it becomes.

I especially fall prey to the "I deserve a day off" whispers. When you're self-employed, you have such a flexible schedule. Yep. You get to choose WHICH 60 hours of the week you'll work.

Of course being self-employed pretty much takes care of the procastination. Too much is at stake. Other people suffer if I'm not on top of the pile on my desk. So, my procrastination comes in the form of doing what I like FIRST and then dealing with the stuff in my pile that is less fun.

Playground Monitor said...

I thought I commented on this yesterday. Apparently I procrastinated.

I need real big pushes to write. NaNoWriMo did it for me, but even after 50K words, I still had two chapters to write. Of course there was Christmas to deal with. And this month I've had to get ready for a trip.

Well... I found out eHarlequin is doing a Special Edition online pitch and my book is targeted for SE. So now I have something to push me to finish those last two chapters. Thank you eHarlequin.

Marilyn