Sunday 1 February 2009

The Art of Procrastination

Procrastination noun delay, dilatoriness, hesitation, slackness, slowness, temporization

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the 'someday I will' philosophy. Denis Waitley (American motivational speaker. b.1933)

One thing that's good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow. G. B. Stern (British novelist, 1890 -1973)
I often think if I were as diligent with the art of writing as I am with the art of procrastination, I’d be published by now. I often wonder why I waste so much energy using delaying tactics when it comes to approaching my writing.

I’m busy with the last corrections on my current manuscript right now, so it’s not even as if it is a difficult task. The worst is behind me. Or perhaps it’s ahead of me, because – of course – once I put this ms to bed, I’ll have to start on the next one. And therein lies the answer to why I procrastinate: fear.

As long as this ms is still active, I can feel all “writerly” and professional. What a lovely ring it has when someone says “And what did you do today?” and I answer, ever so casually, “Oh, I worked on the re-writes of my current ms.” But lurking beneath the smugness is the fear that no one except myself can sense.

That fear has a face and it’s called “closure”. When this novel is finished, that’s it. No more dreaming of how great a novel it is. It’s time for a reality check. Because once it’s finished it has to be sent out to face its future - alone.

A future that may include the knowledge that this novel is not The Novel, my breakthrough. Once all the responses to the query letters have come back, there is nothing else to do on this story.

I may get all rejections, or, if I’m very, very lucky, there may be a request or two for a partial, which may or may not lead to a request for a full. But the statistics are daunting, and it's much easier to simply procrastinate (and call it rewriting) then get myself to the point of actually completing the ms because, as long as I’m still rewriting, I don’t have to fling it out into the wide wide world of publishing in an attempt to beat the odds.

Well, luckily, I’m a gambler at heart. I think all writers must be, because writing is like bungee jumping for the soul. One has to leap into the abyss, with absolutely no hesitation and no thought of what could go wrong. That’s what I’ve done. Even though I’m still busy with the final rewrites, I stopped procrastinating. I closed my eyes and leapt. I mailed my query letters.

And so, my part in the life of this dear manuscript is complete. Its fate is now in the hands of the gods and...ce qui sera, sera.


Marilyn Brant said...

Fingers crossed for you, Ann, that you'll get many requests for this manuscript, leading to a sale!

I think you explained the fear element very well...and, also, the need for risk taking. I'm procrastinating, too. Like right now. :)

One thing that helps me is to remind myself that a manuscript is never "done," it's just "turned in." It would be really hard for me to hand it over to anyone if I thought I couldn't revise again and tinker with it a little bit more... I imagine, even when my first book is in print, I'll want to cross words out and explain to anyone who buys it, "Oh, you know that first sentence in the fifth paragraph on pg. 117? Yeah, could you change the word 'lively' to 'effervescent' when you read it?" :)

Ann Victor said...

Thanks Marilyn!

and LOL, I can also see myself rushing after a reader saying "wait! wait! I can use a better word...!!!" :)

Does writing make us crazy, or do we have to be crazy to be writers? :)

Janet said...

I came here earlier, read a few sentences then made myself go away and write my daily word quota before I came back!

Procrastination is such a problem for me :)

Ann Victor said...

LOL Janet - I think you showed great strength in resisting procrastination until you'd done your daily word count!! With the internet & blogs & facebook &...there are just so many ways to procrastinate these days.

Janet said...

I've found a great life-coaching book that's already started to get me out of the procrastination trap.

Awaken the Giant Within by Antony Robbins. (It's all about changing deep rooted beliefs and patterns)

I will, of course, be doing my daily word quota before I read anymore of it :)

Ann Victor said...

Antony Robbins is very popular here too. Changing deep seated patternings/conditionings is really really difficult. Half the time I don't even recognise when I'm doing something out of "conditioning" (habit) rather than actually thinking about it!

Good luck with teh word count! Hope you made your daily quota today!! :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Ann,

This was fabulous. I think only writers can truly understand the energy it takes to fling those queries/partials/mauscripts out into the wide world.

Personally, I have to take a running start and heave!

I wish you all the best with yours. I love your writing.

Ann Victor said...

Thanks for your kind words, Nancy!

Do you want help with the heaving? ;);)

Emily Cross said...

Good luck with the manuscript - i'll have my fingers crossed!

i loved the quotes! i'm a huge procrastinator - its terrible lol

anyhoo, sorry if this is a bit 'plug like' and out of the blue but i've started a writer's forum where people who blog and are writers can network with each other and discuss everything to do with writing.

Its just starting out - it'd be great if you could drop by and have a look.



Ann Victor said...

Ja, Emily, procrastination is a big problem for many writers. Maybe it's part of our essential nature (a curious mind leads us to explore all sorts off things!)

I've bookmarked your forum and will pop in to say hi when things are quiet on the writing/home front! Looks like you've put a great amount of work into The Writer's Chronicle forum :)