If I was doing an MA in Procrastination, I would no doubt earn a Distinction. I’m easily distracted, lazy, bit of a flake and quite often prefer a night smoozing at some poetry reading or book launch, rather than sitting at home and actually getting some work done. It’s the age old story of someone who likes to call themselves a writer, but puts off the writing until it can no longer be avoided.
Why is this?
I ask this of myself so often but I haven’t got the answer and it doesn’t make me prolific either. However two things have. (Or as close to being prolific as I’m going to get.) First of all, a friend of mine in the same situation suggested we both write together, in the library, in a cafe, in her flat, in my flat, anywhere as long as we made a commitment to each other. It’s much easier to let yourself down than it is to let a friend down. We treated it like a job, sat at our desks with a coffee at our sides, 9 o’clock sharp. Although most of the time it was usually 10 or 11 o’clock before we got going. Once we did, it would be heads down until we’d written at least 1000 words. More if we could manage it. The plan was to write the novel we dreamed about writing, she managed, I didn’t. Although I managed to write a very long short story, complete to its resolution and everything. It needs a lot of work, the tenses are all over the place, and I’m sure some of the 13,000 words can go. But it’s a complete first draft of a story I needed to write and regardless of its quality, it means I haven’t completely wasted my summer. Re-writing the thing will be another effort I’ll just have to make.
The second thing is a deadline. I’ve tried giving myself deadlines in the past, it doesn’t work. As it says above I don’t mind letting myself down. But I can’t fail someone else, especially a magazine editor. I write music and art articles for an online magazine, not because I know much about the subjects, but because having to write regularly to a deadline forces me into action. I have no choice but to do the work or public opinion about me in the world will crumble. It’s ok for me to know that I’m a bum, as long as everyone else thinks I’m industrious and productive.
This is pretty obvious stuff to be honest, but it has taken several people several years to point these lessons out to me, and it’s finally sinking in. Making commitments to someone other than myself takes the ego out of writing, it stops me from thinking, ‘I’m so rubbish, why do I even bother?’ Because that’s the real source of the procrastination, a fear, not unfounded, of making an ass out myself, of wasting my time or even worse, wasting the reader’s time. This is why it’s a good idea to write with a friend or for an editor, they don’t stand for any nonsense.