May 13th, 2013

Lisa Coffee

Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writing

So while I was supposed to be working the other night, I instead found this book on procrastination (an older edition, however) at the library.  Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen describe the types of procrastinators, the causes of procrastination, and some tactics for overcoming the problem.

I almost felt like the authors had written the book for me when I read this paragraph on page 23 of the first edition:  "the perfectionist procrastinator usually expects more of him- or herself than is realistic. . . .  The first-time novelist wants the first draft of his writing to be of publishable quality. . . . As a result, the high standards that are intended to motivate these people toward accomplishment often become impossible standards which hinder their efforts."

Boom.

That's me.  I know I could spend more time writing than I do, but I'm often scared of my novel.  I'm afraid of the big, bad, horrible words that might come out when I sit down to write.  What if my chapter never is right?  Or if nobody ever connects with my character?  What if I do send out that novel I've worked on for five years and don't even get a "good" rejection?

Procrastination allows perfectionists like me to live in the blissful world of thinking we might be awesome writers.  Putting our butts in the chair and actually writing might prove we're not.  So we avoid the chair.

I suppose the antidote is to give ourselves permission to write "shitty first drafts" like Anne Lamott suggests.   But that's harder said than done some days.