My friend Lara Schiffbauer, over at Motivation for Creation, has been writing about procrastination lately, so it’s been on my mind. I’ve also been thinking about it because I didn’t meet my summer writing goals and now that September is here I have to decide what to do next. Set smaller goals? Establish a rigorous system of penance? Hire a writing nanny to lecure me on my apparent laziness?
I looked at the calendar and confronted the grim and giddy fact that November is now less than two months away. I thought that maybe, in wanting to tackle the serious tasks of novel revisions and keeping pace with my writers group, maybe this year I wouldn’t sign up for Nanowrimo. Then I remembered last year’s success. I hadn’t really believed I could make the time to live up to Nanowrimo’s challenge – but I did. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt about my current goal-failure-and-procrastination problem. If last November taught me anything (and it taught me at least two), I know I can meet deadlines. Even without a boss, a professor, or a volunteer committee counting on me, I can sit down and live up the expectations I put upon myself.
I think the real trick is learning what works. No matter where the advice is coming from or how great it sounds, there’s no single trick that works for everyone. So, that’s my writerly advice for today – think back to the times when you had to meet deadlines and, of all of them, when did you do your best? When was it least drudgerous? When did you sail in with time to spare and feel fired up and ready to do even more? Whatever you were doing then is what works best for you. Do that. (To my frustration, I realize what works best for me is to get ahead of the schedule and stay there. The second I get behind I get discouraged and a second after that I give up. Maybe penance would be worth a try.)