Shut Up & Write! Writers & Procrastination

Writers BlockProcrastinate: to delay doing something; to keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring 

If you’re a writer, you may be surprised that a picture of your face doesn’t follow that first definition. The latter part of the definition includes the words “unpleasant” and “boring.” What?! We love to write. It isn’t unpleasant and boring. We wouldn’t do it if it was, right? However, I find myself wiping the dust off my plant leaves, reorganizing my books, binge watching The Mindhunter, basically dilly-dallying away a perfect time to write. And, why?

I believe that the procrastination element seeps in when you’re not working on the right piece at the right time. As a short story writer, if it’s not jumping from the brain to the paper, I move to another. I have multiple short stories going at one time. Can you not apply that same practice to poetry and novels. Work on a different poem or a different character and/or scene. Don’t force it, because 1.) it’ll will come out all wrong anyway which will turn into more of a waste of time, and 2.) you will begin to do that thing–procrastinate–because it’s unpleasant and boring.

Suffering from Edititis? 

Another reason I do the P-word (dilly-dally sounds like something fun or a piece of candy), is when it’s time to edit. Have you suffered from edititis? Yeah, I made that word up. Symptoms of edititis consist of aversions to red ink and/or red ink pens, stiff fingers, laptops that mysteriously turn off and won’t turn back on, and the increased interest in activities that one normally finds repulsive. Edititis is linked to more severe cases of procrastination, and if left untreated will result in normalcy and mortality. Good Lord, I don’t want edititis. This is when you must force yourself. You are not that brilliant that you are immune from editing!

I can write a short story in a few days (not a good one), but the basics are down. This is a period of euphoria and I wonder why I ever doubted myself as a writer. I share lines with my family and smile at things that would usually irritate me. I go back and edit for typos. I think this story is my best one yet. I let it sit for a month. I read it again. It sucks. One typo I missed in the previous edit mated with another and the typos have increased. That line I thought would be quoted on future coffee cups is a cliché. It’s terrible. The magic ends. I turn off the computer. Are those fingerprints on the door handles?

Yes, it’s difficult to edit content. To be honest, I never stop editing. I have stories that are fifteen years old that I continue to tweak on an annual basis. So, how do you avoid the P-word and worse yet, edititis? You time yourself. If you know after twenty minutes of editing you’re seeing prints on your door handles only a forensic team would discover, then stop at nineteen minutes.

Some other solutions?

One of my writer friends created a Facebook group that is a place to share your joys and sorrows on writing and sometimes they do word sprints. The idea is to start at a particular day and time and check in with your fellow word-sprinters afterwards. You can apply this to new material or editing. It keeps you honest having an accountability group. If you’re not into groups, maybe you can check in with a writing partner. I’m also in a critique workshop that meets monthly. One of the benefits of being a member of Atlanta Writers Club are these workshop groups. In addition, I recently found a fun solution called Shut Up & Write They have online writing challenges with daily email reminders as well hour-long write-ins where you meet up with other writers and you guessed it, write for a continuous hour. They oftentimes meet in libraries and coffee shops. You can find your Shut Up & Write chapter by city. Interested in motivating other writers, there are also options for organizers. Another option is Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month. You commit to writing 50,000 words in one month (Nov.1-30). They have word counters to track your progress and you receive fun badges when you complete a new personal record. It’s so motivational. Will this be a fully edited masterpiece at the end of November? Nope, but three years later it may be. I got my first composite novel, The Bystanders, out of this experience.

See? There are ways out of the muck, and some of them are far from unpleasant and boring.

Shut Up & Write! & Atlanta Writers Club will both be at the AJC Decatur Book Festival 8/30- 9/1. SUW: Booth 441 & AWC: Booth: 101 & 103

Happy Writing!

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