A friend of mine recently confessed to being a procrastinator. Shocking, I know, but try not to faint, dear readers. They are among us.
In truth, I think almost all of us fall into the procrastination camp at one point or another. Whether its the story you’ve been meaning to write, or the load of laundry you’ve been meaning to fold, there is always something you can put off in favor of prettier, more interesting things. Like StumbleUpon. Or Reddit. Or FaceBook. Or GoodReads. Or heck! An old-fashioned book!
But what about when you actually want to get those things done? Writing, in particular. Yeah, it’s crazy easy to poke at a few hundred words, adding a sentence here, removing an adverb there (good job!), never quite finishing. But finishing is where its at. I have a few favorite quotes about writing, but my favorite is “You can’t edit a blank page.” This quote has been attributed to a few people, but I first ran into it when I participated in NaNoWriMo. I think Chris Baty put it in one of those pseudo-inspirational emails they send out during November.
Regardless of where it came from, it’s true. You can throw trash all over the page, and clean it up later. Or you can agonize over creating perfection (I’m looking at you, Jenni) and have little or nothing to show for it.
I prefer fixable trash, personally.
This friend of mine mentioned that he can work on deadlines. Not self-imposed deadlines, though. Those are too easy to hedge on, to rationalize around. So I offered him a few tips on creating deadlines with pressure, which I’d like to share with you here.
1. Get your friends in on it. When you have other people expecting something from you, its harder to let them down. Curious, how the easiest person to disappoint is yourself… Anyway, make a deal with one of your buddies, or your romantical partner, or you mom, and set up a deadline. They know they’ll be getting a precious chunk of wordage, and you know you need to deliver.
And if you fail, they have free reign to tease, pester and torment you to their heart’s content. And really, who wants that?
2. Join a writing/critique group. This is kind of a hybrid of self-set deadlines and outside deadlines. Most groups won’t call you out if you don’t submit something. A few members might frown at the practice, but you likely won’t be ostracized.
And yet, when everyone else is contributing, and you know you have to see these people week after week, month after month, always a little shamefaced to have nothing to show…well, that could act as a very good prod to Finish. Your. Shit. And then offer it up for public ridicule.
3. Anthologies. There is an option on Duotrope to search for all currently open anthologies, regardless of genre. You’ll get back a list of varying length, but usually at least a few dozen options. (As of writing, there are 121 anthologies listed.) These are real, hint deadlines. Not your deadlines, necessarily, but they could be. Real publishers, looking for real stories, before a real point in time.
One potential drawback–or opportunity, as I see it–is that anthologies are generally looking for something somewhat specific. Thanksgiving murders. Stories about beer. Sexy Lovecraft. They may make you reach outside your comfort zone and write about something that’s never, not once, crossed your mind before. And isn’t that awesome? As writers, we need to continually grow and stretch and try new things, or risk stagnating in a pool of our own stale words.
There are lot of options out there for busting through the procrastination wall. Write or Die, NaNoWriMo. Word wars. Prompts. Eegad, the list goes on. But, like I told my friend, the most important element of beating procrastination is you. Is writing really a priority? More important still–should it be?
If the answer to the latter is yes, then the answer to the first should be yes, too. We all have busy lives, but there is always a way to make time for the things you love. The things you are passionate about. They’re a big part of what makes life awesome, after all.
You tell me–any tricks you have for pushing yourself to finish something? Or maybe you have a deadline creator I overlooked. I’d love to hear it.
Photo used under creative commons license from Vic.