Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A 15 Letter Word NOT Equal to Lazy



If you visited Seekerville a few weeks ago, you might have read Missy graciously reposting a piece I did as a guest on Seekerville several years ago. Writers Write

I liked that post. I felt like it was a good introduction. But as I prepared to write my first regular column, I was plagued by a favorite writer’s question – What if?

What if writers don’t write?

The obvious answer to that is, if writers don’t write, then technically they’re not writers.
But…

What if… you’re still making up stories in your head, but not getting that time in front of the keyboard (or in a notebook) to get them down.
  
Again, the obvious answer – technically, you’re not a writer (though in this case you could still claim to be a storyteller).

So, if you’re a writer, if you want to be a writer, why aren’t you writing?

There can be many reasons, some valid, some mere excuses.
I should know. I’m a pro with both.

In the interest of fair disclosure, I decided to write about this problem today because I know it inside out and back again. Those valid and invalid reasons? I know them too.

Some of you know that my husband passed away after a brief (3 month) battle with cancer. I had a novella due for a collection right after his death. Somehow, by grace and the blessings of numbness, I finished the story on time. What few people know was that his death came on top of a 2 -3 year very difficult period, and it all began just as I sold my first book to Love Inspired Suspense.

I don’t say this to make excuses for myself. Lots of people write through illness (their own and that of family members or friends). I assume if writing was my job, I would have also. But I have a full time job as a teacher and a part time job as a tutor. There was just not enough mental energy to deal with everything, so writing fell by the wayside. 

My sum total of writing during that period was edits on my LIS, 3 novellas, and lots (and lots and lots) of pages written on future books – but none of them completed.

Not really satisfactory for someone who claims to be a writer. 

There’s a nasty word for it and it’s way more than 4 letters.

The word is - 


P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N






So yes, my first regular Seekerville post is about PROCRASTINATION.

My name is Cate and I am a procrastinator.

Can any of you relate?

According to my research, I’m far from alone.

I decided to do this post about procrastination after I read an interesting article online. According to the article (I’ll link it below), we are not procrastinators because we are lazy.

Did you read that correctly? NOT lazy.

That article sang to me because who wants to be called lazy (even by themselves)?

But you know how when something seems too good to be true, you can be a little suspicious?

I was suspicious about this not lazy thing. Because honestly, when I know I’ve been procrastinating, I feel lazy.

But there was something niggling in my brain. I’d had a conversation with my boss recently about how we were both terrible procrastinators because we had to be feeling the pressure of a deadline to be able to produce anything.

True story: I had to make a 45 minute presentation at an educational workshop last Friday. On Wednesday, he asked me how I was doing with it. I replied. “I’m fine. I haven’t started it yet.” He laughed because he totally understood.
Before you pick your jaw up off the floor (or nod your head in understanding), let me say that I had been THINKING about it. I knew what I wanted to say and I knew which photos and videos I wanted to use. I just hadn’t begun to physically put it all together. Why?

My brain doesn’t work that way.

That may sound like an excuse, but it really isn’t. I have tried for years to be one of those people who does things in advance. I WANT to be one of those virtuous people. It would be ever so much better for my health.

BUT. I. JUST. CAN’T. 

I have tried. I've begun working on things early, but I come up blank. Deadlines clear my brain and allow me to finally focus.

True story:  When I was doing my final edits for Christmas in Hiding, I was stuck. I had known from Day 1 that my editor didn’t love my opening. No matter what I tried to do, I couldn’t come up with a better one.
All my other revisions were due and the deadline was looming. So I sat down and wrote it. And just like that, the pieces fell into place.

The lesson you pick up along the way is that if you wait long enough, it will all work out.

It's an easy lesson, but there is a big problem inherent in this method.

NO DEADLINE = NO PROGRESS

And that's why I wanted to blog about this. I'm tired of the "no progress."

So let's get to the research.

"Essentially, procrastination is the avoidance of work or necessary tasks by focusing on more satisfying activities. It’s easy to chalk procrastination up to a lack of self-motivation, lazy habits or incompetence. But in reality, procrastination is chemical; there’s a science to why we prefer relaxing activities to the required. Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex."(https://share.upmc.com/2015/07/the-science-behind-procrastination/)

Okay, so then why do some people never procrastinate, and some of us do on everything?

The original article that I mentioned has this quote from Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield
"...we say that procrastination is essentially irrational," And, she reveals, "people engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task."
According to Sirois and Tim Pychyl of Ottawa's Carleton University, you might understandably think overcoming procrastination is first concerned with task completion, in reality it's primarily concerned with "the immediate urgency of managing negative moods."

Suddenly, I'm preferring lazy. 😜

They go on to say that negative feelings about the task are what make you procrastinate. You might be afraid of failure or of being overwhelmed by the task.

I could see that being true in some cases, but I know I procrastinate even when it is something I DO want to do, or at least don't mind doing. Why?

So I continued to research.

According to an article on BBC Future, "Procrastination is rooted in personality, and some research points out that it might be caused by the way some people's brains work."

Ha, Ha. I could have told them that.  😀

Apparently those of you who are not procrastinators have brains that have managed to overcome this.

For me, this is where it became really interesting.

In an article called "Brain freeze: The science of procrastination and our 'smart' brains," I found this line that agreed with the original article I read.

"Procrastination is, in fact, an emotional issue, not a time-management issue. It is about the fear of losing, the fear of guilt and the fear of making a mistake."  https://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2014/03/27/brain-freeze-science-procrastination-smart-brains/

Then I got to this line, and it hit a little too close to home.
"Procrastinators prefer people to think they are just not making an effort, rather than the fear of showing less ability to do something."

Suddenly I was remembering an argument I'd had with my father close to 50 years ago. I remember it as clearly as yesterday. I was trying to convince him that I was as smart as my classmate Martha. The only difference was that she worked harder. I could pull those grades if I worked as hard as she did.

Dad wasn't buying it. He told me it didn't matter who was naturally smarter. If she was doing the work and pulling higher grades, then she was the one who was smarter. Can I just say that all these years later, it really burns to learn that Dad was right?

And that's when I got really mad at myself. If I was one of my own students, I'd be trying to find ways to help me,

So ENOUGH ALREADY!

What do we do? How do we procrastinators of the world do battle with our brains?

I'm going to share some ideas I've read or come up with, but I would love to hear your methods of coping with procrastination.

1. For me, I've found that I need a specific routine and it has to become a habit. If I say I will write 1k a day every day, I have to write it EVERY day. If I miss even once (no matter how valid the reason), I've lost the discipline, and I'm back to procrastinating.

A few months ago, my editor, Emily Rodmell, posted this on Twitter. I took a photo, printed it out, and posted it around the house. It's sort of like having her sitting on my shoulder reminding me to #finishthebook!
If you don't follow Emily on Twitter, you should. She shares
so much great advice.


2. Just start. This goes with #1. I have a quote saved to my desktop from Stephen King.

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

3. Tell someone. I find it really helps if there is someone I have told that I am going to accomplish this. So I am telling YOU! I also told my editor. I AM going to finish this book by the end of July.

4. You're going to like this one. The Brain freeze article recommends rewards.
"Dr. Ferrari suggests that rewarding people for getting stuff done on time rather than punishing them for getting it done late is a more meaningful step to reducing procrastination."
I have seen this work with math games with the students at school. So figure out what reward would inspire you.
The science to back it up is in the article. "It seems that we need to train our brains to see task completion as a dopamine-producing experience rather than a norepinephrine-producing experience."

5. UPMC also recommends you give up that drive for perfection. "Don’t focus on a perfect, finished product, but rather getting a head start; all of the free time you have later can be dedicated to refining the project. So get out there and get started; you’ll be thanking yourself later."

6. Which brings us back to #2 - JUST START. It's not as hard as you think, and might actually be fun. You might actually get that dopamine rush from what you've written - but you'll never know unless you begin.


I'll leave you with this quote, also from Stephen King.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, The rest of us just get up and go to work.

So, how's that for motivation? If you don't want Stephen King disapproving of you ...write!

In the end, it's up to you to battle the procrastination.

Maybe publishing your book is reward enough. Maybe you need a support group. Let's hear from you in the comments. How can we help each other be more successful writers?



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


If you would like to read up more on this, here's an interesting article on learning to focus better - Concentrate! - How to Tame a Wandering Mind.


Sources:
~UPMC Healthbeat:  https://share.upmc.com/2015/07/the-science-behind-procrastination/
~Ink.com: https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/why-laziness-is-not-why-you-procrastinate-your-emotions-are.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab  (This was the original short article that got me thinking.)
~BBC Future: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171122-the-science-of-procrastination
~https://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2014/03/27/brain-freeze-science-procrastination-smart-brains/ (There is a lot more good information in this article. It explains the whole dopamine thing.)


100 comments:

  1. I don't know. I've been up for an hour now staring at the computer. I feel overwhelmed, which is what usually leads to MY procrastination. So many things to do, what to do first?
    I'm gonna make breakfast and come back.
    Kathy Bailey
    A living example of what you're writing about

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    1. Breakfast sounds like a good idea, kaybee. One of the things I discovered in my research is that we procrastinate when we don't want to make a decision. So I often procrastinate about making dinner. LOL

      I'm going to share something I picked up years ago at a writing conference. RT Magazine used to hold monthly "First Saturday" workshops. One of the instructors, who was a full time writer, said he started each day at a coffee shop with a legal pad and pen. At the top he would write in large letters - I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT TODAY. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING. I DON'T HAVE ANY IDEAS.... His only requirement was that his pen not leave the page. Within minutes, he was at WHAT IF I... and then he was off and writing.

      Having that routine and memory jog got him over the scary hurdle of sitting down to write.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, breakfast. Preferably with protein.

      Delete
    3. Working on that. #Mustresistthedonuts

      It's no coincidence that my Yankee Belle post today is also about procrastination - only with eating healthy foods. I'm better at that.

      Delete
  2. OK, I've eaten. Ladies and Vince, there's a lot to think about here. Cate, if this is what we can expect, I'm glad you're the newest Seeker.
    I don't tend to procrastinate, but rather to do things in advance. Yesterday I was working on a guest blog for Oct. 3. I really like to have things all lined up so I can roll through them. (My Christmas cards are already addressed and stamped, I just have to sign them. Unless somebody moves or dies.) But there's a reason for this. I run a complicated household, my husband works nights and sleeps days, and one of our children needs a lot of support. I am afraid of not being prepared, because anything can happen to throw me off. Because I've HAD things happen to throw me off.
    I can go too far, don't ask, and I think that's a control issue. I still need to prepare and be prepared, but also need to be open to the Spirit.
    I DO procrastinate, usually when it's something I really, really don't want to do or something I really, really feel inadequate to do.
    We need to keep ourselves in good shape, physically, spiritually and emotionally, so we don't become overwhelmed. I was chatting with Cara Putman on Twitter this morning (NOBODY drops names like I do), and mentioned Stephen Covey and "sharpening the saw." If we take care of ourselves, these tasks won't seem so overwhelming.
    BTW, FYI and Fun Fact: "Procrastination" comes from the mythological Greek character Procrustes, who had an iron bed on which he stretched his victims until he died.
    Kathy Bailey
    "A Home For the Heart"

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    1. First of all, kaybee (Kathy), thank you for the kind words. When I saw how long this looked in publish form, I gasped. Bonus points for anyone who reads to the end!

      Secondly, this really resonated.
      "I am afraid of not being prepared, because anything can happen to throw me off. Because I've HAD things happen to throw me off."

      I had a paragraph in there originally about this, but I deleted it because it was LONG enough! The paragraph went something like this.Procrastination never bothered me before. I thrived on the last minute rush of endorphins. But as you get older and life happens, you realize it is irresponsible to procrastinate when it can affect others. First, the stress is not physically good for you, but mainly you learn that sometimes bad things happen when you least expect them and being prepared is, well, the best way of being prepared.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
    2. Hey don't feel bad, my combined responses are almost as long as your blog.

      Delete
    3. But they're so thoughtful, so good conversation can't be considered procrastination. Seriously, I just had a breakthrough reading Sherrinda's comment.

      Delete
  3. I’m the opposite. If something needs done I need to do it now.

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    1. Lucy, I would really love to understand how this works. I have three sisters. Two of them do everything in advance and the other two of us procrastinate up until the last minute. Three of us are teachers and my procrastinator sister and I are always doing our lesson plans the weekend before, but the other one is done a week in advance. I don't understand how she can do that. Honestly, over the years, my best ideas have been ones I came up with on the spot.

      Delete
    2. Lucy, me too, most of the time. Get It Over With.

      Delete
    3. Oh, I wish. I was just thinking that I even procrastinate about putting out the trash! Wonder what emotion is tied to that!

      Delete
  4. More on procrastination. I do tend to procrastinate sometimes with writing, mostly because I think I'm not good enough. The well-worn trick is to get back in there and write something, anything. I was really burned out after my last temp job and it took longer to get back into the writing routine, but glad I did.
    And sometimes I procrastinate by spending too much time on social media, including this one. Sigh.
    Kaybee

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    1. Kaybee, I think social media has made it so much easier for procrastinators to procrastinate. The Brain Freeze article asked a funny question. Would you rather play Candy Crush or do your taxes? Is that even a question?

      If you think you're not good enough - which just based on your writing here on Seekerville, I know is NOT true - then that method I wrote in the comment above might work for you. I don't do it on legal pads anymore, but when I'm stuck, I will still start off typing something like "I have no idea where I'm going with this scene, but what if I tried this." And I'm off.

      Delete
  5. Wow wow wow, Cate! So much good stuff here. You and I must be cut from the same cloth, because this sounds just like me. I need a deadline--and EXTERNAL deadline, not something I've made up--for me to do the work. Especially if it's something I don't feel like I have the ability to do perfectly. And writing is like that for me. I'm going to have to read this one a couple of times. There's a lot to go through!

    Excited to have you here, Cate!

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    1. Exactly, Glynis. You hit it with EXTERNAL. I would add external with penalties! When I did the Killer Voices contest for Harlequin, I had a very short time span to complete the book, but the penalty would have been the public embarrassment of not turning it before the deadline. You'd better believe I made that deadline.

      Thanks, there IS a lot. eek. See, once I start, I dont's stop. So it's not lazy, it's just the getting started part.

      Delete
    2. The first manuscript I actually saw all the way through was the one I wrote during the Blurb to Book contest at Harlequin a few years ago. That's when I really started to see how externally-motivated I was.

      Delete
    3. Ditto to mine with Killer Voices. Well, not true. I finished an epic historical (but that took 30 years!) Christmas in Hiding was written in 3-4 months.

      Delete
  6. This is soooo me. It rings true to me to have people think I'm not trying than think I can't do it. It boils down to fear for me. At least, I think! lol This was a GREAT post and I loved all the research you did. Thank you!

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    1. Sherrinda, thanks so much for commenting. YES! That line hit me hard because I think it led to a revelation. I *think* that's how I became a procrastinator (flashback to that conversation with my father), but then it became a HABIT. And we all know how insidious habits can be!

      That may be why making new writing habits is the best solution for me.

      Delete
    2. Sherrinda, I guess I didn't clearly state it, but that revelation came as a result of reading your comment, so thank you SO much.

      Delete
  7. My name is Jan and I'm a procrastinator.

    *sigh*

    I really don't want to be a procrastinator, but I'm also one of those who works better with an external deadline.

    Thanks for this great post, Cate. You've given me some food for thought and some validation! I'm not just lazy, LOL!

    I know I write better when I allow scenes to "simmer on the back of the stove" before I sit down to write them. I also write better when I don't have other pressing things clamoring for my attention. So I've learned to work with those realities.

    My strategy for getting work done in spite of my procrastinating tendencies:

    1) I wake up thinking about the next scene I need to write. Maybe I'll jot down a note or two to remember my thought process. I open Scrivener and re-read yesterday's words.

    then

    2) I empty my plate of pressing tasks - writing a blog post that's due before the end of the week, paying bills, etc. etc.

    and finally

    3) Around 10:30 I settle in to write.

    This works...as long as something else doesn't happen to interrupt the process. I'm still working on managing those interruptions.

    Thanks, Cate!

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    1. Jan, I would NEVER have pegged you as a procrastinator. You seem so organized and purposeful.

      I'm glad you found a strategy that work for you. What I like about it is you're doing something, even if it's not writing (right away(. It's that law of motion, right? Overcoming the inertia expends the highest amount of energy. Once you're in motion, it's easier to stay in motion - and just switch projects.

      You also reminded me of a book Tina recommended to me years ago - Brian Tracy's Eat That Frog.
      From Amazon:
      There just isn't enough time for everything on our to-do list—and there never will be. Successful people don't try to do everything. They learn to focus on the most important tasks and make sure those get done. They eat their frogs.

      Delete
    2. I'm with Cate, Jan. I don't see you as a procrastinator at all! Not with that bullet journal and everything :) It makes me feel better that so many other people struggle with the same things.

      Delete
    3. SO true, Glynis. I felt A LOT better about myself after finding all the kindred spirits here.

      Delete
  8. Welcome, Cate! So glad you're our newest Seeker! I'm bookmarking this post because of all the research you've done on procrastination. I'm the same as you are - my creative juices flow best with an external deadline and accountability but I also am a bit of a slave of perfection. AND the fear of looking bad to others, all of which I need to deal with! However, I learned my lesson on not keeping up with my writing when my son had a bad accident in Oct 2017 and needed me in the hospital for a couple of weeks. I was writing by his bedside to finish up my debut which should've been done if I'd been keeping to my own schedule. That taught me the lesson that life happens and you can't always count on your daily 1K crawl rate! So, thank you for this wonderful post and I'm looking forward to checking out those articles!

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    1. 1k crawl! Oh, my heart is crying. I feel accomplished when I keep to 1k a day. Okay, maybe have to up it to 2-3k/day when I'm on summer vacation, but that 1k/day is MANDATORY.

      I'm so sorry you had to learn that lesson a hard way, but it must feel satisfying to see Northern Deception hitting bestseller lists and garnering good reviews!

      I hope your son is fully recovered.

      Delete
    2. I didn't say 1K words were all GOOD words, lol! and I'm also not saying I meet my goal every day either, sigh...or I wouldn't be a procrastinator either, right? But it is easier to produce under a deadline and now thanks to your research I understand my brain better. I can focus better than when I'm feeling like I'm just writing along and have no real time frame. Anyway, yes, my son's fully recovered, thanks for asking. It took six months of physiotherapy but we did it. :)

      Delete
  9. If you've got nothing better to do, google the late Robert Benchley's essay, "How I Get Things Done." It's hysterical.

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    1. "The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."

      HaHa. I can SO relate to that. Isn't that how writers get clean houses? When we're supposed to be meeting a deadline?

      Delete
    2. That's the BEST time to scrub out your fridge!

      Delete
    3. My fridge does need some work!

      Delete
  10. You can see I've given this a lot of thought, mostly when I was supposed to be doing other things.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is a great post, Cate. I am a terrible procrastinator. I also work best with a deadline, but then I am so stressed out. I really want to be organized and get things done, but it doesn't work. I am procrastinating right now. I had a doctor's appointment this morning and didn't know how long it would take, so hadn't really set a writing schedule for this morning. The appointment was actually very short, so I have all this time, but haven't been using it. I also have this thing where if something comes up to mess up part of my day, I figure the whole day is shot instead of using the time I could have used. I have been off school a month now in my substitute job and haven't made much use of my time. I'm doing better over all this week, though. Now it is time to get back at it.

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    1. Gosh, Sandy. I could have written that comment. #kindred spirits.

      This is what I mean when I say, I just have to get over the hurdle of starting. I put so many obstacles in my own way.

      I hear you about whittling away the summer. Part of my determination in writing this post was not doing that again this summer. I'm so tired of being mad at myself at the end of a wasted summer.

      Good luck. Go write. There are readers who don't even know it yet but they need to hear what you have to say!

      Delete
    2. Cate, I'm happy to report that after I made my comment, I got on the computer to work on the short story I am trying to finish for Pockets. I've been working on it all month, but the deadline is Monday, so that deadline is working on me. It still needs some work, but I will sit on it for now and work on some other writing projects. But first lunch!

      Delete
    3. Yay, Sandy! I'm so proud of you.

      Enjoy lunch.

      Delete
    4. Thanks, Cate. Lunch was good. Now to get going on something else.

      Delete
  12. So, what I gather from this post is that I'm not alone. In a weird way, I may actually be normal. Okay, that's scary. Seriously, though, this is a great post, Cate. Thank you for sharing.

    I'm a big time procrastinator. It's crazy because I'm always telling my students to break large assignments down into small, manageable, daily tasks so they don't feel overwhelmed, but I can't seem to take my own advice. Take yesterday for example. I sat down at my computer before 9:00 a.m. to write my 1,000 words for the day. I thought I'd start by going back over my previous chapter and layering in some details, at the end of two hours, I had twenty less words than I had when I started. I struggled all day to add words Finally, it was bedtime. I had managed to write a total of 400 words. Needing to go to bed, and knowing I couldn't until I wrote another 600 words, I got to work. It took me an hour and a half to get my words written, but I did it. However, it was a stressful way of accomplishing the goal. :(

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    1. WHY do we do this to ourselves, Rhonda?

      I always plan to write so much more in the summer when I'm off school, but the truth is I just dawdle and use ALL that time to produce the same about of words over a longer period of time. And that's stressful.
      But that's also the procrastinator brain at work. When that bedtime deadline is nearing, your brain finally lets you finish.

      Procrastinators of the world, let us unite to overcome!

      Delete
  13. Hi Cate:

    Thanks, you've done a great job listing many different theories on procrastination. Such insights are helpful in dealing with this problem.

    Lots of theories about procrastination can be both true and false depending on how you choose to define that term. Using different definitions for the same term is a major cause of philosophical problems -- particularly paradoxes. In fact, Wittgenstein even held that philosophical problems occur when "language goes on holiday". Ineed, it is possible that English might have created three different words for 'procrastination'.

    Procrastination can have at least three major causes:

    1. FEARTINATION: fear of failure and thus looking bad.

    This is a physiological problem that may require therapy. It may have nothing to do with being lazy. Indeed, one might work to exhaustion on other worthwhile projects as an avoidance mechanism.

    2. FAVORTINATION: competition from other things that you would much rather be doing.

    This is a personal choice. You favor doing one thing over doing another thing. It's why motivational speakers often advise, "You gotta wanna." Figure out how you can want something more than the other things that are claiming your attention. Visualization might help here.

    3. PAINTINATION: it's painful or unpleasant.

    Who wants to do painful and unpleasant things? This may be where the slogan "Just Do It" comes into play. This also is probably not a laziness or psychological problem. It's rational. If you keep putting something off maybe someone else will do it or it may no longer need to be done.

    Know your enemy and plan wisely for victory. :)

    Vince

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    1. Very interesting, Vince.

      My sense is that the cause can vary by circumstance or task. I can certainly think of different times when each of those would apply.

      I'm a big fan of the slogan "Just Do It" because again, it comes back to just getting started. For example, I played on email for a long time this morning, between responding to posts. Then when I finally opened the document, I got 600 words done in about 20 minutes. But it took actually forcing myself to get off email and open the file.

      So, I'd say self-discipline is a huge factor.

      Some days it's there, and some days it is sadly lacking.

      Thanks for the interesting supplementation.

      Delete
  14. I think of my writing style as "just in time," which is a business model used by most companies now. In past decades, products were produced and stockpiled until they were purchased. Stockpiling the product required money...think warehouses to hold the said product. Then businesses got smart and turned to a "just in time" model. The product is made just as or before the customer places an order.

    Look at Amazon. They print books upon order. Not before.

    So I'm a "just in time" writer. I produce in time (always in time) to make my deadline.

    And as you mentioned, it's the way my brain works. Now that I understand how I function, I can forgive myself when I don't jump into a story. Rather, again as you mentioned, I need to mentally brainstorm and let the story perk before I start to write.

    Yes, I'd like to be Ruthy. But I'm not. Too bad for me! :)

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    1. LOL, Debby. I keep waiting for Ruthy to jump in and smack me.

      I keep thinking back to papers I wrote in college. I'd wait until the last minute, then enjoy the process so much that I wished I had time to delve deeper into my research. Confession time, I felt that way about this post. I wish I'd come up with the idea earlier and had more time to really dig into it. That's the real reason I'm trying to change up how my brain works. I don't want my books to be "good enough" because I did what I could before the deadline. I want them to be the best I can produce. Maybe that's what's so scary about it.

      Your way certainly is working for you, so too bad for Ruthy! But I'm sure she'd be the first to say, if it's working, don't mess with it.

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    2. Hi Debby:

      'Just in time' is great until it doesn't arrive in time and you have to shut down the whole assembly line. What does that cost!

      I'm not sure that waiting to the last moment is always procrastination. If you know you can do the job in two days and you schedule two days to get it done, why is that procrastination?

      I see procrastination as being when you know you should be working on something now but you keep putting it off. If you know you do your best work under time pressure, then waiting until the last doable moment is really just your incentive program.

      I don't want you to be Ruth. Ruth does not write military Amish books. :}

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    3. Vince, you probably just gave Ruthy an idea. Her next book will be The Amish General! :)

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    4. Hi Debby:

      Actually, if I read it right, Ruth's "The Amish General" is coming out September 1st as part of her new Indy series, "Topics I Haven't Written About Yet". Of course, it could be her "The Romantic Vampire's Hidden Baby" or her "The Hospice Time Travel Runaway Bride". I'm not sure what the exact order of release is for these books. You know how Indy is: more freestyle.

      Can't wait!

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  15. Such a great post, Mary Cate! I think perfectionism often leads to paralysis (from feeling overwhelmed), which ends up slowing everything (or stopping work all together). Definitely a cycle that needs to be broken!

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    1. Thanks, Missy. Perfectionism is certainly one of the causes that popped up in a lot of the research. I remember reading once that there is a learning disability that involves people being overwhelmed by the big task and an inability to break it down. I would think that there are techniques that can be learned to deal with that.

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  16. LOL! Read this piece instead of digging in to a newsletter article I need to write that will have to go through a lengthy, committee-level approval process. My HABIT is to get up early every morning, take a cup of coffee to my desk, and set a timer, so that I get a minimum of 30 minutes of fiction time before the other me has to kick into gear.

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    1. Okay, Elizabeth, knowing it needs to pass that much approval would probably paralyze me.

      I love your HABIT. I used to do that before my husband passed away. NOw I have to many extra morning tasks, like walking the dog, that used to be his. I'm not, by nature, an early riser. I'd have to get up by 4 to do it now and still get to school on time. I just know I wouldn't be functioning well in school if I did that, so I'm trying to find alternate times.

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    2. I'm so sorry for your loss. The little reminders of how much you depended on each other really ache. Thinking of you as you find another rhythm for your days.

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    3. You know that's so true. We don't just lose a loved one, a beloved mate. We lose a time-share.

      Man. :(

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  17. I tend toward analysis paralysis so I have to dive in quickly!
    Otherwise I'll just stand by the edge of the pool thinking about diving in.
    And I can just stand there for a very long time...

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    1. Jump in, Jenna. The water is delightful. Unless you're up north where it's still way below the air temp.

      I hear you on the analysis paralysis, but you've completed a good number of great books, so you must have figured out some way around it.

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    2. I dive in quickly! That's my way around it. I just get started and go back to fix things later when I edit. I used to spend a lot time planning a story and I'd have a detailed plot worked out ahead of time with scene breakdowns and everything. And then....nothing. That's the point where I would start to procrastinate and overthink. So I switched things up. Now I start writing and after about 2 or 3 chapters I stop and really think about the overall plan. That's what gets me to actually write rather than just thinking about doing it. And I've spent my time on that 'just thinking about it' bench. Like waaaay too much time :-)

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    3. That sounds very much like the system I worked out for myself. Glad you found something that works.

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  18. Oh Mary Cate, this is sooooo me. In fact, this line appears in my bio "Winnie holds a BS degree in Mathematics as well as an advanced degree in the art of procrastination."

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    1. Winnie, this made me laugh. I've probably read it on your bio before but got stuck on the degree in Math. Add that to the list of things I could never imagine doing. Kudos to you.

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    2. Math is fun - like logic puzzles are fun :)

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    3. My HS Chemisty teacher told me my feminine logic was going to make me fail the state final exam. Can you imagine a teacher saying that today?
      Of course, I was so driven to prove him wrong that I studied super hard, so maybe that was his goal. But logic is not my strong suit.

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  19. I can definitely fall into procrastination habits--particularly when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I find cutting things up into bite sized pieces and keeping a detailed daily planner helps me some--once I write it on the planner my desire to procrastinate wars with my perfectionistic desire to tick EVERY SINGLE THING off my day's list.
    Hey, I'm harnessing the power of my faults, lol. Whatever works! Great post, Cate!

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    1. I love that, Laurel. Harnessing the power of your faults.
      I think that overwhelmed sense is certainly true when writing a book - a WHOLE book. I keep reminding myself that I have done it before and can do it again.

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    2. Congrats on your Maggie final, Laurel!!! So thrilled for you! Yay!

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    3. Thank you, Debby! I'll tell you what--when I see the names of the other finalists in my category, I feel really honored to be listed among them!

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    4. It's such a great list of wonderful authors. Congratulations to all of you. You're all winners!

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    5. Blount! Congratulations on the Maggie final. I'm so excited to be on that list with you!!!!! And I don't care who wins (said absolutely sincerely) I'm just thrilled that they have such a wonderful category and get so many entries... and that they recognize great inspirational fiction. Big smile here!

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    6. Right back atcha, Ruthy! :) I totally agree--and great big smiles here, too!!

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  20. Wow, I love this post. It certainly hits me hard because I procrastinate everything XD Actually I decided to read this post as a means of procrastinating my writing... I should go get that done now ;P

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    1. Sorry, Nicki, that made me laugh. But then I procrastinated writing the post, so I guess we're even.

      Sending good writing vibes your way now. I managed to hit my daily word count in between responding here. Hope you have a good writing session.

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  21. Thanks so much for sharing Cate. It's always interesting coming across articles that provide the science to prove or disprove a point. I can totally understand the "fear" factor of procrastination so this will help me in dealing with my littles. I'm a "get the job done now so I can sit back and enjoy things later" type of person but there are some in my family who are not like that. ahem. LOL

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    1. Laughing here, Lee-Ann, because I'm the one in my family who is not like that. My husband was the kind of person who would get up before the birds, tackle everything he had to do in the day, and not stop even for lunch until he was done so that he could fully relax. Me? I can't even conceive of starting my day without coffee and some relaxing time. Now that I'm on summer vacation, I'm trying to dive right into writing as soon as I get back from walking my dog.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. I really enjoy reading all these brain articles too. Fascinating stuff. I'm headed to RWA in a month, and I'm really looking forward to Lisa Cron's workshop on the brain and writing.

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  22. Cate, what a fantastic first article! I'm the kind of person who likes to get up early and get things done so I can have the remainder of the day to do what I want to do! That is...until it comes to writing. Then I become the expert Queen of Procrastination! The fear of "not being good enough" and the fear of failure raise their ugly little heads and in a heartbeat, I've remembered something else I simply must do. And those two stories that have been in my computer files for years, stay buried in my files once again. Not anymore. As soon as I close this post, I'm headed for one of those stories. They say that "confession is good for the soul." Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences and the opportunity to confess.

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    1. Isn't it nice, Edwina, to know you're not alone? I hear exactly what you're saying!

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    2. Good morning, Edwina. One of the things I love about Seekerville is the diversity of reactions we get any given topic. We're all so unique and yet we get each other. I'm definitely not "the kind of person who likes to get up early and get things done so I can have the remainder of the day to do what I want to do!" I'm more an open one eye, ease into the day, coffee now please, kind of person. But when it comes to writing, then I'm right there with you on the procrastination.

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    3. So true, Glynis. But maybe we're just enabling each other. We need Ruthy to smack us around a bit.

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    4. Hey, this is our "NO FEAR" year! WE FEAR NOTHING! (or at least we pretend we don't and then it's all okay because we fool people!!!)

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    5. Okay, I wrote that before I saw Cate's little "... we need Ruthy to smack us around a bit."

      She knows me well.

      Girls.
      Girls.
      Girls.

      GET OVER YOURSELVES.

      Let's do this!!!!!

      (Says Ruthy who cringes and gets wrinkles when she remembers the terrible stuff she used to send to editors that should have sunken my career a long, long time ago. Have heart, me maties!)

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    6. Thank you, Ruthy. Now all is right with my world. Well, more or less.

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  23. The amazing thing about procrastination is that so many people do it so well. I guess practice makes perfect…even if 'perfect' is the enemy of the good. In fact, I'm doing this instead of working on my WIP right now. Well, it all comes out in the wash. :)

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    1. See, my post is enabling your procrastination (and mine). Ah, well. It has us thinking and talking about it, and maybe that's the first step towards doing something about it.

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    2. Hi Cate: Yes indeed. I think it is like reading diet books and feeling good that you are doing something about that weight while not having to actually diet until the book is read at which time there is always a new diet best seller diet book that you must check out.

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    3. Oh Vince, I am surrounded by books. If I could gain wisdom by osmosis, I'd be brilliant. And you're absolutely right.

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  24. Mary Cate, I definitely understand procrastination and know that I work better when I'm on a deadline. Solution? Stay perpetually on a deadline! I'm only halfway kidding about that.

    Great post, lots of good info that people can relate to and stop feeling guilty. Everyone works differently. Once we know our MO, we have to embrace it and work accordingly. It doesn't matter how you reach the finish line, it's that you reach it on time.

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    1. I think that might be the only option, Mindy. But that carries its own stress.

      I agree about the personalizing part. Reflection on why we do something often helps with the solution.

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  25. Great solid advice, Cate. Thank you! And welcome to Seekerville!!!!!

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    1. Wait.

      ARE YOU LATE, TOO????

      WE ARE TERRIBLE PEOPLE!!!!

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    2. Not you, Ruthy. Me thought! Terrible. :(

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    3. I believe the correct answer is you are BUSY people.

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  26. Oh, dagnabbit, the New Kid on the Block shows us all up with a well-thought and wonderful look at one of the things that makes authors stumble and fall. Procrastination can be the downfall of so many... now then there are authors who work better under pressure... they wait until the twelfth hour and hit the ground running.

    I would be insane.

    I would be pulling my hair out and gnashing teeth like a character out of "Where the Wild Things Are".

    But we are all so different and that's okay.

    Cate, BRAVA.

    So well done.

    You're gonna go all smarty smarty on us and then the rest of us are gonna have to start thinkin.

    Dagnabbit! :)

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    1. Will it make you feel better if I admit to procrastinating on the writing of it?

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  27. This is SO me! I'm a master at procrastination. I'll readily admit I don't like to make decisions. It's a good thing I married someone who's a go-getter! Sometimes he has to re-do things because he jumps right in without thinking enough about it, but at least he gets things done. :-D I'm also a perfectionist, which is probably a big cause for my procrastination!

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    1. Winnie, (and I love your name. It was my mother-in-law's name too), I do think making decisions plays in to it. Sometimes by procrastinating, the decision is made for you.

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  28. I've read every word TWICE. Now I need brain surgery to install it.
    I always get my 1000 a day done. But I usually end up doing it late at night.
    I DON'T KNOW WHY!!!
    I really don't know why.

    Why don't I write in the morning?
    In the afternoon?

    I just don't quite understand the wiring in my brain that sparks to Urgency about ten o'clock at night.

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  29. I suppose it's just a bad habit.

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    1. It's YOUR habit, Mary. And apparently it works really well for you.
      So accept and be proud.

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  30. Cate, thank you for this timely post!

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