Okay. The Big P.
No, it’s not just you: fear is a huge part of my Procrastination too. Pretty much every writer I know has a sometimes-crippling Fear of Sucking. My personal view on this is that as writers we are innately sensitive and emotional and that our egos take a beating from this fear. The very thing that makes us good writers—the ability to create emotion and relationships and characters who readers care about—also makes us susceptible to Fear of Sucking. And if we feel this fear even in a small way, procrastination is a great short term coping mechanism.
I’ve read some great things about writer’s procrastination lately, but sadly, reading these things doesn’t seem to make the habit go away. It just makes me feel less isolated in my habit. In fact, you could argue that reading how great writers who have published a lot of stuff also battle this demon is an enabler for the rest of us. Hey—if [insert author’s name] succumbs to it, it’s okay for me to. I guess the biggest thing, though, is to come out the other side and finish your work. Even if it takes a little longer. I’m a stickler for writing deadlines—I abhor going over them. So really, it’s only the middle of the process that sucks (the middle, in my mind, is an ocean I am adrift in—maybe on a tiny raft—and there is no land in sight, no seabirds, no rescue boat, just water that might as well be a desert. How the hell am I supposed to get to somewhere from here? What the hell was I thinking starting this journey/novel? Why didn’t I bring more drinking water?).
I agree with you–laundry sometimes sounds like a fantastic idea when I’ve got untold pages to edit or write. There’s safety in achieving these small tasks—mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom (normally, ew!), and of course, making lots of stuff in the kitchen. This is my worst place for procrastination. But I think I know what’s going on: I’m fairly confident that my production in the kitchen will be successful (and feed my family, which always makes me feel good), so if I’ve squandered an hour of writing time by making chocolate zucchini cupcakes, at least I have something delicious to show for it. Right? Oh, that is such a trap. I actually think it’s why I’m a pretty good cook. It’s a by-product of (not)writing.
So, yes to small goals, as you suggest. I find that works for me too and keeps me from pulling out my stand mixer every time the going gets tough on the page. Sometimes it’s get to the end of the page, or the paragraph, sometimes it’s get to the end of the chapter. I find once I’m in the home stretch of a book, my productivity skyrockets. I’m through the ocean-desert and there’s land in sight!
And yes to your take on sacrifice. We have husbands and kids and friends and other commitments and you’re right, something has to give. I hate sitting at my computer for the third hour and having to tell DH when he pops his head into my office, suggesting a movie, that I have to finish this chapter. He’s supportive of my work and also a pretty nice guy to be around, so I feel guilty. And sometimes I do give in. But mostly I know it’s going to have to happen this way in order for me to be a writer. I’m dreading the years when little e comes in asking for a story or for me to take her to the park or just play on the floor, and I’ll have to make a decision. I see myself choosing her, because of course she’s the priority, but what does that make my work? Where do we draw the line?
Enough rambling. Here’s some garden.
Question for you: What’s really really awesome about Sydney in the winter? I still have a hard time a) imagining it being winter in August and b) imagining it being cold in Australia. So bust open my stereotypes!