People often tell me that I’m very productive, so it was a shock recently to take a procrastination test and come out in the top 10% of procrastinators!
It said I scored 80 out of 100 possible points and “when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t… Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress.”
Procrastination: Who, Me?
I wanted to mutter “stupid test,” but I was aware that certain bad writing habits (dare I call it procrastination?) were affecting the quality of my work. Oh, I got the writing done, but too often lately the quality was less than it could be because I delayed starting. I was submitting writing that was less than my best because it was hurried.
I think I had deluded myself into thinking there was no problem because I was busy all the time. I am never late with the educational writing, and usually early. I am never late for my M-W-F blogs or paid critiques. I don’t even procrastinate on writing nonfiction books. Just fiction. Just the “pulling words out of thin air and making up people and whole worlds” kind of writing.
Check Yourself Out
Why is getting started so hard? In a magazine article on procrastination in Children’s Writer, the following quote struck me as true–of me, anyway:
“In many cases, we procrastinate because we are anxious about the work at hand. It seems too difficult or onerous. ‘The hardest part of any task is the first five minutes. It’s like cold water. It’s just getting in that’s the hard part. Once you’re in, the water feels great,’ says Steel [a university professor who studies procrastination]. ‘Usually after procrastinating, once people finally get around to the task, they say, ‘I don’t know why I thought this would be so much worse than it was.’”
That struck me as true, so this week I’ve been starting my NaNoWriMo writing by setting a timer for just five minutes. Then I write furiously for five minutes, with permission to quit if I hate it at the end of five minutes. Have I stopped yet when the timer went off? No. I’m on a roll by then, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d made it in my mind.
Why do we do this to ourselves over and over? It feels silly to have to “trick” my muse with a kitchen timer. But hey, it works, so I’ll probably keep doing it until I find something that works better!
What about you? What tricks do YOU use to get started?