Procrastination ... like posting a topic in a writing forum

So I’m struggling these days with getting down to a large, scary project, and I thought of my friends at L&L, wondering if anyone had run across a good book or a good resource that would help me tackle the procrastination beast that has me in its jaws.

I recently bought the book, Getting Things Done, but I fear it’s too executive oriented for my purposes. Anyway, thoughts appreciated…

Now I’m going to go make myself a sandwich.

I’m a procrastinator from way back, I even procrastinate further by writing up complex time schedules, which are thrown out of whack by the sheer time spent colour coding the different activities.

The best way to beat procrastination is to get a cup of coffee, and commit to sitting down for X amount of time. Even if you just make it a short period to start with, just make it to the end of that time period, and reward yourself with another activity.

You just have to force yourself to actually do it - procrastination can’t really be helped by books, that’s more procrastination!

Don’t forget to do the washing up, hoover, water the plants, re-arrange the kitchen furniture, sort all your plates by colour and size, watch some TV, play a computer game, skim the forums, stare out of the window and fix yourself another sandwich afterwards.

And know you’r not alone out there …



The root of procrastination is perfectionism.

Perfectionism is not a good goal. This surprises many people. But it’s true.

-It’s not given to us to be perfect. Trying to be so just makes us frustrated nihilists.
-The larger the project, the less likely it is to become perfect, and the more difficult the contemplation of it becomes.
-It’s easier to not do anything, and thus, not mess up, than it is to attempt something that is certain to fall short of perfect.

So what can we do?

We must change our goals. If we need a note from our mother, get the note from Mom. TCole does not have to be perfect. Only by getting away from this unreasonable expectation can we free our minds to perform creative work.

It’s essential because creative work always starts out messy and chaotic. This is a big source of writer’s block; looking at our first draft and thinking it’s not anything someone would want to read. Of course it’s not, beanhead… it’s a first draft.

And this is our job! First, get a bunch of stuff out there, then, make it into something more than a bunch of stuff. Confusing the two processes makes us crazy, because it calls upon two different parts of our brain which do not work together.

So, before each session, decide which part of the brain we are going to use for this particular time, right now. At such a time, we don’t want the other part of the brain to intrude. Concentrate on either getting more stuff on the page, OR making existing stuff make more sense.

Scrivener has marvelous tools that lets us mark text according to their purposes. I use the labels and colored highlighters to let me easily find what fits my mood at the time. That’s how you get stuff done.

We do not strive for perfection, which only messes us up. We are supposed to strive for excellence. Which is a worthy goal we can achieve.

Yeah, procrastination is a killer, and 99.9999% of all writers struggle with it. You’re not alone, not by a long chalk.

Pink is right, the boring truth is that the only way to beat it is by discipline, and a regular routine helps no end.

Werebear is also right that perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Switch off your internal editor and just write.

Finally, you’re right that GTD is designed much more for executives and their ilk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some mileage out of it as a writer. I recently wrote a piece about my modified version of GTD after a similar topic on these very boards.

Typical Antony!!

The only discipline Pink knows anything about, is that meted out by a whip and cudgel weilding, basque and fishnet nylons and suspenders wearing middle aged dominatrix on DOM jeeezzzz whereve y bin all y life

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. They help.

Vic, that is a side to you I knew nothing about. It’s also a very, very scary image. :open_mouth:

I think I’m going to retire to the pub before my brain devours my spinal column as a means of defence.

Wasnt me that wrote that Eldritch, onest! I think it was Alexandria. Its the kind of stunt shed pull (Portlander y`know!), and say nothing.

I’m having my reputation dragged through the mud, and all I did was offer to show him my etchings!

I would love to think that my procrastination is down to a desire for perfection, but usually I think it’s more laziness.

Maybe I should tell myself that it is perfectionism… and then I’ll be more in awe of myself!

But sometimes you do have to let things slide. I spend my life running from pillar to post. I have two small children. I work 4 days a week. I pretty much work weeknights, since my daylight hours of working only exist between school drop off and pick up. And I prefer to spend my weekends with my family.

I almost always have to drop unfinished projects because I have to go and pick up a child. And once you have them… well you have to feed them and bath them, read stories, brush teeth and sing lullabies to the pesky blighters.

Right now, I should REALLY be writing an email to explain that I am going to send some new buttons and icons and mastheads over tomorrow, because despite taking some good drugs, I am still stuffed up to my eyebrows with a cold and fever, and should just be in bed.

But I saw a notification about a post in this thread, and I clicked it, and now I am here instead of doing what I should be doing.

I totally lack discipline when I think there is something more interesting to do! And I really don’t want to write an email begging off sending over work that I should have finished today.

Ways to beat procrastination:

  1. Set a firm deadline for the project. Better, sign a contract that specifies a deadline. Nothing sharpens the mind more than a noose around one’s neck.

  2. Set a daily minimum goal for wordage, and don’t leave the Mac till you reach that goal. I have a friend who threads his bathrobe belt through the spokes of his chair, to keep himself sitting there and typing.

  3. Set a strict zone of time when you will not be disturbed and not distract yourself with time-wasting. Make that one hour at first, then gradually extend it to four hours, unless you’ve not met the word-goal set in 2.

  4. Pace yourself. If you meet a word goal, within your time limit, it’s time for a little reward. Imbibe modestly. Drink is the curse of the writing class.

  5. Turn off the web browser. Write no notes to forums. Engage in no badinage with other time-wasters. Find a freelance welding job. :smiling_imp:

This is the ultimate word on procrastination:

The best books I bought on procrastination were Aaron Hillegass’s Cocoa Programming on OS X and Steve Kochan’s Programming in Objective-C. Those books helped me procrastinate from writing for a good two years. :wink:

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But if you hadn’t procrastinated on those… I am guess we wouldn’t have Scrivener?

Ah Ahh! now all is revealed!! You ARE! the Skunkmunster not the mistress.

There aint nothin fluffy about those FANGS!!!

Im outa ere sharpish (ouch bad pun)

ang on! yer startin t look like my wife. :open_mouth: yer cant do that!! Thats cruel :cry:

egads, the full moon doth shine!


Brilliant! I’m always looking for ways to be an awe of myself… as opposed to, “Awww, buck up!”

At least to me, a daily word quota is no help. For a long time I thought it would be, I strived to wrap my writing around daily word counts (or page counts), but finally I arrived at the conclusion that this only creates the tendency to fluff up my writing, to write pagelong about things where a paragraph would be more than enough, to produce a lot of text that has to be cut later anyway.

What works for me, is to set a goal for the day. It’s not enough to have this faraway goal (“first draft finished next year in june”), I have to define a demanding, but manageable milestone for the given day (“scene 45 finished” or “detailled outline of chapters 4-7” or “line editing until page 200” or whatever).

These daily goals should be planned at least roughly in advance. I usually print out the current month from iCal and spend half an hour to set the milestones - “chapter 12 until 7th, chapter 13 until 15th” or whatever suits the overall timeline I have for the novel. Simple, but it works.

In past projects, before the beast got me, I used the daily word count goal religiously. It got me through two novels. But there’s truth in what you say about the temptation to fluff and embellish in order to reach the goal. Still, at least in the early going, it can be good for the confidence to bulk up the word count. At a certain point it’s not as necessary and the momentum of the story takes over, at least it did for me.

Thanks for the suggestion. It makes a lot of sense, particularly if you have a detailed outline to work from. I don’t usually work with so detailed a breakdown of scenes, but I think I might be able to incorporate some of that approach.

I do think one of the keys to beating procrastination is to build up confidence through the accomplishment of goals, so that you look forward to the day of writing, knowing you’ve established an ability to get somewhere. Hard goals like “finish scene X” might work just as well as “write 500 words.” I’ll try it.


I have to admit that my outline is not that detailed. I use to have a rough idea about what has to happen in the novel as a whole, just enough to know whether I am still in the first half or already in the second; I have a rough outline of the next 4-5 chapters and a more detailed plan for the scenes in the current chapter and the next. A kind of horizon that’s always a bit ahead of me on my way, but I don’t see the path as a whole.

Nevertheless, it’s more or less always enough outline to plan for a month ahead. So, it works.

Were I more the organic type of writer, I would indeed set word goals. And I would plan to write twice as much words as I want to have in the final novel. I have written some short stories in an organic way - that is, you begin to write and surprise yourself where it’s going to end up - and found that this way, you have to cut the half of what you write. (Other writers who work “organic” tell similar numbers.)

And, of course, as an organic writer I would schedule more time for the revision. (On the other hand, the planning stage can be largely omitted. So, the “overhead” is just elsewhere.)