Are All Writers Procrastinators?

My friend Emily said she read somewhere that all writers are procrastinators.

I’d like to hear more anecdotal evidence of this—if it’s true—and even more, I’d like to hear the reasons. Could it be that ALL people are procrastinators? Or is it that overachievers who set their standards so intimidatingly high are especially prone to putting things off? And yes, writers are overachievers to even attempt what they do. Or delusional. Don’t believe me, read this and try not to cry.

I really appreciated Claudia Mills’s presentation at the last BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. (She’ll be back this year, kids! Don’t miss it.) She gave me tools for overcoming all the reasons I procrastinate—no time to get into that creative zone! my house is a mess! my writing probably sucks anyway!—and when I apply her suggestions, they work like a miracle drug.

The only problem is that I’ve procrastinated applying them consistently.

I don’t want to give away all her secrets in case you’d rather hear them from her yourself this summer. But my favorites are these:

1. Remember that the drop of water hollows the stone. If an hour a day seems too short a time to accomplish something, such as writing the great American epic novel, just think of how far you’d be now if you’d dedicated only an hour a day for the last six months instead of doing nothing.

2. When attending to all the other chores you have to do in a day—cleaning the house, writing a peer-reviewed academic paper, contributing to the potluck—remember the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the benefit comes from twenty percent of the effort. If straightening up makes you feel as happy as if you’d vacuumed out the closets too, why vacuum the closets?!

3. Have a creative ritual. This primes your creativity and sets your mind in a “now it’s time to write” mode. Claudia Mills drinks hot chocolate before writing and uses an hourglass to measure her one-hour-a-day. I have a new-age alarm clock that can play different sounds, supposedly to help me ease out of sleep or drown out the kickin’ party my pre-marriage-era roommates are throwing when I’m trying to sleep. (Yes, I’ve always been lame.) I set the new-age alarm clock for an hour, and by the time the babbling brook or chirping crickets shut up, I’m usually so far into the story I don’t even notice the hour is up.

With only an hour a day to write, Claudia says, “You don’t have time to waste even one minute on self-doubt.”

Or procrastination.

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3 Comments

Filed under Writing challenges, Writing Tip

3 responses to “Are All Writers Procrastinators?

  1. This is a great post! Hey, when you go see her talk, I want to come! Are you going to go again?

    It’s also like water dripping in a cave building up those beautiful stalacmites. Or however you spell it. Beautiful analogy! I think my procrastination problem is getting back to the house from writing. I have a hard time tearing myself away. 🙂

  2. Kim Reid

    I procrastinate writing because I know once I’m in the zone, everything else will get dropped! But I guess that’s a good thing—a sign we’re doing something we love. 🙂

    CONGRATS on finishing Monarch! I have a hard time believing you struggle with writing at all when you crank out these perfect novels so fast.

    Yes, I’ll probably go to Claudia’s presentation again. I’m signed up for the whole conference, workshopping with an author in the mornings. But you can register for afternoons only. Or if you can only come for one afternoon, I’m not really sure how that works. But as soon as I have the schedule I will let you know.

  3. I need to you to stop procrastinating because I need another good book to read. Preferably one about a speed skater and one written by you.