What if an uninvited guest drops by?
Want to be published? Join Sisters in Crime at the Libbie Mill Library on Saturday, February 27, 2016, for “Paths to Getting Published–Mystery Authors Tell Their Tales.” A book signing and celebration of the publication of Virginia is for Mysteries II will follow.
We all know about procrastination: doing less urgent/important things instead of more important/urgent ones—or doing more enjoyable tasks when less appealing tasks are more needful; deliberately looking for distraction from the task at hand. Virtually everyone procrastinates sometimes, and 20% of people are chronic procrastinators. Some people boast that they “work to deadlines,” often hustling or cramming at the last minute. Another catch-phrase is, “I work better under pressure.” Really?
Some types of procrastination are common for writers: organizing the workspace and writing implements so thoroughly that the writing time’s compressed or obliterated; editing for the umpteenth time, so long that the piece is never really finished; immersing themselves in one more bit of research, perhaps going off on a tangent into something interesting, possibly useful for some other work in the future; even reading broadly for pleasure and muttering excuses that all reading is good for a writer. Let me be clear: organization, preparation, editing, research, and reading are not evil in and of themselves, only when they block actual forward movement in the manuscript.
Writers are people. And people suffer from procrastination. Late payment fees, lower grades, anger or disappointment from friends and family are immediate outcomes of some kinds of procrastination. But who cares if a writer puts off writing? If writing puts food on the table, it threatens livelihood. But whether that’s the case or no, not meeting one’s goals/commitments leads to guilt, depression, and low self-esteem.
According to one accessible source, Psychology Today, “procrastination reflects an on-gong struggle with self-control as well as an inability to know how we’ll feel tomorrow or the next day.” They have articles on everything from the history of procrastination to its relationship to morality, from ways to overcome procrastination to boredom at work. Some claim that procrastination is a defense mechanism against fear of failure: if the last-minute product isn’t perfect, the creator can take comfort in the knowledge that working on it more, it would have been better, could have been great. Then there is the positive side of procrastination: it reveals what one’s real motives and value are.
Acknowledge whether/when/why you procrastinate in your writing life. Consider what that tells you about the importance of writing—for you.
If writing is truly important, sweep aside the hurdles. Take baby steps—a page or two a day, no editing till there’s one complete draft. Don’t doubt yourself. Just do it. And if you need help with that, read all the on-line tips on overcoming procrastination. And if that doesn’t work, and you truly care, seek therapy. Help is out there.
Deborah Tannen has published numerous books that might be of interest to writers. Three titles that come to mind are You Just Don’t Understand (male/female communication patterns); Talking from Nine to Five (communication in the workplace); You’re Wearing That? (mother/daughter habits of communication). They are classics by now, but still relevant.
The interview with Fiona Quinn started me thinking about the myriad ways that psychology and writing intersect. In particular, I’m now thinking about empathy—the feeling that you understand and share another’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share feelings. Psychology long assumed that empathy is a purely human emotion, though there are many who would disagree (witness observational studies of animals who form bonds of what appear to be friendship across species).
In any event, when a writer chooses a point of view character s/he is choosing the character with whom the reader is to identify. When done well, the reader sees the world through this POV character’s eyes and heart, understands the driving motives, and cheers for a positive outcome for that character. Perhaps empathy is a characteristic one either has or not. But (in my opinion) all good writers must have it. If you don’t care, if you don’t laugh or cry, why would the reader?