Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Procrastination

by Riley Redgate

Hello there, FTWA readers!

It's Wednesday. I have two final exams on Thursday. I have another one on Friday. This is a blog post.

Let's talk about procrastination!

Do you know why procrastination is easy? I do.

It's not scary.

The actual writing part of life almost always involves some element of I'm Not Good Enough. Editing, drafting while knowing you'll have to go back and edit 90% of what's coming out of your fingers, querying, synopsizing - the whole deal involves self-criticism. And procrastination, happy activity that it is, does not. It allows you to think of your work in the positive terms of the abstract, even whilst you cheerfully shirk it. Malformed sentences go away. Characterization issues disappear into the ether. And plot holes? What plot holes?

Procrastination happens because we're scared of what could happen in its stead. We could spend hours on a single scene and emotionally exhaust ourselves. Worse, we could spend hours on a single scene and then realize that scene needs deletion. We could rewrite our query four times and still realize it's not good enough.

For example, let's take my current mode of procrastination. I have not looked back over the book that I should have looked over several times by now for Friday's exam. Why? Because I'm scared I'll get to it and realize I need to memorize a million things I don't already know. I'm trusting in what I've already done rather than rediscovering what I've done and what I need to fix. Procrastinating, I can say, hey! You know what? I know a lot of things. Here's what I've learned. A lot of things, right? I'll be fine, eh?

After I finish writing this blog post, I will read the book in question. And, odds are, I shall rapidly discover I have yet some things to brush up on.

So the cure to procrastination? Make it as scary as going back to your unfinished draft.

Here's why you should be scared of procrastination:

1) You'll regret it later. Nothing's less satisfying than going to bed thinking about what you could have done with your day, and what you did instead of what you could have done.

2) You don't have all the time in the world. You have time. But not infinite time. You have people you love and places to go; you have books to read and other activities in which to participate. You do not have a million hours to spend faffing about on Twitter etc. while your WIP languishes in that other window.

3) It makes the writing harder. What if you get out of practice? What if you forget quite how your MC's particular voice sounds? These are problems not-unheard of. Coming back to an unfinished draft after an overlong break is laborious, and disrupts rhythm, and could be disadvantageous for quality itself.

4) It makes writing feel like work. I mean, come on. What other types of things do you put off? Studying for exams. (Ahem. -averts eyes-) And like, emailing your least favorite relative, and filing taxes, probably. But writing? Writing is a joy to you. That's why you do it. Whether you get an adrenaline rush, a deep satisfaction, a further knowledge about the human condition - whatever. You have a reason to be doing what you're doing. What you don't have is a reason to delay it.

Thus concludes another blog post that sounds more like a lecture/chastisement than it probably should. -sigh- Sorry about that. I'll blame it on finals week stress ... and now I'm off to review Aristotle's Poetics!

Bonne chance! Your WIP loves and awaits you!

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a bookstore-and-Starbucks-dweller from North Carolina attending college in Ohio. She blogs here and speaks with considerably more brevity here.


Rick Pieters said...

Ah, my dear old frienemy, procrastination. So true, what you say, but, but... what if that WIP is resolutely remaining a blank document waiting for those not-quite-solid ideas to coalesce into actual words going somewhere? I like the idea of making procrastination scary, but how do we make it scarier than that blank page? I know. Do it. Start. Right? I'll just go think about that a while.

petemorin said...

I always say, never put off until tomorrow what you can do next month.

Jemi Fraser said...

Avoiding procrastination is hard!!! The internet makes it harder. I love your point about writing being a joy! So true - and now I'm back to it :)

Anita said...

Hilarious! I think you've got be analyzed.

JeffO said...

I put a query letter up for shredding over on Absolute Write. I kept poking around the thread until I saw it had responses, and then I avoided it for hours. Then I think, what's the worst they can say? and I avoid it some more. Get back to studying, Riley!

Jolie du Pre said...

You said it! It's easy to do it. Good post!

Riley Redgate said...

Rick - Aaargh, the blank page! Well, just fill the first page with stream-of-consciousness nonsense, then. ;) Problem solved!

Pete - Ahaha, you. :P

Jemi - omg, nothing has ever been worse for those of us inclined to procrastinate than this blasted internet...

Anita - Finally! The extensive tabs I've been keeping on you for the last year have paid off. :P (i jest! i jest!)

JeffO - Aaagh! Refreshing the query crit page is a particularly potent form of masochism. XD Must ... study ... more ...

Jolie - Thank you! ^_^

Sophie Perinot said...

"You don't have all the time in the world" takes on new meaning once you are published. Subsequent books are on tighter time frame than the limitless time you had to write your debut. And even if they weren't, you don't want your readers to forget you!