Monday, June 8, 2009

So What's Up With Procrastination?

Tip of the Day: Need a smile? Check out the awesome writer-focused cartoons at, the talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Daily Diversions for Writers. The new site design looks great, Debbie!

Now that the worst is over, I can talk about it. I just emerged from a horrific case of writer's procrastination.

See, I came up with a great plan to revise my novel. I have a chapter-by-chapter map for revision, a spreadsheet, a timeline ... Anyway, I thought I had exactly what I needed to do laid down. And figuring out what to do is the hard part, right? It's like in cooking. Once you have the carrots peeled and the garlic minced and the pasta drained, once you have all the ingredients prepped and in place, the rest is fun and easy. That's what I thought.

So armed with my outline and timeline and storyline, I proceeded to clean the house. Switch out the summer clothers. Get some sewing done. Remember how to play Spider Solitaire. I had totally forgotten that.

I could not, to save my life, get myself to sit down and write! Soon I started stressing and feeling down about it. What was wrong with me?

Fortunately, Kristi Holl had a great blog post recently about procrastination at She talked about procrastination as fear. Fear, me? Ha, I procrastinated by labeling all the fear I had:

1. Fear of Failure: By far my biggest problem. What if, even after making this revision, this novel still isn't good? What if it's basically unrevisable? What if I'm totally wasting my time because I'm not smart enough to write this story?

2. Fear of Success: When I finish this, I have to send it out again, don't I? Write query letters, check my email all the time even though I say I won't. Oh no.

3. Fear of Standing Still: What if this revision isn't enough? I've been revising this novel forever. What if I'm stuck in some kind of sick cycle where I'll be revising this novel over and over until I die? And my descendants will read it and think it would have been good if only I had edited it more?

Finally this weekend, my daughter went to a birthday party and my husband took my son out for haircuts. I realized that if I blew this chance to write in peace, I'd be so angry at myself I'd be impossible to live with. So I forced myself to open Chapter 1. And I revised two and a half chapters! Woo-hoo!

The fear is still there. I stopped because I hit a hard part (the end of chapter 3 needs an entire rewrite) and it will be hard. But you know what? The revision went a lot better than I thought it would. I came up with a great way to solve a problem in chapter 1, right there on the fly. Sure, it was one line at a time for a while (OK, she could say that, and then my MC could say that). But I'm happy with the work I did. Maybe it wasn't fear. Maybe I just needed a break before I could approach the novel with the right distance ...

Nah, it was fear. But we writers have to face our fears, don't we?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

Love this post! (And I never did learn how to play spider solitaire.) I am also big on telling myself, "If you don't take this time right now to write, you will so regret it later!" I find threats to me from me often work. :) I can't wait to read your revision!

Laura Canon said...

I know that feeling very, very well, although I don't get it as much anymore (fingers crossed). I always thought that the fear stemmed from the fact that if I failed to write well, or put down much on paper, my mood for the entire day would be ruined.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I think fear is an author's number one enemy. We have to feel the fear and do it anyway!! :)

Summer said...

That happens to me a lot especiall when I want to write something I've been thinking about a lot I'm like-- this is never gonna be as good as it sounds in my head! the fear!

Kate Fall said...

Wow, exactly everyone! I always feel like it came out better in my head. You know, without all those words in the way.

I try to work myself on a reward system but sometimes threats are more effective!

Emily Marshall said...

So glad you faced your fears. And that Spider Solitaire is hard to resist.

Christina Farley said...

Oh Kate, I feel your pain. Sometimes I get the feeling, what if I really do get an agent and really do sell this book. What then? Can I keep up with the marketing and have time to write? I barely have time as it is! So I'm with you the whole way.

I think that's why I haven't sent my Korea story out yet. I'm afraid of rejection and I keep thinking I need to work on it some more to make it perfect.