Writing: The Real Reason You Procrastinate
Procrastination. It is the practice of carrying out lesser tasks in preference to more important ones, and it’s the bane of every writer’s existence. Have you ever sat down to write a story and have that urge to munch on some cake? Or have you started the final chapter of your novel and had that sudden desire to set it aside because you don’t want the story to end? No matter what the cause and effect you’ve experienced procrastination in one form or another.
What is the real reason you procrastinate?
Everyone does it. Remember that lawn outside that hasn’t been mowed for weeks, or maybe that child bouncing up and down shouting, “I want a cookie, I want a cookie!” Those are reasons for procrastinating.
It is only human nature to put things off. Sometimes we mean to do it, and sometimes we are oblivious to it. Procrastination only becomes a problem when we let it take control of our life.
The best way to determine if your procrastination is an ailment, or not, is to examine the consequences. Is it okay for you to ignore your child’s plea to write for a couple of hours? There are tough decisions to make, and sometimes it gets the best of us.
Internal consequences such as feeling nervous all the time, but following through on the task anyways. Or external consequences such as failing to meet a deadline because you preferred going on a joy ride with some friends. When procrastinating leaves you feeling upset or overwhelmed, that is when you have an issue, and it is time to rethink your priorities.
Why Do We Really Do It?
1. We are afraid.
Some writers are scared that they will fail. Whether this means that a particular project isn’t going to turn out good, or you don’t know what to write about next. This type of procrastination will often set aside their work entirely to avoid feeling disparity.
Fear of success is another habitual reason for procrastinating. The fear of becoming a workaholic, or giving friends and family the cold shoulder, can become a huge problem. It is because we are scared of losing others in our lives. This type of procrastinator usually envisions themselves locked up in a cage without a key.
Some of us get concerned that we will lose our autonomy as if there was a devalue in our independence. Delaying writing projects is a way to maintain that independence. These types of people often say things like, “You can’t make me do it. I’m my own person.” This kind of behavior will receive negative feedback, and cause a person to possibly lose their job.
We can create barriers between us and others. This will cause some strife and chaos in which we hope to keep people at bay, and leave us alone. This type of procrastinator tends to be fearful of judgement from their peers.
All of this tension can form within our consciousness or subconsciousness. It keeps us from taking action until our anxiety becomes overbearing, and we either rush our work or quit.
2. We desire perfection.
Perfectionists take to procrastination like oil and water. Those who want to perfect their work will often make mistakes on purpose because they fear their greatest potential may result in a lesser review. We don’t want this kind of judgement to be passed, and so we deliver mediocre work bearing the belief that we could have done better. Becoming attached to this ideal feels safer than risking failure. As long as a project isn’t complete a perfectionist feels that they aren’t progressing further, and they ignore the fact that each sentence written is progressing them further to their intended goal.
3. We judge ourselves harshly.
We may procrastinate our work because we don’t like what we’ve written. Maybe you had a writing assignment and your editor handed it back to you with correction marks all over it. Or you have sent a poem to several magazines, but received only rejection letters. One of the biggest deal breakers is criticism from reviewers. All writers fear that one person who is always over critical of their work. But sometimes we judge ourselves too harshly, and this causes us to set aside a project. By procrastinating we don’t have to edit our work, and thus we avoid the discomfort of judging our writings. This type of procrastinating happens because people don’t like failure, or we lack the confidence to complete a task.
4. We are too busy.
We have too many plans that coincide with our writing time. Some people realize that their schedule is booked, and they can’t change that. While other people might not realize they’re overworked at all. Whether this is because we have classes to attend, a job outside of our writing careers, family matters, or we have children to take care of. Sometimes there is too much on our plates. In this particular case we set aside our projects because we don’t have time to work on it, and this causes a lot of tension. Becoming overly stressed makes a person forget important tasks, and causes disarray in a person’s work schedule. By procrastinating a person is able to alleviate some of the stress, and thereby avoiding the problem altogether.
5. Just because it works.
Procrastination kind of lends to itself. By avoiding writing we can attend other interests that we have. Whether this might be watching our favorite television show, hanging out with friends and family, or taking that dream vacation. Writers get tired of working for hours upon hours, and procrastinating gives them the chance to take that much wanted break. Sometimes we speed write a project and receive good results. This will only feed into the need to procrastinate. When procrastinating becomes a habit it becomes too easy to throw off our projects. This is because procrastinating is an easy motivator for bad habits.
How To Fix The Problem
For most procrastinators there isn’t an easy fix, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any solutions. Procrastinators enjoy being self-critical of themselves, and while this makes the problems clear, it isn’t a healthy way to deal with it. Blaming yourself for your issues isn’t going to help change your habits, but rewarding yourself for progress will.
Try taming yourself by figuring out what exactly is causing you to procrastinate, and come up with a solution to stop that behavior. It is hard to know when you are procrastinating, and it is key to set some cues that will trigger a realization of when those hindering habits occur. For example, a little voice inside your head telling you something important, or a physical malady such as a headache or stomach tightness. Focusing on these cues will help you.
Determine how exactly you procrastinate. If you’re watching a television show try limiting yourself to one episode instead of an entire season. Substitute something that may seem important with something you know is really important. Maybe write in segments rather than in large portions. This will allow for some resting periods in between, but will allow the work to progress further. Instead of spending too much time researching spend some of that time describing what you’ve researched. The sooner you figure out what you do to procrastinate the quicker you will be able to catch yourself doing it. Don’t create excuses.
Creating a productive work environment can help reduce the chances of becoming distracted. If outside noise distracts you then go somewhere it is quite; like a library. Maybe your significant other is getting into your head, and causing more problems than you need. Simply leave the conversation in a calm manner and find a place away from home. If you have a laptop then go somewhere you can’t receive internet. Essentially find an environment that meets your needs and create a sound place to work from.
When all is said and done, and you can’t solve your problems on your own, then search for some help from someone else. Finding a buddy that you can confide in is one of the most therapeutic ways of dealing with procrastination. Tell someone your aspirations and deadlines, and ask them if what you are doing is realistic. Chances are you’re overreacting and your buddy will be honest with you. If you are one of those writers who doesn’t think that your writing is effective then look for a writing specialist or a writing coach. This will give you some insights into what you believe is wrong.
Here are a couple links to websites that could help you out with your procrastination and writing needs:
Procrastination Coach is a website dedicated to helping individuals manage their time, and giving motivational insight into dealing with procrastination. Doctor Christine Li manages the website and maintains a blog that provides helpful articles that focus around procrastination. Li is a licensed clinical psychologist, and has a private practice in New York City and Westchester, New York.
Bubble Cow is a website that has several links to free online writing courses. Each course provides you with information pertaining to specific areas of writing and several activities. Everyone enjoys some free help, right!
“Procrastination.” The Writing Center. Accessed March 23, 2015. http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/procrastination/
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