Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Queen of Procrastination

It’s amazing I even was able to write this blog post since I am the Queen of Procrastination.  No one anointed me with this title; it is one I have given myself.  We as writers are known for being procrastinators, even joking amongst ourselves about how the kitchen is spotless, the laundry is done and folded, and all the meals have been cooked for the next fourteen days but the writing? The novel?  How is the novel going?  Eh, didn’t have enough time to work on it today.  I’ll definitely get to it tomorrow.
So what is the cure for this writerly malady?  Wish I could tell you, still searching for the answer myself.  I know the cause of it, of course, but simply knowing the origins doesn’t mean you can stop the behavior.  It’s sort of like acknowledging that you eat too many doughnuts when you’re distraught, but more importantly how do you prevent yourself from such gorging?  The irony is that you will feel so much better if you actually park yourself in a chair and write.  So why is there still all the procrastination in actually sitting down in the chair?  Why avoid something that could make you feel better?  The answer is obvious; it doesn’t always make us feel better.  Six shitty paragraphs aren’t better than zero shitty paragraphs.  Or are they? Yet the only thing to do, the only salve for the festering wound, is to write, and to keep writing.  Even though you may produce five pages of unusable work, the mere act of doing it guarantees that at some point your writing will improve.  That’s not to say you will reach a level of expertise (whatever that means) eventually, it just means that your writing will improve.  No one bakes a perfect apple pie the first go round.  But keep doing it, and you will end up with an edible and presentable pie, golden crust and all.  
Scheduling and organizing work and my life has never been my strong suit.  Efficiency always seemed like something reprehensible, the hallmark of an overbearing mother or a communist dictatorship.  I have always found it the domain of the office worker drone.  Yet every day tools are necessary in shooing away the evil procrastinating monster.  Other things such as exercising are scheduled, why not writing?  Don’t really productive people lead highly scheduled lives?  Don’t I want to be a highly productive person?  Yes, of course, but not at the expense of quality.  I am old enough to realize it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
How do you overcome procrastination? Is there something to be done?

Linda Tzoref was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received her BA in philosophy from San Francisco State University and an MFA from Emerson College. Her work has appeared in Hot Metal Bridge and Diverse Voices Quarterly. Currently, she is based in Atlanta, Georgia and is working on her first novel. 


  1. Ahhh. I feel you. i used to think just by writing down WORKOUT on my calendar, that meant I had to do it. Turns out I can avoid anything. Most of the time, I will be lulled out of procrastination by a deadline. a strict deadline. Like, I'm having a party and the house needs to be cleaned sort of deadline. Which means, I end up giving a lot of parties- which takes away from my writing time. SIgh.

  2. For acquisition of any skill, practice is the main determinant of how much "learning" you do, or how much you get better at that skill. In motor learning, theorists have proposed that when you're just starting out with learning to do something, a more random practice schedule is better for acquisition of your skills - so your procrastination is actually good because it induces random scheduling... This is great but only up to a point. In order to get better, you need to really change your "optimal challenge point." At this point, challenge yourself with the harder aspects of your writing, whatever gets you in the gut, makes you want to throw up and then clean it up because that gives you something else to do and you don't want to write anymore. And at this point, no more random scheduling - blocked schedules help you become better at your skill of writing.

    Take home points:

    1) Practice practice practice. Yes, you need to sit your butt down in that chair to write to get better at writing what you want to write.

    2) Random schedule is good for starting out - you get better at the small stuff.

    3) Blocked schedule is better for when you want to really challenge yourself and get better at what you know you can do.

    Make sense, or is this just the ramblings of a non-writer?

    ~written by the partner of a writer, who believes her talent.

  3. Tip #1 Turn off the internet ;-0

    Tip #2 If you really, really don't want to write it's because there's a problem on the page. Give yourself some time to think about what's before you, and then a solution will likely spring up and you can rewrite.

    Tip #3 Keep a schedule. If I can manage to carve out several hours each morning with an academic husband and three homeschooled children, I'm betting most other writers can manage a schedule of their own.

    Tip #4 During that schedule, break. Just once every 45 minutes and for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Don't do anything related to writing or reading. Wash the dishes. Go for a short walk. Do sit ups. Water the plants. Play with the dog.

    Tip #5 Print off your work and take only a pen and the papers and edit and write without the use of computers/electronics.

    Tip #6 Go somewhere else. Literally. In 2012 I have written on a train, in my cousin's penthouse apartment, in a park, in a parking lot, on the floor of a gym, and in four different rooms of my house. Sometimes just a change of scene will reset your procrastinating brain.

    Hope this helps, Linda!!!